Oxford City Council Strategy 2020/2024 and Budget 2020/2021

Published: Monday, 16th December 2019

On 19 December, the Cabinet will consider the City Council's draft corporate strategy covering 2020-2024 & its proposed Budget for 2020/2021 & Mid-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) for 2021-22-2023/24.

At its meeting on 19 December, the Cabinet will consider reports on Oxford City Council's draft corporate strategy covering the period 2020-2024 and its proposed Budget for 2020/2021 and Mid-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) for 2021-22-2023/24.

Council Strategy 2020-24

The draft Council Strategy 2020–2024 sets out high level aims and outcomes that Oxford City Council seeks to have achieved - to guide decision-making over the period. It succeeds the existing Corporate Plan 2016-20 and updates our objectives to achieve sustainable systematic change for Oxford.

The Council Strategy will act as a route-marker towards delivery of the Oxford 2050 vision, adopted in 2018 following extensive public consultation, and the emerging Oxford Local Plan 2036. The Council Strategy will be underpinned by an annual Business Plan that will set specific priorities for the year ahead and report on progress against agreed key performance indicators. Both documents are complemented by the annual Budget and MTFS that allocates resources against the priorities set.

The draft Council Strategy sets out four key aims, to:

  • Foster an inclusive economy, in which wealth is distributed across our communities and where all residents can share the benefits of growth
  • Deliver more, affordable housing, to address Oxford’s housing crisis where existing homes are unaffordable for many and demand for good quality homes outstrips what is available
  • Support flourishing communities, to help ensure everyone is able to play a full part in the life of our city
  • Pursue a zero carbon Oxford, acting on the clear message from Oxford’s Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change to continue to take a lead in reducing emissions and increasing biodiversity.

The draft Council Strategy will go out to public consultation from 20 December 2019 to 2 February 2020, after which a final document will be submitted to Cabinet and Council in February 2020 for adoption. View the draft Council Strategy.

Budget 2020/21 and Mid-Term Financial Strategy 2021/22-2023/24

Oxford City Council announces plans for a balanced budget over the next four years, with increased investment in new council housing and in measures to address the climate emergency.

The Budget 2020/21 proposes a Council Tax increase of 1.99 per cent, or £6.13 a year for 2020/21. This equates to a Band D Council Tax charge of £ £313.93 a year.  

Total spending on frontline services will be protected over the four year period, despite the Council no longer receiving Revenue Support Grant from Government. Assistance to the most vulnerable is prioritised, with protection of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and grants to voluntary organisations, freezing concessionary charges at Council leisure facilities, and a £1.2 million increase in the homeless budget over the next four years.

Following the Oxford Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change, the Council is committing additional resources to show real leadership in addressing the climate emergency, with an immediate commitment to additional £1 million of revenue expenditure, and £18 million of capital investment on decarbonisation measures over the next four years. This is significant in the Council’s Budget context, and comes on top of around £84 million of ongoing investment in a range of measures to address climate change across Oxford and the wider county that has already been leveraged through the Council’s partnerships with others.

The Council is also prioritizing the delivery of more housing, including new council housing. Over the next four years, £136 million of capital investment will produce 620 much needed new council-owned homes.

Underpinning these decisions is the ‘Oxford Model’, in which the Council seeks to in-source work and retains the associated revenues to support the services it provides, rather than out-source to others. Over the four years of the MTFS, the Council expects to receive over £20 million from its wholly-owned companies – Oxford Direct Services Ltd (ODS) and Oxford City Housing Ltd (OCHL). In addition the Council is targeting a further £6 million of efficiencies across the Council over the next four years that will help protect frontline service delivery.

Measures in the proposed Budget for 2020/21 include:

Delivering more affordable housing and tackling homelessness

  • £136 million of investment in producing 620 new units of council housing stock over the next four years, to be built buy OCHL
  • Additional spending of around £1.2 million per year to tackle rough sleeping including the opening of a new assessment centre and shelter for people sleeping rough at 1 Floyds Row – bringing the City Council’s total spend on homelessness to £7.4m a year from 2020/21.

Pursuing a zero carbon Oxford

  • Over £18 million in new capital and £1 million in new revenue expenditure is proposed, covering areas ranging from local leadership, through to work with Oxfordshire County Council to reduce traffic congestion, to increased retrofitting of existing Council Housing stock, to electric vehicle charging, and a low carbon heating network. This is on top of around £84 million of other ongoing partnership funding already leveraged

Supporting flourishing communities

  • Investment in community centres, including new builds at Bullingdon and East Oxford
  • Continuing to provide full Council Tax Reduction to those on the lowest incomes, while making the system simpler for customers and those who administer the benefit, and expanding the support to provide full Council Tax Reduction for care leavers
  • Preserving the City Council’s grants pot, which is of great benefit in a range of areas, from welfare benefits advice, to support to tackle isolation and loneliness, through to ensuring that culture is available to all
  • Continued free swimming sessions available to all local young people, and an improving range of leisure facilities, including the new Horspath Sports Park
  • Continued provision of the Youth Ambition Programme to support local young people, while increasing levels of support for such provision on council estates.

Fostering a more inclusive economy

  • Regeneration in the city and commercial property purchases of around £67 million
  • Investment in infrastructure of around £18 million to drive additional income streams from Oxford Direct Services Ltd

“I’m pleased that once again we are able to put forward a balanced budget that sees funding to frontline services protected and is fully in line with our philosophy of seeking to make Oxford a fairer, more equal place to live. This has been achieved against a backdrop of ongoing austerity since 2010. We no longer receive Revenue Support Grant funding from Government and New Homes Bonus is being removed. We have to work harder to maintain and develop commercial property income and low interest rates affect our investments.

“Our ‘Oxford Model’ - which seeks to pay our staff fairly, insource the work that many other councils outsource, and use our wholly-owned businesses to generate additional revenues that underpin Council services - is working for the city. It enables us to focus additional resources in key areas. These include delivering more housing, particularly council housing; taking real leadership in addressing the climate emergency; and providing strong support to Oxford’s diverse communities and additional assistance to those least able to help themselves, such as rough sleepers.”

Cllr Ed Turner, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Asset Management

Following the Cabinet meeting, the Budget will go out to public consultation on 20 December until 2 February 2020, with the final decision to be made by Council in February 2020.