COUNCIL BUDGETS SPECIAL: Facing the cuts

Bicester Advertiser: Brian Ponting from Mill Lane in Marston is worried about cuts to the highways budget Brian Ponting from Mill Lane in Marston is worried about cuts to the highways budget

THE axe has fallen on more than £51m of council services in Oxfordshire this week.

Councillors at County Hall approved four-year savings of more than £46m on Tuesday, just one day after the city council’s financial plan to cut almost £5.4m by 2017 was rubber-stamped.

Council tax, parking charges and social housing rents have also been increased to cover the void left by reduced Government handouts

But it’s not all doom and gloom, with a £40m capital spending programme going ahead in Oxford over the next year, and £100,000 of extra funding approved by the county council to promote growth and skills.

Ian Hudspeth, leader, Oxfordshire County Council, defends the council tax rise, park and ride charges and cuts to the highways budget.

He said: “I’m as disappointed as anybody with the need for a rise in council tax, but we want to make sure we protect services, particularly for the most needy and vulnerable people in Oxfordshire and protect against the need to make deeper cuts in the future.

“With regard to potholes, the most important thing is we have the area stewardship budget for another year and it’s focused on road maintenance. We have repaired 39,000 potholes this year, and although I would hope there won’t be 39,000 to repair next year, we will try to repair every defect which is reported to us.

“I understand traders’ concerns about the park and ride charges, and we have taken what they have said on board. We will be looking at all the different ways in which the charges can be levied. They might be variable charges, with different fees later in the day, but it will all be looked at during the consultation.”

Today local government reporter Freddie Whittaker looks at some of the ways we are going to be affected by the latest round of budget cuts.

ROADS (AND PAVEMENTS)

CAMPAIGNERS are worried a new hole in the county highways budget might leave even bigger holes in their streets.

A total of £1.01m will be stripped from the road maintenance budget between 2015 and 2017.

It comes at a time when the council is repairing more and more potholes and is on track to deal with 39,000 this year, compared with 8,902 in 2008/09.

The cut comes as a worry to 74-year-old Brian Ponting from Mill Lane in Marston.

He said: “We have to walk into the road to avoid the potholes on pavements, which are filled with water. That isn’t very safe, especially when there are parked cars and you can’t what’s coming down the road. There are problems on the pavement and on the road. If a cyclist hits one it could be very dangerous.”

The authority hopes to receive a slice of a £200m pothole fund announced last year by transport minister Norman Baker to help plug the gap.

FAMILIES

WITH bills rising across the board, a council tax hike of more than £40 a year will sit heavily on the Taylor family’s finances.

Naomi Taylor, 34, is a postwoman and her husband Martin, 37, is a factory worker for Tesco. Together they try to make ends meet for their four-year-old triplets Harry, George and Holly. They earn about £38,000 a year before tax – £1,410 a month goes on bills and rent and £1,000 a month on petrol and food.

A 20 per cent increase in precept from Witney Town Council, together with a two per cent rise from both Oxfordshire County Council and Thames Valley police, mean their council tax bill will increase from £1,498.25 to £1,544.69 a year.

Mrs Taylor said: “We will definitely notice that difference. We’ve got three children, I’m working full time, my husband is working full time and it’s still hard to keep things on the line. We don’t live a lavish life and we notice every time any bill goes up. We budget to the last penny.”

She said she was concerned further cuts in Government grants would mean council tax would continue to soar over the next few years. She said: “I do worry about how far it’s going to go. They keep putting these rises onto us and we don’t get anything in return.”

Council tax precepts from Oxford City Council and Vale of White Horst district council will also go up by two per cent. West Oxfordshire and Cherwell district councils have frozen their council tax precepts, and South Oxfordshire will cut its share by two per cent.

PARKING

HIKES in parking charges could cripple Oxford city centre, according to traders.

From April, the Thornhill and Water Eaton facilities, run by the county council, will charge for daytime parking, and £3 per 24 hours for long stay users.

And charges for parking at the city council-run Peartree, Seacourt and Redbridge sites will go up from £1.50 per day to £2.

The increases are on top of a two per cent hike in parking charges in the city centre.

Graham Jones, chairman of the ROX traders’ association, said: “I think it’s bad news.

“They don’t seem to appreciate that the retail scene has changed completely. I thought they had got that message but clearly I was wrong.

“We now have a lot of businesses in warehouses with much lower business rates which can trade very successfully over the internet.

“As a result there’s a lot of pressure on the high street and other satellite areas like Summertown.”

Mr Jones said the council should be encouraging people into the city, not turning them away.

He said: “Even the people who think about it and get a bus instead of clogging up the city streets are being hit.”

He added that traders up and down the UK had written to Chancellor George Osborne calling on him to freeze business rates over the next year.

The county council is due to consult on the amount it will charge for daytime parking at its park and ride sites. Long stay charges have already been set.

