Oxford,
07
January
2020
|
17:05
Europe/London

County council budget offers Oxfordshire residents new investment in social services, schools and roads

  • This is an "investment budget" in public services to prevent problems before they happen
  • We're supporting struggling families so fewer children come into care .
  • Investing in community support for older and disabled people to help them live independently
  • Designing places that help people stay healthy by encouraging cycling and walking
  • We've halved our carbon emissions since 2008 – our target is zero carbon by 2030
  • Have your say on the council's budget proposals here.

Proposals for an “investment budget” to reduce neglect, ill-health and social isolation have been published by Oxfordshire County Council. The plans include community support for people who have become vulnerable in their community so they can live independently for longer, and more help for struggling families to reduce the chances of children having to go into care.

Funding for children and adult social services would increase by £30 million next year, including an extra £8.1 million from the government. This money is needed to support an increase in adult social care needs for both older and disabled people, as well as the increasing number of child protection cases, which has grown in line with national trends.

The budget proposals also include investment in infrastructure across the county, such as an extra £50 million for new and existing schools over ten years, with most of the funding coming from housing developers to meet the need for more pupil places in Oxfordshire.

The county council proposes to spend £30 million in 2020/21 from its capital budget on repairs to roads, bridges, drainage and footways across Oxfordshire’s towns and villages, with major schemes scheduled in Banbury, Abingdon and Witney.

New funding of £3 million per year is proposed to improve local road safety and accessibility, including new pedestrian crossings, improved junctions and better bus stop facilities. These measures are designed to encourage walking and cycling as part of the council’s commitment to improving air quality and active lifestyles.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said:

“Our investment budget will enable us to meet the needs of residents and communities as the county changes in the future. We will redesign services with a greater emphasis on preventing problems before they happen.

“We want to do much more than simply manage the growing demand for council services – we want to help all our communities in Oxfordshire to thrive. That means addressing the real causes of that demand for our services so children have the best start in life and older and disabled people can live as independently as possible.”

Responding to climate change features prominently across budget proposals, including support for sustainable travel such as improving park and ride services on the A40, and the replacement of over 50,000 streetlights with energy-efficient LEDs. However all budget lines have to consider the climate change agenda and how the county council will meet its carbon neutral target by 2030.

The budget proposals will be considered by councillors at a Performance Scrutiny Committee meeting on 9 January 2020, before all councillors vote on revised proposals on 11 February. Residents and business are invited to give their views on the budget proposals and all councillors will consider their feedback before final decisions are made.

Investing now to save in the future

The draft budget includes ‘invest to save’ proposals totalling £4.8 million across council services, many of which would pay back within a year and lead to further savings of £4.8 million by year four. The budget proposals also include measures totalling £9.1 million in 2020/21 that will help reduce demand for services in the future.

This approach is part of a council-wide programme of service redesign and organisational change, which enables the council to to savings in the future while improving the services that residents want and need.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, added:

“By grasping this opportunity to invest now, we are being ambitious about improving outcomes for residents and communities in the future. There remains a lot of uncertainty about funding for local authorities by the government in the longer term, but I am convinced this investment budget gives us the best chance of managing our finances during the uncertain times ahead.

“I know that residents want us to continue to invest in our roads and transport infrastructure – both maintenance and improving how they work for roads users, including for bus journeys, cycling and walking. This is an important part of our overall commitment to reducing carbon and getting really serious about climate change.”

As part of this invest-to-save approach, the county council would provide support for informal care networks in communities that will help older and disabled people live independently. By increasing the ability of communities to provide informal support, the aim is to manage the long-term demand for social care and target resources at those who need help the most.

Prudent budget management, long-term uncertainty

The county council continues to face long-term financial pressures, with government steadily reducing funding for local authorities since 2010. At the same time, more people have needed support from social services.

To ensure it can continue to invest in services and infrastructure, while meeting the needs of the most vulnerable people in Oxfordshire, the county council is proposing to increase Council Tax by 1.99 per cent, with a further two percent ‘precept’ – an additional increase allowed by the government on to pay for the growing number of people requiring adult social services. (Raising council tax by two per cent or more requires a local referendum.)

The continuation of the Council Tax precept and other government sources from previous years has enabled the council to consider these investments in services during the next financial year. Investing now puts us in a better position to make further savings in the years ahead, as we expect to have to do.

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Budget Consultation Video - UPDATE

Budget briefing

This is a summary of the most significant budget proposals – investments in services and savings. Councillors will be considering two sets of budget proposals: revenue budget that pays for day-to-day services, including the ‘invest-to-save’ measures; and the capital programme that provides long-term investment in transport, schools, broadband and other infrastructure. Full details of the revenue and capital budget proposals below in Further Information.

Investment in public services

This a summary of the main budget proposals to improve services and invest in preventing problems before they happen. For full details see 'Further information' below.

Family safeguarding model

Initial investment of £2.3 million in a new approach to supporting families in difficulties, including parenting, substance abuse, domestic violence and mental health. The new model was developed in Hertfordshire and has been independently assessed as a successful way to improve the chances of keeping families together safely. Net savings are projected at £1.8 million by year four.

Foster families

In line with national trends, the numbers of young people in care has risen in recent years requiring an increase in fostering and residential placements. The county council proposes to invest £1 million in internal fostering services to increase the number of local foster carers, including increasing support and payments to foster families.

Community networks

An investment of £1.8 million in community networks, capacity, winter projects and alternatives to formal care, funded from the improved Better Care Fund to enable people to be better able to support themselves, and help communities help the most vulnerable locally. Developing these informal care networks is critical to managing future demand for adult services.

