A council's budget has been approved amid a controversial tax increase, climate emergency plans concerns and dissatisfaction with a project for new offices.

South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) approved the 2022/23 budget last Thursday.

It was seconded by councillor David Rouane, SODC leader, with only nine councillors voting against and 22 in favour.

The budget includes no cuts to key services. Yet, there is a council tax raise of 3.8%, which means that for 2022/23 homeowners will pay a Band D rate of £136.24, compared to the £131.24 set for 2021/22.

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Up to £5 million secured from developers will go towards providing affordable houses.

A one-off investment of £500,000 will help to fund projects which could include climate action plan and green skills; nature recovery, including tree planting and community wellbeing.

Some £500,000 community grant funding will also support projects such as new or replacement community buildings, sports and play areas, the installation of solar panels, or defibrillators.

The budget also includes financial plans for the Gateway project, in Didcot. A building that would house the council’s offices after the ones at Crowmarsh burned down in 2015.

Some councillors including David Bartholomew, Jane Murphy, Celia Wilson, Ian Snowden and Sue Roberts raised concerns regarding the Gateway project, tax raise and climate emergency.

Mr Snowdon said: “With this budget you are hammering households with a maximum tax increase, instead of helping them with the cost of living.

"You are putting all your time, effort and money, residents’ money, into delivering shiny new offices for yourself, while residents must put up with delays for their health centres being built.

“This administration is borrowing millions and millions of pounds so you can become commercial property developers, leaving residents of South Oxfordshire in debts for decades to come.

“You should run this council and its budget for the benefit of all. Not indulge in your own vanity projects.”

Councillors supporting the budget praised the effort that was put into delivering the report; highlighting its response to the financial position, community support, and investment in the climate emergency.

Sam Casey-Rerhaye said: “I’m very proud to support it. [I'm proud] That we are investing in climate people and in nature.”

Councillor Leigh Rawlins, cabinet member for finance said: “Against last year’s budget, the deficit for 2022/23 is reduced by 1.5 million pounds.

“We continue to face real financial challenges form the past, and we continue to run a deficit, however it is clear that there is now a much better direction of travel.”

He added: “All of the measures that have been taken in this budget are practical, sensible ones. The characterization of the past that we saw from speakers against this budget blows my mind.

“I think that residents can be safe in the belief that this budget is in the real world and at least seeking to set a direction of travel that represents sound finance.”


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