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Oxfordshire County Council budget
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- Central government has told Oxfordshire County Council to cut its budget by £61m over the next four years.
- The council has found savings of £64m in its budget which will be discussed by full council at 10am today.
- This includes a controversial £1.5m cut in homelessness services and cuts in support for charities, theatres and advice centres.
The meeting is over.
The budget is passed 30 votes to 27.
The vote will be named which means the names of all councillors will be read out and they will respond "yes, no or abstain"
Ian Hudspeth says that those voting against the budget will be voting against flood relief money, against increasing care visits to 30 minutes and against the vulnerable residents of Oxfordshire.
A motion to vote on the budget is passed.
Labour councillor Susanna Pressed congratulates the administration for raising council tax despite the government encouraging councils not to do so.
He says the council has to "stop putting its toe in the water" and says the way to solve the problem is by having a unitary authority.
Neville Harris, an independent councillor who is not part of the administration, says he has purchased a book on economics to help him through the budget process.
Zoe Patrick, leader of the Lib Dems, says this is a "lacklustre" budget.
Speaking on the proposed budget Mr Williams says it represents the "slow death of local government".
The Green budget fails, with only the two Green councillors voting for.
Mr Hudspeth reminds the Greens that they would need to prepare a second budget in case the referendum failed.
He said: "We need to go out onto the street and convince people that local government matters.
"This could be a tremendous campaign but the major parties have rolled over."
A motion to move straight to the vote is passed and Mr Williams begins summing up.
Nick Hards, Labour's spokesman on finance, and his Lib Dem colleague Roz Smith both speak briefly against the amendment.
He says the idea that the people of Oxfordshire would vote for a 4,5 per cent increase in council tax is a "delusion".
Conservative councillor David Bartholomew said a referendum would cost more than £600,000 and the outcome would be uncertain.
"We are not in the business of Russian roulette politics."
Green councillor Sam Coates said: "I want to make the case for living in a society where people care about each other.
"A more humane society is something worth paying for."
He says the proposed budget is "nasty".
Parking charges would also be increased if the Green budget were successful.
Mr Williams said: "We believe that the people of Oxfordshire when faced with this decision on whether we really want to make these cuts against people who are the most vulnerable, the answer will be no as long as it is a small increase."
This will trigger a referendum as it is over the two per cent rise limit.
This will trigger a referendum as it is over the two per cent rise limit.
The Greens are proposing a 4.5 per cent council tax increase which Mr Williams says will mean people will have to pay 57p a week more.
David Williams is now introducing the green budget.
The Lib Dem amendment has failed.
Mr Hudspeth, the leader of the council, says the LibDems are tinkering around the edges.
She says it is an amendment which can deliver services.
The vote on the vote is successful and Zoe Patrick sums up.
Mr Hoare makes his request again and a vote is being held on whether to vote.
Labour councillor Mark Cherry said: "This budget comes straight out of a comic book.
"Even I understand you cannot borrow your way out of this."
Conservative councillor Simon Hoare attempts to force a vote saying the fate of it is certain but the chairman refuses.
Lib Dem councillor Neil Fawcett said: "Everybody had admitted that if we carry on with the current plan we are managing decline.
"We think we need to take a different approach and do what many other councils have done and borrow money up front to make a significant difference which can actually save you money over the long term."
Labour councillor John Tanner says: "this is not properly thought through, this is not properly funded.
"This is not win win, this is fantasy fantasy"
Arash Fatemian, the cabinet member for finance, says the Lib Dem amendment is "smoke and mirrors" and criticises the group for suggesting the council should borrow the maximum amount of £20m.
The Lib Dem budget proposes raising income by hiring out parts of County Hall and making savings by working with neighbouring councils.
She says her proposals are more far reaching than Labour's which she claims don't make a difference.
The meeting has restarted with Lib Dem group leader Zoe Patrick introducing the party's amendment.
The Labour amendement is lost and the council breaks for lunch for an hour.
Ian Hudspet accuses Labour of "dancing the hokey cokey" with the budget.
Ms Brighouse says her amendment is "not about gesture politics, it is about the truth"
Mr Fatemian has also revealed he has purchased a Euro millions ticket after reading the Labour amendment.
He says he "could not believe that a Labour party is suggesting increased savings from public health."
Arash Fatemian, the cabinet member for financial, says he is "disappointed" by the Labour amendment.
"I was looking forward to a fully costed budget."
Conservative councillor Kieron Mallon speaks against the proposedproposed cut in councillor allowances.
He said: "If people cannot afford to become councillors they won't" and warns that the cut will mean the only people who can become councillors are the "retired, unemployed and the unemployable".
The administration has said it does not imagine that any childrens centres will close because of the savings.
Labour councillor Mike Beam expresses concern at what might happen to children centres because of the £3m savings which the country wants to find from them.
Tim Hallchurch, the chairman, says he will aim to break for lunch at 1pm.
Labour councillor John Christie says: "The money which was spent by the last government was justified and the reason we have got cuts now is the failure of the coalition government to stick to its deficit reduction plan."