Learning disabilities, mental health, and autism

We will expand support for the growing number of for people with learning disabilities, mental health issues and autism, with an additional £7.4 million a year. There will be a further one-year investment of £2.8 million to transform and improve current housing support for people with mental health issues and/or autism. Proposals also include the withdrawal of a previously agreed saving proposal of £0.3 million for social workers to support people with mental health issues and/or autism.

We are developing a programme to address future needs of people with learning disabilities, mental health issues and autism, including a transitions service to help young people to live independent lives as adults.

Weight management

We are increasing support for people to adopt healthier lifestyles and reduce risk of long-term health conditions. The council currently funds 200 places for community weight loss programmes such as Slimming World, Weight Watchers and Men vs Fat but the funded places are at full capacity. We are proposing to increase funding by £0.2 million in 2020/21 (and the same in 2021/22) to help tackle obesity by kickstarting individuals’ weight loss journey.

Children with special educational needs or disabilities

Increased funding of £1.2 million to support children with special educational needs or disabilities by increasing the number of case workers to meet the growing number of requests for education, care and health plans (EHCPs) and expanding the educational psychologist service. An additional £3.8 million is being added to the budget for home to school transport. Further investment is planned for the following year, including a new service that will help schools to access support for individual children and support learners with identified needs in mainstream schools.

School catering

The county council currently provides meals to around 60 schools. The vast majority of these are currently primary schools, meaning that we are providing a service to 25 per cent of Oxfordshire’s primary schools. We are spending £0.2 million on developing a better and more commercial business model, which encourages healthy eating in schools.

School investment

Housing growth in Oxfordshire means that developers will be providing money, through part of the planning process known as Section 106 agreements, which enables us to provide the extra pupil places needed locally. An additional £50 million has been added to the capital programme over ten years.

Highway maintenance programme

The county council proposes to spend £30 million in 2020/21 from its capital budget on repairs to roads, bridges, signs and lines, drainage and footways. Major schemes on the programme for the coming financial year include: Oxford Road in Banbury; Northcourt Road in Abingdon; Burwell Drive and West End, both in Witney.

Reactive maintenance to ensure that Oxfordshire’s roads operate safely continues as normal – that means things like pothole filling, drain clearance, and streetlight repairs. This year we are also putting extra resources – around £0.3 million – into sign cleaning and vegetation clearing to ensure signs are properly visible.”

Climate change - meeting our ambitious target

We will be investing in energy and carbon reduction in the coming years. The county council has already reduced its own carbon emissions by 50 per cent since 2008 and is now ramping up its efforts to become carbon neutral by 2030. The hard work that the county has already done with its district councils means that Oxfordshire is the best county for recycling in the country.

The budget includes a £0.7 million investment in “pump-priming” so that the council can implement new ways of working that will bring cash and carbon savings. This work will include renewable energy generation, improved energy efficiency of our buildings and enabling “cleaner” staff travel.

The council’s new electric vehicle purchasing policy will switch our car and van fleet to electric wherever possible. Over the next five years we will be spending £40 million replacing 56,000 bulbs with new LED technology which will not only provide excellent quality lighting but also drastically cut the amount we pay for electricity and greatly reduce our carbon footprint. Investments in sustainable transport are highlighted below.

Sustainable transport investment

As well as investing in directly reducing its own carbon footprint, the council is also making major investments that will help more Oxfordshire residents to travel more sustainably. Our policy now means that all of our transport improvement schemes allow for cycling facilities wherever possible – this supports the work we are doing to tackle congestion on the roads and encourage more and more people to use sustainable transport.

The council plans to spend £32 million on the A40 bus lane and park and ride, £6.5 million investment in the Botley Road will all result in infrastructure that will make sustainable transport more attractive to more people.

Major capital projects we are current delivering or will shortly start work on, funded through Section 106, Local Growth Fund and Growth Deal include:

  • £4 million on the Science Vale Cycle Network to improve pedestrian and cycle access
  • £9.5 million on the Botley Road corridor improvements including walking, cycling and buses
  • £0.8 million on the A361 safety improvements with a new shared path
  • £4 million on Riverside routes in Oxford improving non-road cycle routes
  • £1.1 million on connections to Oxford Station includes pedestrian and cycle improvements
  • £32 million A40 Science Transit 2 includes an improved path for cyclists
  • £5.9 million A40 Oxford North project including improvements for cyclists

The council is also proposing to invest £0.5m in improving sustainable travel plans to ensure bus, cycling and walking routes are integral to new housing and business property developments.

Councillor Priority Fund

The county council also proposes to continue investment in communities by continuing the popular Councillor Priority Fund, which was established two years ago. In that time, councillors have used this money to support a range of community initiatives, many of which have secured match funding to increase the local investment. During 2018/19, there were over 170 different community and charity groups that received funding involving over 60 different towns and parish organisations.

About the budget proposals

As a result of the general election, timing for the budget setting process is different from usual. The revenue and capital budget proposals, along with the council’s new corporate plan, take into consideration the latest information on the council’s financial position outlined in this report and comments from the Performance Scrutiny Committee meeting on 9 January 2020.

The public consultation on the budget closes on 29 January 2020. The budget consultation report and any changes to the proposed budget as a result of comments received will be incorporated into the Service & Resource Planning 2020/21 – 2023/24 report to Council on 11 February 2020.

The Final Local Government Finance settlement and confirmation of some other funding streams has not yet been provided by the government, and therefore there may be further changes made to the budget proposals ahead of full Council on 11 February 2020.

Further information

Read our budget consultation information and have your say here.

Our draft corporate plan is here.

The full table of our revenue budget proposals - savings, investments and other finaical measures - by directorate is here.

Details of the current capital programme can be found here. The full capital programme will be considered by the council on 11 February.

The agenda for the Performance Scrutiny Committee meeting on 9 January 2020 with all the background papers is here.