Oxford City Council has announced plans for a balanced budget over the next four years, with increased capital investment in new council housing and regeneration and no cuts in services or compulsory redundancies proposed.
This is despite £9 million of central Government grant removal since 2013 and its complete withdrawal in 2019/20.
Highlights of the proposed Budget are set out below. It will be considered by the City Executive Board on 20 December, and then for public consultation before being considered by full Council in February 2018.
- balanced budget over the next four years – absorbing the removal of the Revenue Support Grant
- no cuts to services or compulsory redundancies
- projected £12 million further efficiencies and income growth over the next four years – including an increased £500,000 per annum contribution from the Local Authority Trading Company (LATCo), Oxford Direct Services by 2021/22
- £225 million capital investment over the next four years, up from £137 million over the past 4 years
Tackling homelessness and investing in affordable housing
- increase current £1.4 million per annum funding of homelessness prevention services by £200,000 per annum from 2019/20 and lobbying other organisations to do more
- an additional £5 million to purchase15-20 properties for temporary accommodation for local homeless families
- £10 million to redevelop the East Oxford Community Centre with at least 50% council housing on the three related sites
- £61m loan to the Housing Company to build and acquire c500 new homes
- £24.4m on refurbishment of existing council houses.
Investing in our city
- investing £1.6 million in the fabric of the Covered Market over four years
- a £1.4 million programme of annual grants to the community and voluntary sectors
- increased funding of £1 million for the Museum of Oxford (levering in £1.3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund)
- £1.5 million contribution to the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme
- freezing park and ride charges, rather than implement the previously proposed increase, to encourage motorists not to drive into the city. Instead, charges will rise at other Council car parks within the city.
Boosting financial inclusion
- maintain the full level of council tax support to households on low incomes – one of only 37 local authorities to do – at a cost of £1.6 million in 2018/19 and £1.8 million in 2019/20. The Council also proposes to maintain its policy of increasing its Council Tax charge by 1.99 per cent - or £5.77 per annum representing a Band D Council Tax of £295.96 per annum in 2018/19
- an additional £100,000 for energy efficiency works in council properties to help reduce utility bills
Councillor Ed Turner, Deputy Leader of the Council, and Board Member for Finance and Asset Management, said: “This budget has been produced in challenging times for Oxford. On the one hand, we see great opportunities for our city: the opening of the new Westgate Centre has provided a boost to employment locally and our retail sector; the proposed new Housing Deal with government should accelerate housing growth locally and provide funding for desperately needed affordable housing; our economy locally continues to be in a strong position.
“However, there are significant challenges: poverty and homelessness continue to be major problems, with rough sleeping numbers rising steeply; some government policies, notably the freeze on benefits and the introduction of Universal Credit, may exacerbate that trend. Moreover, Brexit may have a very problematic impact on our economy, which, in particular through our growing reliance on business rate growth, could affect the Council’s finances as well as the city’s prosperity more widely. Our aim, in putting together this budget, has been to protect frontline services, and focus additional investment on areas that need it most.
“This programme of investment in Oxford, at a challenging time, will make a real difference. Reducing the gap between rich and poor, cutting our carbon footprint, maintaining high-quality public services, tackling homelessness and providing more homes, and keeping our city safe, remain top priorities. This budget proposes neither service cuts nor compulsory redundancies, and we hope it will give a basis for providing excellent services to our city over the coming years. Feedback to our consultation will be very welcome.”
View the report here.