Following a consultation period that ended on 31 January, Oxford City Council has published its final budget proposals for 2018/19. The amended proposals will go before the City Executive Board on 13 February for consideration.
The amended proposals include:
- an increase in council tax by 2.99 per cent per year, rather than 1.99 per cent per year. This amounts to an extra £8.67 per year for the average household and will mitigate a reduction in estimated business rate income following an increase in the tariff payable to Government
- further increased spending to combat homelessness and eliminate rough sleeping, amounting to a further £187,000. This is on top of an additional £200,000 a year from 2019/20
- funding for a new pavilion at Five Mile Drive
- additional funding for the next two years to ensure that all sections of the community have better access to the city’s cultural heritage, and levering external funding for this
- having listened to comments made through the consultation, the originally proposed tariff increases at Headington car park has been amended and reduced, bringing them into line with charges at Union Street and Summertown car parks. Plans to freeze Park and Ride charges for most stays are confirmed, bringing terms and conditions fully in line with those in Oxfordshire County Council Park and Ride facilities. For the first time, blue badge concessions will be introduced along with a free hour's parking for all drivers.
- the creation of a new project fund to enable effective promotion of the Oxford Living Wage, in line with strong public support
- an increase in Council Tax premium from 50 per cent to 100 per cent for homes empty and unfurnished for more than two years – to encourage properties to be brought back into use. Whilst Government has not yet set a date for its proposed enabling legislation to permit this, with 80 such properties in the city, the Council is proposing to implement the change as soon as it comes into force.
Councillor Ed Turner, Board Member for Finance and Asset Management, said: “These are challenging times for Oxford. We face significant pressures on services coupled with reductions in funding. This has been exacerbated by the latest assessments of the Council’s funding from retained business rates, which have been revised downwards. Additionally the Government seems set to confirm the deletion of revenue support grant for Oxford City.
"We are grateful to people who responded to our budget consultation, and to our council workforce, which continues to work hard to provide an excellent service to people in our city. We want to put in place a range of additional measures and funds to tackle homelessness and eliminate rough sleeping, including funding services and building more genuinely affordable homes.
"Notwithstanding continued and severe reductions in government funding, we are committed to supporting Oxford as a great place to live, making our city safer, greener, and a more equal place, while seeing its economy thrive – this budget contains important measures towards that goal.”
The budget amendments add to the positive initiatives already outlined in the existing budget proposals. These include:
- help to tackle homelessness that will see an additional £5 million to purchase properties for local homeless families
- over £10 million in the Housing Revenue Account for to provide council housing at the East Oxford Community Centre, as part of that building’s renewal, and at associated sites
- an extended energy advice service for council tenants to reduce carbon emissions and reduce fuel poverty coupled with an additional £100,000 for energy efficiency work in council properties and an ongoing programme of £24.4 million to raise standards in council homes
- a £1.6 million investment in the fabric of the Covered Market, as part of our commitment to the city centre
- funding equivalent to two Police Community Support Officers for use in partnership with Thames Valley Police for the coming year in areas where depleted police numbers are having the highest impact, and pressure on the Government for adequate funding of the police service in the future
- additional investment in our tree team, to ensure potentially dangerous trees are treated and made safe
- providing the full level of council tax support to households on low incomes
- the establishment of our Local Authority Trading Company, Oxford Direct Services, to offer services to local firms, charities and other organisations, with additional income of £500,000 being forecast annually once the organisation is established
- additional funding of £200,000 to create new controlled parking zones, where there is local support for these
- continued provision of our programme of grants of £1.4 million to the community and voluntary sectors as well as increased funding of £1 million for the Museum of Oxford (levering in £1.3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund) to ensure both visitors and local people are able to access an excellent insight into our city’s history.