Protests over Oxfordshire County Council spending cuts as cabinet agrees budget

Stop the cuts protesters outside County Hall, Oxford, during OCC cabinet meeting to discuss 2019/20 budget. Picture by John Geoffrey Walker. NNL-190123-124103001
Stop the cuts protesters outside County Hall, Oxford, during OCC cabinet meeting to discuss 2019/20 budget. Picture by John Geoffrey Walker. NNL-190123-124103001

Protests against spending cuts to Oxfordshire County Council services were held as cabinet members discussed the budget on Tuesday.

The county council’s budget has been sliced by about half in recent years because of government cuts.

But former county councillor John Tanner said more should be done to boost services. He said: “Oxfordshire County Council has sliced £260m from public services in the last five years. Youth clubs scrapped, libraries depending on volunteers, children’s centres closed and potholes filled with borrowed money.”

The county council had planned to cut a total of £1.6m of mental health spending, but has since shelved £1m of that and delayed the other £600,000 for another year.

Mr Tanner added: “Theresa May claims austerity is coming to an end so we want our public services back. Postponing mental health cuts for a year is welcome but still leaves a damaging cut the following year.”

The county council’s cabinet member for finance, David Bartholomew, said the council was introducing an innovative £1bn investment programme to improve services in the future.

That will, he said, include spending £41m replacing streetlights across the county with more efficient LED ones.

The council has also earmarked £2.5million for a new bus lane and two-way taxi link past the railway station and in to the town centre, along Tramway Road, Banbury.

OCC has also increased its budget for adult social care by £5m in 2019/2020. There is also a planned redesign of the council with £50m in savings identified by making it easier to access services online. There are also expected to be hundreds of job losses.

The county council’s budget is to be confirmed by full council on February 12.

Also protesting were members of Keep Our NHS Public who are calling for the end of the outsourcing of services to private companies.