CRIES of “no more cuts” sounded outside County Hall yesterday as around 200 campaigners protested against council budget cuts.
Those who rely on support services across Oxfordshire including the homeless and the unemployed united to make their voices heard ahead of the county council cabinet meeting.
Protester Richard Hayes turned to Oxford hostel O’Hanlon House, run by Oxford Homeless Pathways, more than three years ago after losing his home.
The county council wants to cut its £4m housing-related support budget by £1.5m, or 38 per cent, which will affect the charity and Oxford’s three hostels.
Mr Hayes, 65, who now lives in Julian Housing provided by the charity in East Oxford, said: “I would have been desperate if it wasn’t for O’Hanlon House. It was a couple of years ago now. I went bankrupt, lost my house and had nowhere to live and they were really good to me.
“It really is so vital.”
Retired doctor Anne Watson worked in the health centre in Luther Street, Oxford, which is next to O’Hanlon House, for 15 years.
Dr Watson, from West Oxford, said: “I have never had a more wonderful, worthwhile, necessary, rewarding job.
“These cuts are appalling. It would be an absolute disaster, they really mustn't go through with it.”
Rose Hill single mum Emily Boughton was supported by Rose Hill and Donnington Advice Centre with debt advice when she lost her job last July.
The advice centre in Ashhurst Way stands to lose £14,000 from April 2015, which will result in reduced opening hours and the loss of one of the four staff members.
The 36-year-old said: “I have been having massive problems since losing my job and experienced real hardship. I was really stressed so I wasn’t able to work.
“I was quite desperate, I literally didn’t have enough to live on – I had to go to the advice centre.
“They provide a vital service. I wouldn’t have been able to figure it all out on my own.
“Without their help I would never have got through this.”
Of the proposals, she added: “I am quite disgusted with them.
“Just because I have run into financial trouble doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get the help I need in the community.”
Sam Nelson turned to Connection floating support for help when he lost his job at the end of December last year and found his debt mounting up.
The charity will be affected by the proposed cut to the housing-related support budget.
Carpenter Mr Nelson, 38, from Faringdon, said: “I have had to turn to them for help with my housing. I recently started work, then stopped working.
“I think it is an absolute crying shame. I understand 38 per cent is nigh on half – that is an awfully big cut.
“It is extremely vital, not just for me but anyone in a vulnerable or difficult position.”
Departments and the cuts they face:
ENVIRONMENT AND ECONOMY
Current budget – £90.8m
Cabinet member – David Nimmo Smith
Cuts proposed – £11.2m
Including a review of subsidised and free transport services which will lead to a cut of £3.2m and cuts of £1.3m to general highways maintenance.
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 will have to close.
ADULT SOCIAL CARE
Current budget – £292.3m
Cabinet member – Judith Heathcoat
Cuts proposed – £7.1m
Including a £200,000 cut to subsidies for meals, shopping and laundry, and a £300,000 cut in support for organisations like Citizens Advice Bureau.
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.
The report said: “Adult social care accounts for 40 per cent of our spend. We recognise that there is an ageing population which will continue to grow and pressures on this budget will continue to grow too.
“We are continuing to invest in this area and everyone with an assessed need will received support.”
CHILDREN, EDUCATION AND FAMILIES
Current budget – £98m
Cabinet member – Melinda Tilley
Cuts proposed – £6.4m
£3m must be saved across the county’s children’s centres and a further £3.1m will be saved by the children’s services department.
There will be 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.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S OFFICE/CULTURAL SERVICES
Current budget – £9.8m
Cabient members –
Cuts proposed – £1.5m
The libraries budget will be cut by £250,000 while there will also be cuts to organisations such as Pegasus Theatre and Oxfordshire Youth Arts Partnership.
The report said: “We remain committed to our existing plan to introduce volunteers and 2014/15 will be the second of the three year library service strategy.”
FIRE AND COMMUNITY SAFETY
Current budget – £31.1m
Cabinet member – Louise Chapman
Cuts proposed – £614,000
Crewing in Banbury could change from a 24-hour shift model to a day-crewed model by 2016/17.
Full-time firefighter support to be introduced in Bicester, costing £1.2m
The report said: “Oxfordshire has not had any change in fire cover arrangements nor had any additional fire stations built in the county since 1987. Since then, there has been considerable housing growth. We will invest £1.5m over the medium term to ensure we protect our emergency response function and ensure we remain fit for purpose.”
Current budget – £26.7m
Cabinet member – Hilary Hibbert-Biles
Cuts proposed – £2.5m
Savings will be made by working more efficiently
The report said: “We intend to make savings in this service through commissioning more efficient services as contracts used to commission services are renewed.”