At its meeting on 18 December, the City's Executive Board will consider the report on the Council's budget for 2019/20.
The report proposes a Council Tax increase of 2.99 per cent, or £8.94 a year. This equates to a Band D Council Tax of £307.80 a year to fund the City Council.
The Budget proposes a fully balanced four-year budget that retains front-line services, continues to support the most vulnerable, including extra spending towards ending homelessness and support for the Oxford Living Wage, and includes a total £192 million of capital investment over the four-year period.
This reflects the Council’s commitment to the “Oxford Model”, where rather than choosing to outsource services, it works in partnership with its wholly-owned companies Oxford Direct Services (ODS) and Oxford City Housing Limited (OCHL) - providing capital and receiving interest and dividend payments. Next year, ODS is to pay a dividend of over £1.5 million to Oxford City Council, rising to over £3 million by 2022/23.
Measures in the proposed Budget for 2019/20 include:
Tackling homelessness and investing in housing
- £200,000 increase in homelessness budget to £1.7 million a year, with leisure services made available for free to homeless pathway clients
- Review how best to use the Government’s decision to lift the restriction on borrowing in the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and how both this and OCHL can best address the city’s housing shortage
- Implement Premium Council Tax of 100 per cent additional tax for properties that have been empty for more than two years with effect from 01 April 2019. These rates will rise to 200 per cent for properties empty for 5-10 years and 300 per cent for those empty for over 10 years, when the City Council is permitted to so implement these measures.
- £73 million for OCHL to buy properties in Barton Park for social rent and other purchases and new build over the next four years
- An additional £600k to take forward the South Oxford Science Village project with partners, following the inclusion of the site to the south of Grenoble Road in South Oxfordshire District Council’s Local Plan.
Investing in our city
- Capital expenditure will amount to £192 million over a four year period including:
- £4.6 million towards community centre improvements
- £14.8 million investment in ODS including new zero emission fleet
- £2.3 million to expand the Museum of Oxford
- £250,000 for new cycle infrastructure, to be part of matched funding with other public bodies
- £24k for installation and operation of drinking fountains in three parks.
- £5 million a year to support people in poverty including Council Tax support, hardship fund to assist Universal Credit claimants and concessions for Council leisure facilities, garden waste and pest control
- £4 million in Disabled Facility Grants
- £34k to create an accessibility app to make it easier for people with a disability to use city venues more fully
- £20k to promote the Oxford Living Wage towards to local businesses and other organisations, and guarantee it to the Council's workforce.
Keeping Oxford moving
- Park and Ride charges frozen
- 0-2 hour off-street parking charges frozen.
Cllr Ed Turner, Board Member for Finance and Asset Management, said: "Once again, Oxford City Council's budget is being framed in challenging times. The Government grant is reducing to zero in 2019, interest rates remain low and therefore affect the returns on council investments, and we are of course exposed to wider economic risks that might affect the local economy, investment income and commercial property.
"Our commitment to the “Oxford Model”, with wholly owned companies, puts us in a better position than many local authorities. Clearly, there are difficult decisions to be made and there are modest increases in some charges. But by being willing to prioritise, we will safeguard front-line services and in particular support the most vulnerable in Oxford."
Following the Executive meeting, the Budget with go out to public consultation with the final decision to be made by Council in February 2019.