GOOD NEWS

INVESTMENT worth £40m will take place across Oxford over the next year.
As part of its budget, Oxford City Council approved a capital programme which will see widespread spending on council assets.

Among the beneficiaries will be the city’s pavilions, which are having £470,000 spent on them, and work has already started at Cutteslowe Park.

The pavilion is owned by Oxford City Council and is the home venue for Wolvercote Cricket Club and North Oxford Football club.

Cricket club secretary David Quinn said: “We’ve relied on the council facilities for a number of years now and we very much like playing at Cutteslowe park, it’s very convenient for us.

“However, there have been complaints in the past, particularly from visiting teams about the state of the facilities. Not the playing surface itself, but the other facilities, like the showers not working. We’re very pleased this work is going ahead. I’ve seen the plans for the new pavilion and it’s going to bring a better vibe to the place.”

City executive board member for parks and sports Mark Lygo said: “The improvements will help provide a much improved facility that will help increase wider usage and participation in sport.”

The works, which will cost £200,000, have just started and will be completed by August. They include improvements to the changing rooms and toilet areas, an improved multi-function room and alterations to windows and doors.

In his speech on the county budget on Tuesday, council leader Ian Hudspeth announced plans to earmark an extra £100,000 to promote growth in the county.

He said the money would not be ringfenced for a specific scheme, and could be spent to get match funding from other organisations for projects which improved the economy, or on skills or training initiatives.

AT A GLANCE: COUNTY COUNCIL SAVINGS 2013-17

 

  • Savings from prevention and intervention work to prevent costly care bills: £3m
  • Savings from schools budget because more become academies: £1.2m
  • Cancellation of area stewardship fund: £1.09m (from 2014/15)
  • Suspension of some road maintenance schemes: £1.01m (2015-2017)
  • Savings through shared budget with the health service: £1m
  • Suspension of property maintenance work: £907,000
  • Extra income from park and ride daytime charges: £500,000
  • Less back-office work on behalf of schools: £500,000
  • Reduced staffing and office costs in the chief executive’s office: £283,000
  • Savings from outsourcing to Carillion and Capita Symonds: £360,000

CITY COUNCIL SAVINGS 2013-17

  • Savings from establishment of customer services contact centre: £191,000
  • Staff savings in housing department (four posts): £139,000
  • Redundancy of two environmental service managers: £115,000
  • Extra income from 15 per cent increase in planning fees: £100,000
  • Temporary accommodation costs: £100,000
  • Outdoor market maintenance savings: £60,000
  • IT improvements: £56,000
  • Saving on temporary staff with automated payment system: £55,000
  • Furniture budget savings: £50,000
  • Reduction in grant to Visit Oxfordshire: £48,000
  • Development consultants’ fees savings: £20,000

Comments (9)

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6:43pm Fri 22 Feb 13

Feelingsmatter says...

Maybe I'm being short-sighted, but spending almost half a million doing up pavillions seems a little reckless when I burst a tyre last week on a large pothole. I'm also sceptical about the £3m saved in the care sector. How can they suddenly become so much more efficient? I suspect it's more that people have to jump through more hoops to get funding.
Maybe I'm being short-sighted, but spending almost half a million doing up pavillions seems a little reckless when I burst a tyre last week on a large pothole. I'm also sceptical about the £3m saved in the care sector. How can they suddenly become so much more efficient? I suspect it's more that people have to jump through more hoops to get funding. Feelingsmatter

12:02am Sat 23 Feb 13

Mrs Arcanum says...

Feelingsmatter wrote:
Maybe I'm being short-sighted, but spending almost half a million doing up pavillions seems a little reckless when I burst a tyre last week on a large pothole. I'm also sceptical about the £3m saved in the care sector. How can they suddenly become so much more efficient? I suspect it's more that people have to jump through more hoops to get funding.
Agree

Would seem that no sooner are one lot of pot holes filled in, more appear. At one time you could tell when you left Oxfordshire because the roads got so bad. Now you know when you are arriving in Oxfordshire due to the horrendous state of the roads. Whoever is in charge of Highways seems to be unable to get a decent budget and unable to do more than fill holes with useless filler that flies out causing a hazard on the pavements.
[quote][p][bold]Feelingsmatter[/bold] wrote: Maybe I'm being short-sighted, but spending almost half a million doing up pavillions seems a little reckless when I burst a tyre last week on a large pothole. I'm also sceptical about the £3m saved in the care sector. How can they suddenly become so much more efficient? I suspect it's more that people have to jump through more hoops to get funding.[/p][/quote]Agree Would seem that no sooner are one lot of pot holes filled in, more appear. At one time you could tell when you left Oxfordshire because the roads got so bad. Now you know when you are arriving in Oxfordshire due to the horrendous state of the roads. Whoever is in charge of Highways seems to be unable to get a decent budget and unable to do more than fill holes with useless filler that flies out causing a hazard on the pavements. Mrs Arcanum

7:45am Sat 23 Feb 13

Lord Palmerstone says...

