Tuesday, 22 August 2017

County Council leader 'sorry' for further cuts

THE leader of Oxfordshire County Council says he is “desperately sorry” as he plans another £23million of cuts

THE leader of Oxfordshire County Council says he is “desperately sorry” as he plans another £23million of cuts.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth also warned there could be more pain to come.

He was speaking as the council proposes to a make a series of short-term budget measures to help deliver additional savings.

The move comes in response to a “bleak” funding settlement from the Government and on top of more than £50million in cuts already planned.

Cllr Hudspeth said: “The clear message from our budget consultation in the autumn was that making proposed savings would have a real impact on people and communities.

“We had hoped our original savings options would be a worst-case scenario and that we would not therefore have to go ahead with them all. We are desperately sorry that we now have to consider these extensive savings.

“We will be doing everything we can to help communities manage the impact.”

The short-term measures the council plans involve:
• Drawing on its reserves.
• Bringing some planned cuts forward to the year beginning on April 1.
• Reducing spending in certain areas, such as training budget and libraries.
• Recalculating financial assumptions made on things such as inflation, council tax income and the overall tax base.

Cllr Hudspeth said: “We have found a series of short-term measures to buy time to make yet more new savings proposals following full consultation during 2016/17.

“Our approach remains the same. We want to try to protect the most vulnerable people in Oxfordshire by which we mean those adults who need help with basic personal care and children at risk of abuse or neglect.

“Our approach will also be to manage economic growth in the county and continuing to make the council more efficient.”

The council has identified more corporate savings of £10million, meaning £11million of new savings needs to be found from 2017/18 onwards.

County councils in England are allowed to raise council tax by up to four per cent before a referendum is required. Two per cent of this is the original limit with a further two per cent on top allowed for spending on adult social care.

However, Oxfordshire says the benefit of the two per cent increase is cancelled out by the Government not compensating councils for the estimated costs of the new National Living Wage.

The council is proposing a 3.99 per cent rise in its share of the council tax for 2016/17.

Cllr Hudspeth added: “We will need to take another fresh look at our services to see if there are different ways of working that help us save even more. There will be a lot of debate about this in the coming weeks and months and we will consult once more.

“Our temporary measures mean we avoid cash flow problems. They are a short-term solution for one year only.”

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