Though the Labour group says it is not convinced the people of Oxfordshire would back a tax increase and says a referendum would be too big a risk.
Green councillor Sam Coates says: "This budget is devastating" and adds that he is disappointed the Labour group has not backed the green proposal to increase council tax by more than four per cent, something which would trigger a referendum.
Whitney Labour councillor Laura Price says that her group's amendment is about "damage limitation"
He criticises Ms Brighouse for not making reference to what he says was the excessive borrowing of the previous labour government saying "sorry seems to be the hardest word",
Conservative councillor Simon Hoare says the Labour amendment "does not add up to a huge difference".
He adds that the amendment would include cutting councillors allowances by 10 per cent.
Nick Hards, Labour's spokesman on finance, says there is scope for a "modest" increase in charges.
A number of the Labour proposals such as phasing the £1.5m cut to homelessness services over two years have already been included in the budget.
The Labour amendment ringfences dial a ride, includes money to fund youth workers and money for credit unions.
She describes the cuts from central government as a "direct attack from central government on local democracy"
Labour group leader Liz Brighouse says central government has put the council in a "straight jacket" by removing its funding and preventing it from raising council tax.
The meeting now moves onto the Labour amendment to the budget.
Hilary Hibbert Biles, cabinet member for public health, says the new contract for school nurses will mean there will be a name nurse in every single secondary school in Oxfordshire.
Melinda Tilley, cabinet member for education, says the council "could not cope" with a shortfall of nearly £20m for building new schools which was announced earlier this year.
He says Oxfordshire is the best performed county for recycling, though his department is cutting funding to the waste partnership with the district councils.
David Nimmo Smith, cabinet member for environment and transport, says the council is keeping Oxfordshire "open for business".
He says a number of services have been "externalised".
Nick Carter, cabinet member for business an customer services, says the council is undergoing a change of culture.
Judith Heathcoat, cabinet member for adult social care, says there are "positive meetings" taking place with district councils about the cut to housing related support.
Cabinet member for policy coordination Louise Chapman says her department is"focusing resources to target the most vulnerable"
He says councillors " must" vote for the budget because it delivers "essential services" for vulnerable people.
He highlights the City Deal, which will bring £55m of central government investment into Oxfordshire, and the recent funding of £11m for transport schemes such as the Cutteslowe roundabout.
He says: "We have to redesign services"
Mr Hudspeth introduces the budget, which he says is a "major challenge" and adds that there is "no way we can disguise the cuts".
The report is accepted by the council which now moves on to the budget.
John Tanner, a Labour councillor, says it is "important to stand up for the cleaners and the carers who serve this county so well."
County councillor Susanna Pressel says paying the living wage will help reduce the benefits bill.
The living wage is higher than the minimum wage and takes account of the cost of living locally.
Council leader Ian Hudspeth says the council will try to introduce the living wage this year.
The council is now considering a report from the remuneration committee.
Gill Tishler, of Oxford City Advice Bureau, says the cuts in the budget will increase pressure on its services.
Lesley Dewhurst of Oxford Homeless Pathways speaks against the cut in housing related support saying it is a "matter of life and death".
Sue Tanner is speaking on behalf of advice centres facing funding cuts.
She says it is the only bilingual advice centre in the Thames Valley and many vulnerable Chinese people cannot speak English.
Former councillor Barbara Gatehouse is now speaking on behalf of Oxford's Chinese advice centre which is facing funding cuts.
Karen Waggott is now presenting a petition for a history trail in Didcot.
A by election for her seat will take place next month.
Two appointments to committees are made to replace Caroline Newton, a Conservative county councillor for Darlington who ha resigned because her husband got a job in Italy.
After tributes are paid the council observes a minutes silence.
Tributes are being paid to former county councillors Tony Stockford and Pam Johnston who have died since the last meeting.
He also says the council will be flying the Commonwealth flag on March 10.
Mr Hallchurch uses the opportunity to thank all those who helped during the floods, including the fire brigade and district councils.
Mr Hallchurch warns that if all councillors speak at length the meeting could last until 8pm this evening. He urges them to be brief and not repeat each other's points.
Council leader Ian Hudspeth will introduce the budget and then members of the cabinet have the opportunity to speak. The amendments put forward by Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens will be discussed and votes will be held on them. There will then be a general discussion on the budget.
Chairman Tim Hallchurch kicks off the meeting.
Worth remembering the political make up of the council: the Conservatives failed to win a majority in last year's election so formed an administration with the help of three independents (including former Labour stalwart Led Sibley).
A large number of public speakers are expected from groups such as Oxford Homeless Pathways.
Protester Michael Hugh Jones, of Oxford Pensioners Action Group, says he is concerned about cuts to the council's care budget.
A small group of around 15 protesters gathered outside County Hall while Oxfordshire's 60 councillors gather for the meeting.
Protesters are expected to gather outside County Hall this morning as Oxfordshire County Council meets to make a final decision on its budget. The meeting is expected to last for the better part of the day.
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