When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Council mulls new charges as it debates £64m of cuts
CUTS to Oxfordshire County Council’s budget will be discussed this afternoon amid protests from activists concerned about their impact.
The county council has to make cuts of £64m to its budget after its central government funding was slashed.
This means £1.5m of funding will be controversially cut from homelessness services.
The county council will also look at whether to charge for fire precaution advice and for people to advertise on highway electronic message boards, and whether to take on new powers to fine motorists.
These are just some of the ways the council could raise more money to tackle the cuts, its finance boss has said.
In a report submitted to tomorrow’s cabinet meeting, county councillor Arash Fatemian, pictured, said: “The group has focused on reviewing the scope for increasing existing charges, investigating discretionary services that could be charged for where charges are not currently levied, and identifying skills or services that could be offered out.
“More work is needed to explore some of the suggestions put forward and the group is looking to continue its work ahead of the next planning round.”
Mr Fatemian said the council was only interested in charging businesses who are looking for “added value” from the fire and rescue service and who are treating it as a free consultancy service.
He said the authority is not interested in “charging people to stay safe”.
Mr Fatemian recommended that the council writes a letter to the Government asking it to remove some restrictions on local authorities generating income.
This, he says, would allow the authority charge commercial organisations for fire precaution advice and allow people to advertise on highway electronic message boards.
He also suggests lobbying for a legal change in the Traffic Management Act so the county council could enforce penalties for moving traffic offences.
The proposals for allowing members of the public to donate to the county council are also included in his report.
Already included in the county council’s budget is a controversial proposal to cut £1.5m from its housing-related support fund.
Lesley Dewhurst, chief executive of Oxford Homeless Pathways, said a peaceful protest is being organised outside County Hall tomorrow before the cabinet meeting.
She said: “Homelessness services have already experienced a 20 per cent cut which has really pruned off any fat that there ever was.
“To take another 38 per cent will only reduce the service we can provide to such a point that some shelters may have to close.
“It will undoubtedly make the issue of homelessness worse. It is going up both locally and nationally and it is getting increasingly difficult for people to get into private rented accommodation.”
The cabinet meeting, at County Hall, Oxford, starts at 2pm.
WHERE THE AXE MAY FALL
Environment and economy
Current budget – £90.8m
Cuts proposed – £11.2m
Adult social care
Current budget – £292.3m
Cuts proposed – £7.1m
Children, education and families
Current budget – £98m
Cuts proposed – £6.4m
Chief executive’s office/cultural services
Current budget – £9.8m
Cuts proposed – £1.5m
Fire and community safety
Current budget – £31.1m
Cuts proposed – £614,000
Current budget – £26.7m
Cuts proposed – £2.5m