Agree. We all have to use the roads and they are paid for 40 times over by the highest taxes in Europe. Frankly, if you use your local pavilion you pay for it. We can do without pavilions. We're going back to the Stone Age if the State has lost interest in roads.
Agree. We all have to use the roads and they are paid for 40 times over by the highest taxes in Europe. Frankly, if you use your local pavilion you pay for it. We can do without pavilions. We're going back to the Stone Age if the State has lost interest in roads. Lord Palmerstone

10:07am Sat 23 Feb 13

bodchris says...

The dead hand of the State: more taxes more charges will kill the economy. You put up the car park charges and fewer people will shop in Oxford. But of course you need to pay all these 'officials' that work on our behalf. How about getting rid of those double yellows so that out-of-towners will want to shop in Oxford without West-End parking charges? How about lane swapping schemes down each of the roads leading in and out of Oxford? Get rid of the bus lanes, reduce the overly large pavements and have two lanes that open in the morning, and one of those lanes that changes direction in the evening rush hour. We need to investment in roads not cutting budgets... if you want to find the budget reduce your staffing/mini-empire
s. Britain ran all of India on 1400 staff, I wonder how many people work for Oxford County Council?
The dead hand of the State: more taxes more charges will kill the economy. You put up the car park charges and fewer people will shop in Oxford. But of course you need to pay all these 'officials' that work on our behalf. How about getting rid of those double yellows so that out-of-towners will want to shop in Oxford without West-End parking charges? How about lane swapping schemes down each of the roads leading in and out of Oxford? Get rid of the bus lanes, reduce the overly large pavements and have two lanes that open in the morning, and one of those lanes that changes direction in the evening rush hour. We need to investment in roads not cutting budgets... if you want to find the budget reduce your staffing/mini-empire s. Britain ran all of India on 1400 staff, I wonder how many people work for Oxford County Council? bodchris

12:11pm Sat 23 Feb 13

mytaxes says...

Perhaps Oxford City Council could reduce our tax by concentrating on basic services instead of advertising jobs like this:


Environmental Development
Post title: Environmental Policy Team Leader (Post no: 3087)
Grade 8
Salary £33,661 per annum with possible progression to £37,206 per annum
Contract: Permanent ~ 37 hours per week
This role is to lead, develop and drive performance improvements within the team of technical experts that make up the Environmental Policy Team within Environmental Sustainability.
Main Duties & Responsibilities
This role reports directly to the Sustainability Manager and works alongside the Energy and Climate Change Team Leader to deliver key parts of the Council’s Cleaner and Greener Programme. This is a great opportunity to build on the council’s excellent reputation in this field we are looking for an individual with a passion for driving environmental change who can demonstrate excellent results in reducing an organisation’s environmental impacts.
Perhaps Oxford City Council could reduce our tax by concentrating on basic services instead of advertising jobs like this: Environmental Development Post title: Environmental Policy Team Leader (Post no: 3087) Grade 8 Salary £33,661 per annum with possible progression to £37,206 per annum Contract: Permanent ~ 37 hours per week This role is to lead, develop and drive performance improvements within the team of technical experts that make up the Environmental Policy Team within Environmental Sustainability. Main Duties & Responsibilities This role reports directly to the Sustainability Manager and works alongside the Energy and Climate Change Team Leader to deliver key parts of the Council’s Cleaner and Greener Programme. This is a great opportunity to build on the council’s excellent reputation in this field we are looking for an individual with a passion for driving environmental change who can demonstrate excellent results in reducing an organisation’s environmental impacts. mytaxes

3:58pm Sat 23 Feb 13

oafie says...

lovely for someone......
lovely for someone...... oafie

5:05pm Sat 23 Feb 13

Isawyoucoming says...

what happened to the council tax being
frozen davyboy, another broken promise
what happened to the council tax being frozen davyboy, another broken promise Isawyoucoming

7:18am Sun 24 Feb 13

mytaxes says...

Isawyoucoming wrote:
what happened to the council tax being
frozen davyboy, another broken promise
Ask our councillors Isawyoucoming. 219 councils are accepting the Government’s grant offer to freeze council tax for a third consecutive year and freezing council tax for 2013/14.
[quote][p][bold]Isawyoucoming[/bold] wrote: what happened to the council tax being frozen davyboy, another broken promise[/p][/quote]Ask our councillors Isawyoucoming. 219 councils are accepting the Government’s grant offer to freeze council tax for a third consecutive year and freezing council tax for 2013/14. mytaxes

11:26pm Mon 25 Feb 13

rabbitrr says...

Too much is spent in Oxford, what about the outlying villages/towns that also have pot holes in the roads etc?
Too much is spent in Oxford, what about the outlying villages/towns that also have pot holes in the roads etc? rabbitrr

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