Local communities the focus as council puts finishing touches to budget

People in Oxfordshire’s local communities will be the focus as the cabinet proposes to provide each of the county council’s 63 councillors with a £15,000 budget to spend on what people in their area see as their priority.

The council will set its budget on Tuesday, February 13 and the proposals include £1m in each of 2018/19 and 2019/20 for individual councillors to spend on highway maintenance issues or community projects that they may see as the priority in their own part of Oxfordshire. The fund will be called the Councillor Priority fund.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, the leader of the county council, said: “It would be each councillors’ decision how their £15,000 would be spent. They know best what the priority is on their own patch. I am sure many will view highway maintenance and repair as important but others might choose to put funding in to community buses, libraries or children’s centres.

“Each area of Oxfordshire is different and it’s important we recognise that and give county councillors the leeway and latitude to invest the money in the best way they see fit. I am sure many will seek match funding from organisations such as parish and town councils. Councillors will also be able to combine their funds with neighbouring and nearby county councillors if they so wish.”

“The county council was recently given the very welcome boost of £916,500 from the national Government’s Pothole Action Fund, which exists as an acknowledgement that roads across England suffer deterioration during the cold and wet winter months. Councillors choosing to spend money on highway maintenance issues will be providing that support on top of this national funding.

World War One Centenary Commemorations

The cabinet is also proposing that £30,000 should be set aside for commemorations to mark a century since the end of World War One.The Armistice of 11 November 1918 ended fighting on land, sea and air.

Cabinet is also proposing to set aside £25,000 for engagement with parish councils.

Council Tax and Children’s Social Care

The cabinet revealed a proposal in January to invest finance raised from the ability to raise Council Tax by one per cent more than originally expected in to children’s social care.

Central Government revealed in December that councils would be allowed to raise Council Tax by a maximum of 5.99 per cent. It was originally thought this would only be 4.99%.

The additional 1% that has now been allowed would mean the total rise for 2018/19 to 5.99% with a proposed 2.99 % rise in 2019/20. A total of 3% of the 2018/19 must be spent on adult social care under national rules.

However councils are free to spend the extra 1% on other services and the county council is proposing to prioritise children’s social care with £1.9m extra being put in to this service and a further £1m set aside in contingency funding. Overall this means £8.5m is being added to the budget for children’s social care in 2018/19.

Services for the most vulnerable are the first priority

Councillor Hudspeth said: ““As we said in January when we took our proposals to cabinet we’re pleased that the ability to raise income by an additional 1% allows us to put more money in to children’s social care.

“We are seeking to manage demand in children’s social care but the protection of vulnerable people is the county council’s first priority."