Cherwell council to reduce its housing service budget by £250,000

The council says the savings will not hurt the provision of the housing service

By Andy Mitchell, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 10th December 2021, 12:54 pm

Cherwell District Council insists housing services will not be affected despite plans to shave £250,000 from its budget for 2022-23.

Savings of £118,000 are set to be achieved by utilising government grants to help the homeless, money that has been accessed by the authority before but placed into its cash reserves - essentially its savings - as the cash is not ring fenced.

A further £73,000 is set to be cut from the department’s wage bill but “people retiring and internal promotions” mean that no redundancies are planned.

Cherwell District Council insists housing services will not be affected despite plans to shave £250,000 from its budget for 2022-23.

The council also hopes to save £21,000 by retendering for debt and money advice services.

Cllr Lucinda Wing (Con, Bicester South & Ambrosden), Cherwell’s lead member for housing, described them as “non-controversial savings” that “do not impact on service provision and do not have an detrimental impact on the team”.

Those assertions were questioned by the leader of the opposition, Cllr Sean Woodcock (Lab, Banbury Ruscote) until the difference in the way government cash has been and will be used was explained by director of adult services and housing Stephen Chandler.

“Some of this grant that we have had in the past has gone into reserves,” he said.

“Rather than increase reserves, we are better using it for the purpose it was given (for). Clearly if that grant was to cease, we would have to look at that provision but we are using this grant now for the purposes we received it for.”

It comes as part of Cherwell’s plans to save or generate £2.6million over the next year to cover £1.7million of cost pressures - money it had anticipated but is now less likely to see or extra financial burdens - and head off any potential shortfalls.

The authority continues to consult the public on which services are a priority with officers and councillors “surprised” by data on housing spend.

The postal survey that attracted 1,099 respondents showed 21 per cent “would be prepared to see less spent” on housing support service.

Claire Taylor, director of customers and organisational development, said: “We tend to find services such as these get less well picked up because they are used heavily but by a smaller group of people.

“As ever, a sample survey of this nature gives you good questions to ask and areas to investigate but they do not give you full and final answers about priorities and community need.

“Certainly, they do not tell you where to spend money when it comes to vulnerable people.”

Cllr Wing added: “I was quite surprised that (housing) was not a priority for people, particularly as it is such a vital service for the most vulnerable people.

“I was a bit concerned that findings had perhaps been skewed by people that were not having to use that service.”

All elements of the budget will be finalised at a meeting of all councillors in February 2022.