County eyes big tax rise in latest budget

Oxfordshire County Hall NNL-160721-122114009
Oxfordshire County Hall NNL-160721-122114009

Council tax for Oxfordshire County Council provided services could be rising by 4.99 per cent according to next year’s budget.

Ahead of the council’s performance scrutiny committee meeting on December 14, the county council has released its new budget proposals which says it has identified £21m in new financial pressures.

Although proposed budget changes are not as big as in previous years, the council still has to make cuts.

County council leader Ian Hudspeth, said: “Having made difficult decisions in previous years we are now nearer to the end of our programme of savings than the start. However there are still some savings to make.

“By being in a more financially resilient position we are better placed to help support a thriving local economy and deliver value for money.

“We are a council that spends a great deal of its budget on caring for those in greatest need – striving to give every child a good start in life and enabling older and disabled people to live independently. That continues to be our focus.

“Indeed much of the money the council has saved since 2010 has been reinvested in coping with demand pressures in adults and children’s social care – issues that very much remain and will continue in the future.”

There are some cuts OCC has decided not to go ahead with. A £1.97m cut to area stewards in highways and to grass cutting will now not proceed. The council will also spend £940,000 on resurfacing and patching of cycle lanes and bus lay-bys, rural sign clearance/line painting as well as £350,000 in anticipation of law changes following the Grenfell fire.

Pressures have also been identified in children’s services due to an expected increase in the number of children requiring services, amounting to £3.488m up to 2022, and a £6.3m pressure relating to the cost of children the council is expected to have in care at the end of March next year.

There are also expected to be changes to adult social care contributions which will see an increase in contributions to the cost of care by people with income above the national minimum income guarantee.

The full budget proposals are up for public consultation until January 8 which can be found at www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/budget. Paper copies of the consultation document will be available in libraries.

The budget will be going to council cabinet in January, Cabinet will formally recommend a budget to the annual budget-setting meeting of full council on February 13.