Friday, 27 November 2020

Council cuts after ?bleak? funding settlement

THREE children?s centres in the Henley area could be hit by new cuts to be made by Oxfordshire County Council

THREE children?s centres in the Henley area could be hit by new cuts to be made by Oxfordshire County Council.

The authority says it faces having to make another £20million in savings over the next four years on top of more than £50million already planned following a ?bleak? funding settlement from the Government.

It says the level of central funding is much worse than it had feared and means more services will be put at risk. These include the children?s centres at the d:two centre in Henley, Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common and in Chalgrove and Watlington.

The council currently has 44 children?s centres and seven early intervention hubs and has announced plans to replace these with eight children and family centres in order to save £8million. However, any further cuts could threaten their existence altogether. Henley?s county councillor David Nimmo Smith said he planned to meet Sue Prior, who runs youth and community group Nomad, which is based at the d:two centre along with the children?s centre which it used to run, next month.

He said they would discuss ?gaps? and how to fill them, adding: ?I?d like to think there are avenues we can go down to get something working.?

Cllr Nimmo Smith added: ?In broad terms the Government is still pumping funding into the northern cities while in the south, in the leafy suburbs, we?re all in the same position.

?There?s no wriggle room now. We?re going to have to go into the black areas, the ?we don?t want to have to go here? areas, and take the money out of them.?

Council leader Ian Hudspeth said: ?This has been a bleak settlement for us in Oxfordshire. The Government has changed the formula for funding councils and it seems shire counties, particularly in the south, have come off worst.

?We are now faced with the incredibly difficult task of setting a balanced budget for next year knowing that the £51million of savings we have already found will certainly not be enough.

?This will hit service users and the council hard. We already knew we had incredibly tough choices to make. While we will continue to try to protect the most vulnerable people, that financial situation has now worsened considerably.?

In his autumn statement, Chancellor George Osborne announced that county councils would be able to levy an extra two per cent in council tax on top of the two per cent that is already allowed.

But Oxfordshire County Council says the money raised from such an increase would be cancelled out by the Government?s failure to provide the money to cover the cost of introducing the national living wage in the care sector.

The council is due to set its final budget on February 16.

Reading Borough Council says it will need to make another £5million in cuts over the next four years on top of £39 million already planned as a result of its government settlement.

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