THE public purse across southern Oxfordshire is due to be propped up by council savings after coronavirus ripped a hole in civic spending.

The two district councils covering the south of the county: Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire, are currently forecasting a £3.5m shortfall and £3.6m shortfall to their 2020/21 budgets respectively.

Alongside other local authorities, the two councils have spent more money during the Covid pandemic, and also lost money from car parks, loss of planning fees and issuing less fines.

But while other councils in Oxfordshire have begun making cuts to their budgets, Vale and South have decided to plug the gap in funding by taking money out of their reserves: the council equivalent of savings.

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At Vale's meeting last Wednesday night (October 7) the council's cabinet member for finance Andy Crawford said revising the budget mid year was 'something that has not happened at this council for very many years'.

While Vale has received grants to the tune of £3.2m, it will use an extra £791,000 from reserves to pay for the extra costs not covered by Government.

Conservative councillors Matthew Barber raised concerns about a lack of transparency in a report about the new budget, and said it suggested there were extra costs not related to Covid being hidden in the changes.

But Mr Crawford said these costs were private and confidential and had been detailed in extra papers given to all councillors.

At South Oxfordshire District Council's meeting on Thursday (October 8), councillors similarly heard there was a need to plug a £1m gap with reserves, as the council had received a £3.1m Government grant.

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Its cabinet member for finance Leigh Rawlinson warned that the costs of the pandemic could continue to rise.

The Lib Dem councillor said: “I must stress that everything here is very much estimates. We do not know how the pandemic will continue to evolve.

“If the amount requested here is insufficient potentially a further report will need to come forward to detail how that situation will be dealt with.”

Fellow Lib Dem David Rouane said reserves were meant 'for a rainy day' and added: "If a global pandemic doesn’t qualify then I don’t know what does."

The two district councils work together closely: they share back office staff and an HQ near Didcot, and councillors from both areas sit on joint committees.