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County council plans for £13m of savings in next budget

County council plans for £13m of new savings in next budget

Oxfordshire County Council is planning to achieve a savings of £13 million in its 2022/23 budget.

Alongside plans to meet its current and future financial challenges, the budget proposals for 2022/23 at Oxfordshire County Council also include investments in making the county greener and fairer.

The challenges the council faces include uncertainty over government funding for all local authorities, the ongoing impact of COVID-19 that continues to place pressures on the county council’s day to day services and affect its income streams, alongside a growing and ageing population, which puts more pressure on budgets and services.

And there are particular pressures, with predicted future funding shortfalls being felt within social care for both adults and children.

The budget proposals focus on placing funding where it is most needed and investing in services that will have a positive long-term impact on local communities.

Key investment proposals

  • £824,000 into climate action and resilience measures, including supporting community activity to cut carbon emissions, developing a renewable energy network and helping the transition to electric vehicles (EVs).
  • £4.4 million extra is being invested in adult social care to meet inflationary costs, which are predicted to rise across the care sector in the UK.
    £800,000 has been identified to reduce the contribution rate that those receiving disability benefits have to pay towards assessed care needs.
  • £1.2m invested in special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), with further investments leading to a total of £2.1 million by 2026.
  • £1.15 million to support the increase in children in care placements, and for longer too, because of COVID-19. A further £174,000 is earmarked to support those 18 year-olds leaving the care system.

Other proposals

  • £130,000 in extra traffic enforcement income in 2022/23 - rising to £580,000 by 2026 by taking on enforcement of moving traffic offences currently dealt with by the police.
  • Planned increases in pay and display charges in Oxford city. There are no plans to increase those at the city’s Park & Rides, to encourage more people to use park and ride and avoid driving into Oxford city.
  • £1 million saving from reviewing home to school transport to bring Oxfordshire more in line with other parts of the country. This will include route optimisation, tightly managing eligibility and cost adjustments to the spare seat scheme.
  • However, £1.3 million is being added to the home to school transport budget because of population increases, meaning the home to school transport budget will rise overall by £300,000.
    Council tax rises

The council is proposing a 4.99 per cent council tax rise (3 per cent of which is an adult social care precept and must be spent on adult social care).

The county council’s share of council tax for a Band D property (the average council tax band) in 2021/22 was £1,573.11. A 4.99 per cent increase equals a £78.50 per year or £1.51 per week increase in council tax on a Band D property.

People can have their say on the council’s budget proposals, including its proposed council tax level for 2022/23 and the Cabinet’s priorities between 02 December 2021 and 05 January 2022, by visiting letstalk.oxfordshire.gov.uk/budgetconsultation and completing the online survey.

The feedback from the budget consultation will be considered by the council’s Cabinet on 18 January 2022, and it will decide and set its budget on 08 February 2022. Feedback will also help develop a new strategic plan for the council.

Comments

“Following the local elections in May 2021, the Oxfordshire Fair Deal Alliance formed to lead the county council. Our vision is to lead positive change to make Oxfordshire a greener, fairer county. We have developed nine priorities to deliver this aim.

“These include putting action to address the climate emergency at the heart of our work, tackling inequalities and supporting carers and the social care system. We have looked for ways to support these priorities in this, our first budget.

“We are committed to the responsible management of the council’s finances. To reach our goal of a balanced budget for 2022/23, we are planning ahead carefully to meet current and future financial challenges. We are also working on identifying savings across the council to enable us to invest in our priorities and meet our demand pressures.

“Challenges include uncertainty over government funding, the ongoing impact of COVID-19 and an ageing and growing population, which puts more pressure on budgets and services.

“The government has announced some new grant funding for local government, which is welcome news and has the potential to allow us to invest in key priority areas. This includes £8 million of grant funding for pressures related to COVID-19.

“However, the detail of what funding we will receive remains unclear. Given the level of remaining uncertainties, including around COVID-19, we will continue to take a cautious and measured approach towards managing our budgets to deliver for residents today and in the future.”

Protecting those in need will always be our priority. Budget pressures mean we will have to continue to find ways to save money while protecting frontline services – moving services online, where appropriate, and generating more income.

“We are proposing both investments in priority areas and savings and consulting the public on what we know now. As we move through the winter, the situation may change as we get to know more detail about the financial support available from the government.

“In the meantime, we want to hear from residents, businesses and others on our proposals. This will help inform our decisions during the budget process.”

—Councillor Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council

“In total, we have identified we need £21 million of new funding for 2022/23 to meet inflationary and demographic pressures, additional demand and to fund priority investments.

“We want funding to go where it is most needed and invest in services that will have a positive long-term impact for our local communities. To do that, we plan to make £13m of new savings in 2022/23, focusing on making services more efficient while protecting the frontline.

“Social care for adults and children is an area where we are experiencing additional demands and financial challenges as a result. We are predicting significant funding shortfalls in the coming years. Without funding to meet these shortfalls from the government, council tax will have to rise to meet these costs.

“In the autumn spending review, the government encouraged councils to raise council tax by an additional one per cent to help pay for adult social care services. Last year, the council had already budgeted for a 3.99 per cent increase to council tax in 2022/23.

“We know increasing council tax by 4.99 per cent overall will put additional strain on household finances at a very challenging time.

“However, without funding from government to meet the rising costs of providing adult social care, we are left with no choice but to raise these funds to make sure we can provide social care for some of our most vulnerable residents.”

—Councillor Calum Miller, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance

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