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‘Sometimes it’s like running up a down escalator to stay still’
9:00am Thursday 26th September 2013 in News
Oxfordshire County Council needs to find an extra £60m of cuts after a further reduction in funding from the Government. County Council leader IAN HUDSPETH says it is essential for the authority to be more efficient and less bureaucratic, while listening to the public to work out the fairest way to alter its budget
ALL parties agree that turning the economy around is the number one priority for the country.
This Government is doing something about it, and the signs are the medicine is working.
Part of the solution is growth. I want to see a thriving Oxfordshire, and a strong economy that enables people to get good jobs and provide for their families is essential.
But we also need to tackle spending. As a nation, we simply cannot continue to provide public services that we can’t pay for.
Oxfordshire County Council has already done its bit. We have taken action to reduce our costs, and as a result we have managed to save £127m over four years.
We have reduced costs by becoming more efficient and cutting bureaucracy. For instance, we have nearly halved the number of middle managers so the council is much leaner.
We’ve also done our best to protect essential services – Oxfordshire Fire Service and child protection are two areas that have been largely protected.
At the same time, demand for our services is rising. All the savings made in adult social care have been put back into providing essential services for our aging population. Sometimes it feels like we are running up a down escalator to stay still.
Now we have to reduce costs further, as the Government sticks to its plan to deal with the deficit.
The county council will have to find up to £60m over and above the £74m we had already planned to save over the next four years.
After years of reducing budgets, finding further savings will be difficult. We will continue to reduce our back office costs by vacating under-used offices and contracting private companies to provide services where it is cheaper to do so.
Inevitably, some services valued by residents will change, or even stop altogether. I know this will be unpopular.
Recently we heard understandable concerns from some parents at the proposal to reduce our support for some aspects of home to school transport.
We want to make changes as fairly as possible and we are listening to the real concerns of parents. But the reality is that if we don’t reduce this service, we will have to cut something else.
For every proposal, there will be someone who feels they are losing out. I pledge to make savings as fairly as possible while protecting services for those in greatest need. We also want to help communities help themselves.
Two years ago we took the decision to reduce the libraries budget so, over time, smaller libraries would need to recruit volunteers to stay open as before. It’s not ideal, but surely better than closing a library?
When the council sets its budget in February, many more of these difficult decisions will be made. Before then there are two things we can all do.
Firstly, I want to hear from residents what services they value and which ones they could live without. Secondly, I want to hear every idea from residents, staff and other organisations on how people and communities can get what they need without relying only on public services.
We will shortly be announcing an opportunity for residents to have their say before we set the budget. We need everyone’s ideas so together we can help Oxfordshire thrive in hard times.
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