Grant funding from central Government is worse than expected

The council had been preparing for up to £50m of savings from 2016 to 2020 on top of the £292m it is already in the process of making from 2010 to 2018.

However on the basis of figures provided by central Government yesterday (Dec 17) the county council would have to make final saving to be in the region of £70m over the next four years.

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

“This has been a bleak settlement for us in Oxfordshire. The government has changed the formula for funding councils, and it seems shire counties – particularly in the south of England - have come off worst.

"We are now faced with the incredibly difficult task of setting a balanced budget for next year after now that the £51m of savings we have already found will certainly not be enough.

“This will hit service users and the council hard. It was only on Thursday that councillors from all parties looked at reviewed the saving options and heard from service users who talked about the impact these cuts would have on their lives.

“The Government has said that they are consulting on the figures released and we will be telling them in blunt terms about the impact of further cuts on the people of Oxfordshire.

“We already knew we had incredibly tough choices to make. While we will continue to try to protect the most vulnerable people, that financial situation has now worsened considerably.

“It is far too early to say how we will find these additional savings as we were only given the bad news yesterday.  People across council the will be working hard to find the ‘least worst’ savings options."

County councils are losing out due to wholesale changes to the system that determines funding for individual councils that is shifting funding away from shire counties to councils serving Britain’s major cities.

County councils were not consulted about this change and the impact of the funding change will hit upper tier authorities in the first year.

In his Autumn Statement the Chancellor announced that county councils would be able to levy an extra two per cent Council Tax rise on top of the two per cent that is already allowed.

However the money raised from this increase is potentially cancelled out by central Government’s failure to provide councils with the money to cover the costs of the introduction of the National Living Wage in the care sector – which Oxfordshire County Council estimates will cost an additional £16m-40m by 2019/20.

The county council sets its final budget on February 16. Cabinet will recommend a budget to full council on January 26.