Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Council considering tax referendum

HOUSEHOLDS in Oxfordshire could be asked to support a significant increase in council tax.

HOUSEHOLDS in Oxfordshire could be asked to support a significant increase in council tax.

Oxfordshire County Council is considering holding a referendum on the issue, saying the extra tax revenue could prevent cuts to frontline services.

It comes after a row between the council and Davbid Cameron over the cuts, including those in his Witney constituency. Local authorities are not allowed to raise council tax by more than two per cent without a vote.

The council says an Oxfordshire-wide referendum would cost £800,000 and the result would be binding.

It says that it could reduce the cuts to £47million with a three per cent increase in council tax, which would add about £37 to the average household bill, and £27 million with a 10 per cent increase, which would add £123 to the typical bill.

Services including household recycling plants and children?s centres are already under threat as the council tries to make the extra savings on top of the £290 million it already has to save between 2010 and 2018.

This week the council?s cabinet agreed to make £7.5million in its supported transport budget by removing the subsidies it pays to commercial bus companies to operate low-use routes.

Subsidised services in the Henley Standard circulation area include the 151, 152 and 154 Henley services; 139 Wallingford to Henley; 145 Woodcote to Henley; 125 Watlington to Wallingford; 134 Goring to Wallingford; M1 Watlington to Reading and M2 Nettlebed to Reading.

These are run by Whites Coaches, Thames Travel and the Go Ride Community Interest Company as well as the council itself.

If the cuts are approved by the full council it will be up to the bus companies whether they continue to run those services from April onwards.

David Nimmo Smith, cabinet member for environment and a Henley town councillor, said: ?As a county council, we are faced with very difficult choices. We are now in our sixth year of cuts since 2010.

?We?ve stopped using more than 100 properties, reduced our staffing by 30 per cent and our senior management by 40 per cent. We?re sharing services with other councils.

?We have a legal and moral duty to support the most vulnerable in society ? that means adults who are in our care because they need help washing, dressing, eating and other personal care, and children at risk of abuse and neglect.

?Almost 50 per cent of our budget goes on care services for adults and children, so we need to make savings in other areas to fund those vital services.

?It is really important to understand that more than 90 per cent of bus services in Oxfordshire would be unaffected by these proposals.?

Meanwhile, in a letter to the council?s Conservative leader Ian Hudspeth, Mr Cameron said he was ?disappointed? about the plans for ?significant cuts to frontline sevices?.

Councillor Hudspeth replied that the Government had committed itself to removing the deficit, which he would ?support and deliver in Oxfordshire?.

He added: ?The council is moving cautiously and trying to maintain services. However, there will be difficult decisions to be taken since I have to deliver a balanced budget.?

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