Oxford City Council has launched a public consultation on its corporate strategy and budget proposals.
Anyone who lives or works in Oxford can have their say on the proposals by visiting our Budget Consultation pages.
The Budget proposals set out how the Council is seeking to balance its finances despite the £29 million impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has to date only been partially offset by £8 million in support from Government.
The Council has seen a sharp increase in expenditure to support those in need, together with a sharp reduction in income from leisure centres, town hall room hire, car parks, rents from commercial premises, and earnings from its wholly owned companies Oxford Direct Services Ltd (ODS) and Oxford City Housing Ltd (OCHL).
Despite this the Council is proposing to protect frontline service delivery, while seeking £9.57 million of efficiencies and increased income over four year period. The Council is proposing to meet many of the one-off costs of COVID-19 by spending approximately £11.8 million of its £40 million in reserves and balances. It also plans to facilitate a rapid expansion in returns from its wholly owned businesses that will deliver over £36 million in interest payments and dividends to the Council over the next four years.
At the same time the Council will continue to coordinate the citywide response to the COVID-19 pandemic; work that is expected to stretch well into the new financial year and potentially beyond. To date the Council has distributed £0.8 million to support vulnerable households, £26.7 million to help impacted businesses, £0.2 million to support the wider economy, £1.5 million to house and support rough sleepers. The Council acted quickly and decisively to ensure money was deployed where needed, while also acting to prevent fraud.
A summary of the main proposals in the proposed Budget 2021-22 are set out below. A more detailed breakdown of the proposals can be found in the Council’s press release published on 1 December.
Enable an inclusive economy
- Regeneration in the city and commercial property purchases of around £53 million
- Investment in infrastructure of around £14 million to drive additional income streams from Oxford Direct Services Ltd (ODS)
Support thriving communities
- Community centre new build at Bullingdon and refurbishment and redevelopment at East Oxford
- Maintain full council tax support for those on the lowest incomes – one of very few councils still to do so
- Making available up to an additional £500,000 per annum funding for the Council’s leisure services, in recognition this may be needed because of the impacts of the pandemic
Deliver more affordable housing and tackling homelessness
- Provision of loans to Oxford City Council’s wholly-owned housing company Oxford City Housing Ltd totalling £75 million for the acquisition of houses at Barton, minor extensions, and for new house building
- £129 million of affordable housing purchases by the HRA in the next 4 years and £393 million on the purchase of 1,119 social housing units in the HRA over the next 10 years
- Additional ongoing investment into tackling homelessness of £1.5 million including the opening of a new assessment centre for people sleeping rough at Floyds Row
Pursue a zero carbon Oxford
- £50 million in the next 10 years to be spent on efficiency measures to our council housing stock towards our target of 95% of our stock being EPC ‘C’ or above by 2030
- Additional spend on reducing carbon emissions over the next four years of over £700,000, including expenditure on purchasing green gas, and increasing engagement with large emitters, businesses and residents to help set a course to a zero carbon city
Efficiencies and increased income
- Reorganisation of the Council’s Communities and Housing Services around locality areas to enable them to work more efficiently and deliver a saving
- Additional charges for garden waste and new charges introduced for bulky waste collections
- Reduction in office space for staff and a move to ‘cashless’ operation – in line with many other councils
- Reduced expenditure on events
- Ending the provision of refreshments for Councillors at Council meetings
"What we have sought to do in this budget is mitigate the impact of the pandemic on services, especially for the most vulnerable. Because the combined negative impact is expected to be £29 million over five years that has not been an easy task.
“I’m pleased that, despite this, we are able to take forward some important commitments – to increase our investment in cutting carbon emissions and to replace and refurbish two key community centres, while also protecting frontline services. But it has not been possible to avoid unwelcome proposals entirely. Reluctantly we are suggesting introducing a new charge for the collection of bulky items of waste for the first time; and we will now need to ask all recipients of the garden waste service to pay towards its provision.
“This has been a dreadful year for many people. The health impacts of the pandemic have been terrible and the economic impacts are already severe. Our aim is to play a full part in supporting Oxford’s recovery. I would encourage everyone who lives and works in Oxford to read the Budget and provide their feedback on how we propose to do that.”
Cllr Ed Turner, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Asset Management
The Budget 2021-22 and Medium Term Financial Strategy will go out to public consultation on 10 December 2020 until 31 January 2021, with the final decision to be made by Council on 17 February 2021.