Oxfordshire ‘not going same way as Northants council’, says leader

Cllr. Ian Hudspeth, Oxfordshire County Council leader.
Cllr. Ian Hudspeth, Oxfordshire County Council leader.

People in Oxfordshire can rest assured the county council is not going to crumble like our Northamptonshire neighbours, according to the county council leader.

Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth is confident his authority is in a strong financial position as Northamptonshire councillors agreed to ‘radical’ cuts to services last week.

“It’s very disappointing to see what happened in Northamptonshire,” he told the Banbury Guardian.

“I would like to reassure everybody that Oxfordshire is not in a similar situation because we do have a balanced four-year financial plan, with further savings to be identified but can be delivered.”

Oxfordshire residents have had to watch their Northamptonshire neighbours suffer with cuts to buses and library closures as a result of the county council’s financial crisis.

With even more cutbacks to come as Northants County Council seeks another £60m to £70m in savings, and other English local authorities at risk of collapse, assurances that Oxfordshire County Council’s finances are healthy could come as a relief.

Cllr Hudspeth, the Conservative representative for Woodstock, said ‘very difficult decisions’ were made a few years ago when the council realised funds from the government were going to end and pressure on social services was going to increase.

Council tax was raised – something Northants has not done which is part of the criticism – as well as cutting back on services.

But Cllr Hudspeth said it worked with partners at children’s centres and libraries to find alternative funds to keep as many open as possible.

“It’s not been easy but it does mean we can continue to provide the services for residents of all of Oxfordshire,” he said.

Even now, Oxfordshire County Council is undergoing a ‘transformation programme’ to save more money, and the recent partnership with Cherwell District Council is also cutting costs.

“But most importantly it’s about delivering the best possible services for residents,” Cllr Hudspeth said.

The Oxon council leader had some sympathy for those in charge of Northants before the financial crisis, who have been heavily criticised since leaving, and hopes the authority can recover.

“I know the decisions were made in good faith although it now turns out they weren’t the best decisions for them,” he said.

“But all members were trying to provide the best for residents and it’s very easy in hindsight to look back and say people could have done something else instead.”