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Council cuts could hit £260m
FRONTLINE services could be affected as the council reveals its cuts could hit £260m and the leader admits “breathtaking” savings will test it “to the limit”.
And its finance cabinet member Arash Fatemian warned that he wasn’t ruling anything “in or out” as the council looked at how to make the savings.
Mr Fatemian admitted: “It is a concern, I’m not going to lie about that, particularly given the amount the council has already had to save.”
It comes in the wake of savings of £127m already made by the authority since 2010, with further savings of £74m between now and 2014 already approved.
After Chancellor George Osborne announced in his spending review in June that council grants would be slashed by 10 per cent the county council initially estimated it was looking at up to £25m savings.
But yesterday it revealed the figure was much higher – between £40m and £60m.
Mr Hudspeth said: “By the end of this process we may have ended up having to save more than £260m from 2010 to 2018.
“That is a breathtaking level of savings as the nation continues to come to terms with the deficit. We have worked very hard to protect frontline services since 2010.
“The sheer scale of savings required looking into the future is going to test us to the limit. We set our budget in February 2014 and there is a lot of talking to happen between now and then.”
The announcement has sparked concerns that areas like adult social care and education, which have until now been protected from the brunt of savings, will face cuts.
The council has emphasised its commitment to generating additional income to try to avoid savings, but people hit by previous price hikes have warned against more charges.
Bernard Bovington, 77, of Heyford Park, has seen his fees for attending Bicester day centre rise from £4.18 to £7.50 per session this month. They will rise to £15 by 2015.
He said: “They are going to get to the stage where they will kill off the goose which lays the golden eggs and they will end up having to close things. There is a limit to what people will be prepared to pay.”
The amount which needs to be saved will change depending on what the council decides to do with its council tax rate.
Earlier this year the Government announced a two-year cap on council tax meaning that councils couldn’t raise it by more than two per cent.
The council previously said it wanted to raise it by 3.75 per cent each year over the next four years but Mr Fatemian said if the maximum it could raise it by was still two per cent it would be looking at £60m savings needed.
He said the 3.75 per cent increase would generate more than £20m, meaning it would be looking at £40m.
Mr Fatemian said it was too early to say which services would be cut, but warned that redundancies had not been ruled out.
Labour councillor Nick Hards, who is the opposition finance spokesman, said: “The bottom line is if we have to find these savings, we will find a way to do it, but I think the cabinet members could really do with lobbying their party in Government and asking them what they are playing at. I am worried that we won’t be able to protect frontline services.”
A Lib Dem finance spokes-man said: “This is an enormous sum and Lib Dem councillors will be arguing for essential services to be protected.”
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