Cuts: How Oxfordshire County Council plans to save £64m - but children's centres look safe + Audio (From Bicester Advertiser)
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Cuts: How Oxfordshire County Council plans to save £64m - but children's centres look safe + Audio
CUTS of £64m over four years have been unveiled at County Hall that will slash services for adult social care and children with special needs among others.
The county council will cut £7.1m from adult social care, £11.2m from environmental services – including a review of subsidised public transport – and more than £6m from children’s services, including £3m from children’s services including children's centres and the early intervention service.
And the only reason cuts in adult social care are not even higher is a £10m one-off windfall from Government.
The council also aims to increase council tax by 1.99 per cent in 2014/15 and 2015/16, and by three per cent in the following two years.
County council leader Ian Hudspeth said the council was facing difficult times as Government grants dropped, but denied that the need to strip services down to minimum amount required by law was because the council had been too generous in the past.
He said: “I think it is a very unfortunate situation we find ourselves in with a reduction in funding, but we all know that we have got to reduce the deficit.
“We are a rural county so we try to be as fair and equitable as possible right across the county to assist people, so in the past perhaps there have been some services that have been more than statutory, but we have really had to look at it.”
- Listen to our full interview with Ian Hudspeth
He added: “I did not get into politics to be a slash and burn politician, but equally so I did not get into politics to have a flabby council.
“It is about providing a good service that people value, providing it efficiently and with value for money.”
Mr Hudspeth said mounting pressures in adult social care, caused by an increasingly ageing population, was a real issue, but he said the council was still far away from crisis.
And he referred to the council in Barnet, where officials say that if changes are not made, within 20 years the authority will be unable to provide any services except adult social care and children’s services.
He said: “I think we are certainly a long way off that situation, but, of course, you have seen the Barnet graph of doom where they are saying if we carry on spending, eventually all our expenditure will be on adult services.
“What we have got to do is look and see – can we do things differently, can we work with the NHS better to actually make sure that we get value for money from it, try to make sure people stay in their own homes where they want to be, and working with the district councils to have extra care housing to make sure people can stay in their own homes is one way to ease that demand.
“It is a pressure, there is no doubt about it. We are not shying away from it.
“We are protecting services and delivering them in a more effective way and a more efficient way which is beneficial for the residents of Oxfordshire.”
Environment & economy
- Current budget: £90.8m
- Cabinet member: David Nimmo-Smith, pictured
- A review of subsidised and free transport services will lead to a £3.2m cut. This could lead to buses replacing taxis for disabled school children.
- Although £2.5m of extra cash will be spent on fixing potholes, £1.3m of cuts to general maintenance will see the frequency of verge- and tree-cutting, sign-cleaning and line repainting decrease.
- £2m is to be saved through more effective use of property portfolio.
- A total of £350,000 is to be cut from recycling centres, which may mean one or more of the seven of those in the county have to close.
- Mr Nimmo-Smith said: “We plan to get smarter to make every penny work very hard on behalf of the taxpayer. By targeting savings in these areas we can avoid bigger savings to frontline services. There will be a very serious focus on these areas over the next four years.”
Adult social care
- Current budget £292.3m
- Cabinet member Judith Heathcoat, pictured
- Savings of almost £12m in adult social care will be mitigated by a £10m grant from the Government, but savings on top of that will still total £7.1m, including a £200,000 cut to subsidies for meals, shopping and laundry and a £300,000 cut in support for organisations like the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
- Mrs Heathcoat said: “Adult social care accounts for the biggest area of council spending apart from schools. We are proposing to make better use of the funds available for those eligible for support. Our policies of aiming to keep people well and encourage independent living would continue, but it means that we are proposing to stop funding some non-statutory services for those not eligible for social care support. We would encourage and enable people to access similar services elsewhere.”
Children, education & families
- Current budget: £98m
- Cabinet member: Melinda Tilley, pictured
- £3m must be saved by children’s services including children's centres, but the council says it does not envisage any closing. Instead, they will focus on achieving efficiencies.
- A further £3.1m will be saved by the children’s services department, including a £1.3m cut in support for people with special educational needs and the formation of a trust for the county music service, saving £362,000.
- The attendance service, which ensures children go to school, will change, saving £200,000. The council said this was due to academies being responsible for this, although the council still retains its obligations.
- Mrs Tilley said: “We have looked long and hard at all areas and have identified where savings could conceivably be made – despite the fact that some of these services have already undergone significant funding reductions in recent years. Our absolute priority is to keep children safe, to ensure we can continue to fulfil our responsibilities and to provide support for the vulnerable young people who need it most.”
Chief executive’s office/cultural services
- Current budget £9.8m
- Cabinet members: Ian Hudspeth/Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, pictured
- Almost £2.2m will be saved including through closer working with Hampshire on ICT, and use of smartphones to replace desk phones.
- The libraries budget will be cut by £250,000 including a £50,000 annual cut in the book budget, but none are expected to close. This is on top of existing plans to save £130,000 by using volunteers.
- There will be an increase in some charges for weddings, and cuts to organisations like Pegasus Theatre, Oxfordshire Youth Arts Partnership and Mill Arts Centre in Banbury.
- Mrs Lindsay-Gale said: “I am saddened that we have to propose to reduce grants to such positive organisations as the Pegasus Theatre and Oxfordshire Youth Arts Partnership. We will work with them to help them access other sources of funding and provide support wherever we can. The Mill Arts Centre already raises a substantial level of income and is working towards complete financial independence. We will be working closely with them over the next three years to ensure that they achieve their goal and will no longer require funding from the county council.”
Fire & community safety
- Current budget: £31.1m
- Cabinet member: Louise Chapman, pictured
- Full-time firefighter support to be introduced in Bicester, costing £1.2m. Crewing in Banbury could change from a 24-hour shift model to a day-crewed model by 2016/17, saving £360,000.
- Ms Chapman said: “Oxfordshire is rapidly changing in terms of growth of particular areas of the county, and our proposals for providing further emergency response cover in these parts reflects this. It’s essentially a process of providing more by using the resources at our disposal in a more flexible manner. The proposed overall saving from Fire and Rescue up to 2017/18 is only one per cent of its annual budget, which over four years is only an annual saving of 0.25 per cent, during a time when councils nationally are under pressure to make difficult decisions. Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has a longstanding and proud history of being low cost and high performing, costing each council taxpayer around 11p per day.”
- Current budget: £26.7m
- Cabinet member: Hilary Hibbery-Biles, pictured
- A £2.5m saving in public health will be achieved by working more efficiently
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