Frontline services see investment and protection with budget to be considered by cabinet

Frontline services are being given high levels of protection and new investment as part of Oxfordshire County Council’s draft budget for 2021/22.

The council’s Cabinet will meet on 19 January to formally propose the budget ahead of the annual meeting of all 63 county councillors on 9 February when the budget will be debated

Details of savings and investments were published in December.

The council is dedicated to investing in services that will have positive long-term impact for local communities. The budget proposals reflect this, with more than £25m of additional funding included. Some of this funding has been previously agreed, but £9.5m of this is newly proposed for 2021/22 to help meet additional demands, including within adult social care.

A total of £19.6m of savings are being proposed in total across all services. £14.6m of these savings were already planned and are centred on the transformation of services to make them more efficient while protecting the frontline.

Council Tax proposals

Proposals include a 1.99 per cent rise in basic council tax rise, plus an extra one per cent which would be required to be spent on adult social care under national rules, making a total of 2.99%. 

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Protecting and investing in frontline services is our priority as we seek to become ever more efficient as an organisation while providing high-quality key services during the pandemic and beyond. Budget pressures mean we will have to continue to find ways to save money while protecting frontline services – moving services online, where appropriate, and generating more income.

“In late November, the government announced it would once again give councils the flexibility to raise council tax by an additional three per cent (a precept) over the next two years to help pay for adult social care services. This is on top of a maximum 1.99 per cent ‘core’ council tax that can be charged. We have chosen to propose levying one per cent of that precept.

“This will allow us to make small investments into key priority areas, such as our youth offer. However, given the level of remaining uncertainties, including around COVID-19, we will continue to take a cautious and measured approach towards managing our budgets. We are very conscious that the need for extra funding has to be balanced against the pressures on residents' incomes during the pandemic. This is not an easy time financially, or otherwise, for businesses, residents and families.

Councillor David Bartholomew, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, added: While government rules permit an additional three per cent council tax rise for adult social care on top of the basic council tax, we are very mindful of residents’ household budgets as they seek to manage their daily lives in these challenging times. We are proposing to levy just one per cent of the adult social care precept, which leaves us able to plan on the basis of levying the remaining two per cent for the 2022/23 financial year, if needed. 

“Such principles will always be at the fore of our thinking and judgements. We believe we have struck the right balance this year. Whether dealing with the effects of a pandemic or otherwise, we have a responsibility to manage the money our local taxpayers contribute to our budgets in a careful and measured way.”