County services to be hit by an extra £23 million in cuts

Services in the county will be hit by yet more cuts after the government announced worse than expected council funding for Oxfordshire County Council (OCC).
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council NNL-150411-132839001Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council NNL-150411-132839001
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council NNL-150411-132839001

OCC is proposing a series of short-term budget measures in a bid to make extra savings of around £23 million.

OCC has already committed to making savings of £292 million between 2010 and 2018 as well as up to £50 million of cuts from 2016 to 2020.

The council has been holding a public consultation, Talking Oxfordshire, where it has identified 95 savings options including saving £3.4 million by no longer budgeting for a predicted future increase in demand for social care, ceasing funding day services provided by the voluntary and community sector and getting rid of mobile libraries.

Now the county has identified further short-term budget measures including:

> Drawing from reserves on a one-off basis;

> bringing some savings proposals originally proposed for future years forward to 2016/17 including a £270,000 saving intended for trading standards and bringing forward the discontinuation of the mobile library service from 2018 to autumn 2016;

> reducing spending in certain areas on a one-off basis such as training budgets and the book fund in the library service;

> recalculating various financial assumptions on things such as inflation, council tax income and the overall tax-base.

The council is also proposing a 3.99 per cent rise in its share of the council tax for 2016/17.

Leader of the council, Ian Hudspeth, said: “The clear message from our budget consultation in the autumn was that making proposed savings would have a real impact on people and communities.

“We had hoped our original savings options would be a worst-case scenario and that we would not therefore have to go ahead with them all. We are desperately sorry that we now have to consider these extensive savings.

“We will be doing everything we can to help communities manage the impact. It should be remembered this is our sixth consecutive year of having to make cuts and by 2020 we will have completed a decade of savings.

“We have found a series of short-term measures to buy time to make yet more new savings proposals following full consultation during 2016/17. We will continue to work with communities to reduce the impact of the savings.

“Our approach remains the same. We want to try to protect the most vulnerable people in Oxfordshire – by which we mean those adults who need help with basic personal care and children at risk of abuse or neglect.

“Our approach will also be to manage economic growth in the county and continuing to make the council more efficient.”

He added the council would need to take a ‘fresh’ look at its services to see if there were ways of saving more money.

“There will be a lot of debate about this in coming weeks and months and we will consult once more,” he said.

“Our temporary measures mean we avoid cash flow problems. They are a short-term solution for one year only and no more, people should be under no illusion about that.”

John Christie, county councillor for the Banbury Ruscote ward, said the extra cuts were outrageous.

“It is because the government has changed the funding formula without consultation, which takes money away from councils like Oxfordshire and has given it to other authorities,” he said.