Proposals made for county’s share of extra national funding

Proposals to allocate an extra £4.8 million of funding for Oxfordshire County Council’s 2024/25 budget have been agreed by the authority’s cabinet ahead of a key meeting later in February.

On 30 January, the cabinet agreed balanced budget proposals to be presented to the annual budget setting meeting of the county council on 20 February. This is when all 63 county councillors meet to agree a budget for the next financial year and a medium-term strategy for following years.

The council had been working since late November to close what had previously been a shortfall between what was needed to continue delivering services in the 2024/25 budget and the money available.

After the proposals for cabinet had been formulated, central government announced an additional £600m of funding for councils across the nation in recognition of the financial difficulties faced in the sector. It has since been confirmed that Oxfordshire County Council’s share of this will be £4.8m

Local government funding beyond 2024/25 is uncertain and so the cabinet has only been able to propose one-off spending that does not extend beyond the 2024/25 financial year. Central government has suggested that councils should use the social care element of the new funding to invest in areas that help place children’s social care services on a sustainable financial footing, while being mindful of the level of adult social care provision.

Meanwhile the council is also able to allocate £1.3m from its own budget reserves for new highway and flood recovery work.

Cllr Dan Levy, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “While this extra funding is welcome it has come very late in the day and there remains no longer term plan to deal with the future sustainability of local government across England. Funding is uncertain beyond 2024/25.

“We had already worked hard to balance our budget and find savings so we could provide the investment needed to meet demands and pressures in social care. The budget for both adults and children’s social care was already planned to rise in real terms in 2024/25.

“We have given careful thought as to how this new money should be spent bearing in mind the uncertainties beyond 2024/25 and the fact that most of it should be spent on social care. At £4.8m the new money represents less than one per cent of our overall budget for 2024/25.

“We have listened carefully to what residents have outlined as their priorities during our conversations and engagement with them on our budget over the past six months. A further factor behind our decisions is providing greater support for early help for families and young children to help prevent the need for further spending down the line, working where practical with the voluntary and community sector.

“Other areas of focus for our extra spending include travel for children with special educational needs, support for those affected by flooding, and maintenance of our footpaths and cyclepaths. On the latter, we had already proposed extra money as part of our original budget – although it remains a real disappointment that central government is not recognising the need for extra sustainable funding on roads and infrastructure.”

What are the new proposals?

  • £1m for social care (both children and adults) to accelerate digital methods of helping service users find the right information and advice.
  • A total of £774,000 to develop the already successful Oxfordshire Way approach (in both children’s and adults social care) to help people live well and independently in their communities, remaining fit and healthy for as long as possible.
  • A £1m investment in home to school transport with half to improve data and systems and mitigate pressures by creating efficiencies in the current service. The other half would be for travel training and accessibility to increase independence among service users.
  • A £1m investment to further embed the family safeguarding model in children’s social care. This seeks to reduce demand by resolving family issues at the earliest opportunity
  • A £500,000 scheme to encourage more people to join the successful Shared Lives scheme.
  • A £1.3m investment to undertake gully and ditch cleaning in areas recently affected by flooding, boost capacity with landowners and parishes for them to clear ditches and implement sustainable drainage schemes and a second cut of urban verges and vegetation clearance around footways and cycleways.

The annual budget setting meeting of the county council takes place at 10.30am on Tuesday 20 February.