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Planned £64m budget cuts passed by just three votes
CUTS of about £64m to services across Oxfordshire have been formally approved.
Oxfordshire County Council narrowly ratified its budget for the next four years at a five-hour meeting yesterday.
The Conservative-Independent alliance, which runs the council, rejected amendments proposed by all three of the opposition parties and approved its own budget by three votes.
It means there will be cuts of £1.5m to homelessness services as well as adult social services and transport.
County councillor Ian Hudspeth, council leader, said: “This budget is a major challenge for us and there is no way we can disguise the cuts.
“We have to be realistic and acknowledge that this is a cutting budget and it’s simply not possible to have no cuts whatsoever.
“It’s a tribute to our staff that we have been able to make the savings and still have basically the same service delivered to our residents.”
From 2010/11 to 2017/18, Government funding for the council’s revenue budget – which pays for the running of services – will fall by 39 per cent, or £96m.
Council tax will rise by 1.99 per cent to avoid a referendum, which is legally required if an increased of two per cent or more is planned.
Around £7m will be cut from adult social care while £1.5m will be cut over two years from housing- related support, including homelessness services.
Lesley Dewhurst, chief executive of Oxford Homeless Pathways, addressed yesterday’s meeting urging councillors to reconsider.
She said: “We are pleased to hear the current proposal is to stagger the £1.5m cut to the housing-related support budget... however the overall effect will be the same in the long run. This could possibly be a matter of life and death.”
Michael Hugh Jones, of Oxfordshire Pensioners Action Group, protested outside the meeting.
He said: “People who are pretty immobile will get not nearly as much help as they used to.”
The Labour amendment ringfenced dial-a-ride, included money to fund youth workers and money for credit unions, but also had rises to charges and 10 per cent cuts to councillors’ allowances.
The Lib Dems proposed raising income by hiring out parts of County Hall and making savings by working with neighbouring councils as well as borrowing the maximum of £20m.
The Green Party wanted a council tax increase of 4.5 per cent and increased parking charges.
Its group leader David 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.”
But his assertion that a majority of people in Oxfordshire would vote for a council tax rise of 4.5 per cent was dismissed as a “delusion” by Conservative councillors.
Since last year’s election – when no party won control– the Conservatives have been running the authority in alliance with three independents, including ex-Labour stalwart Les Sibley. This meant the budget was passed by 30 votes to 27.
WHO LOSES OUT.
- ENVIRONMENT AND ECONOMY Current budget – £90.8m, Cabinet member – David Nimmo Smith, Cuts proposed – £11.2m including £350,000 from recycling centres
- ADULT SOCIAL CARE Current budget – £292.3m, Cabinet member – Judith Heathcoat, Cuts proposed – £7.1m including a £200,000 cut to subsidies for meals and shopping, and a £300,000 cut in support for organisations like Citizens’ Advice Bureau
- CHILDREN, EDUCATION & FAMILIES Current budget – £98m, Cabinet member – Melinda Tilley, Cuts proposed – £6.4m including £3.1m saved by children’s services department and a £1.3m cut in support for people with special educational needs
- CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S OFFICE/ CULTURAL SERVICES Current budget – £9.8m, Cabient members – Ian Hudspeth/Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, Cuts proposed – £1.5m including the libraries budget cut by £250,000
- FIRE AND COMMUNITY SAFETY Current budget – £31.1m, Cabinet member – Louise Chapman, Cuts proposed – £614,000. Crewing in Banbury could change from a 24-hour shift model to a day-crewed model by 2016/17
- PUBLIC HEALTH Current budget – £26.7m, Cabinet member – Hilary Hibbert-Biles, Cuts proposed – £2.5m. Savings will be made by working more efficiently