Tramway Road project and new special school part of county council budget

Oxfordshire County Council leader Cllr Ian Hudspeth in Banbury NNL-150411-132940001
Oxfordshire County Council leader Cllr Ian Hudspeth in Banbury NNL-150411-132940001

A £2.5m project to build a new bus and taxi lane on Tramway Road in Banbury and funding for a special school in Bloxham Grove are part of the county council’s budget.

There are also plans to spend £41m on making street lighting more energy efficient while Oxfordshire County Council’s adult and children social care budget is increasing.

The planned redesign of the local authority, due to save around £50m through staff redundancies and IT upgrades, continues – but officers still do not know exactly how many jobs will be cut.

Council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “Pressure on funding for day-to-day council services remains for all councils, including here in Oxfordshire.

“We will continue to face difficult financial choices so that we can continue to fund services for the most vulnerable children and adults in our communities.

“Financial prudence will continue to be required to meet these pressures.

The Tramway Road project, while will see a new bus lane and two-way taxi link past the railway station and into the town centre, is included in the council’s £548m investment on highways.

This forms part of its ‘capital programme’, as well as nearly £20m to increase the provision of school places for children with special needs in the county, and the switch to LED lighting on street lamps, due to be £1bn over the next ten years.

Capital funding is for large one-off projects such as highway repairs or building work to assist the council meet its obligations – as opposed to the normal revenue budget which covers funding for the costs of day-to-day services.

Most of the funding for capital programme is made up of government funding and developer contributions, which cannot be used for any other purpose, such as the Oxfordshire Growth Deal.

Cllr Hudspeth added: “There are many exciting projects to improve journeys, street lighting and schools, and I look forward to seeing them take shape as part of our proposed £1bn investment programme for Oxfordshire.

“We have already spent £10m this year on upgrading highways so drivers, pedestrians and cyclists should see a real difference in the coming years.

“Our overall aim is to support and sustain our thriving local economy, which is why we are planning this long-term investment.”

To make sure the growing number of children at risk of abuse and neglect are protected, the council’s children’s social care budget has increased annually, along with the budget for adults.

The £18m ‘transformation plan’, that was agreed in September as part of a plan to invest in services, included cutting up to 890 jobs.

But the chief executive admitted last week that the figure is not yet known, although it will be ‘minimised’.

A review of the digital technology needed to make the council run more effectively and efficiently, including improving customer service by making it easier to access services online, is ongoing but could save £50m.

The council has already started implementing these changes, including improving online ‘self-service’ HR and finance systems used by staff.

As part of the partnership with Cherwell District Council, legal services for the two councils are being joined up.

Councillor Hudspeth added: “Transforming the way services are delivered is vital to enable the council to meet future demand for council services – particularly for vulnerable children and adults – while continuing to invest in the county’s community services and transport infrastructure.

“This is the only way we can be financially sustainable in the long term, particularly as there is so much uncertainty about future government funding for councils.”

The proposals will be discussed by the council’s cabinet on Wednesday (January 22), before all councillors set the budget on February 12.