Oxfordshire County Council is planning to set a new budget having made difficult choices in previous years to manage a combination of squeezed budgets and the fact that more people need council services.
Since 2010 the council has managed reductions in finances available at the same time as rises in demand for services – especially in children’s social care and adult social care.
At the same time the council has in recent years been involving communities ever more in services for their locality – ranging from support for older people and those with learning disabilities to library volunteers. The net result is that the council’s finances are in a resilient position looking ahead to the 2018/19 financial year and planning for years up to 2022.
The council has used its agreed vision for the future – supporting thriving people, a thriving economy and thriving communities – as the basis on which proposals have been made for the 2018/19 financial year and the plan for the three financial years which follow.
Although proposed budget changes are not as extensive as in many previous years since 2010, like any organisation the council still has rising financial pressures that need to be matched by new savings so that a balanced budget can be proposed.
The leader of the council, Councillor Ian Hudspeth said: “Having made difficult decisions in previous years we are now nearer to the end of our programme of savings than the start. However there are still some savings to make. By being in a more financially resilient position we are better placed to help support a thriving local economy and deliver value for money. We want to provide services that enhance quality of life in our communities and protect and improve the local environment. We are a council that spends a great deal of its budget on caring for those in greatest need – striving to give every child a good start in life and enabling older and disabled people to live independently. That continues to be our focus. Indeed much of the money the council has saved since 2010 has been reinvested in coping with demand pressures in adults and children’s social care – issues that very much remain and will continue in the future.”
The initial budget proposals will be discussed by the council’s Performance Scrutiny Committee on December 14 before going to Cabinet in January. Cabinet will formally recommend a budget to the annual budget-setting meeting of full council, which this year is on February 13.
The Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan, agreed by council in February 2017, is that there would be a 4.99% Council Tax rise in 2018/19. A total of three per cent of this is “adult social care precept”. This is the level to which Central Government allows councils who provide adult social care services (county councils, unitaries and councils in metropolitan areas such as London, Manchester and Birmingham) to raise Council Tax.
Members of the public and stakeholders will be able to comment on the budget proposals and Council Tax level through the Council’s website at www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/budget and paper copies of the consultation document will also be made available in libraries. The consultation will open at 17:00 on 6 December 2017 and close at 23.59 on 8 January 2018.