Oxfordshire County Council to make cuts of £15m

Oxfordshire County Council has announced that it will be making emergency cuts of £15 million to deal with losses incurred because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The council said it has lost £51 million since March but had received £31 million in government support. Since lockdown, it has increased spending on adult social care, emergency planning and prioritised keeping schools open.

Tasked with finding £15 million of savings for 2020/21, the council has announced that it will not be filling vacant posts, delaying the purchase of some new equipment and simplifying how the council delivers new programmes.

Of more significance, the council plans to cut about £4.2 million from its social care budget and a further £3.7 million in its children's, education and families department. It also wants to save £1.1 million on public health, by offering a ‘reduced’ sexual health service and a ‘minimal service’ providing NHS Health checks.

Ian Hudspeth, leader of the council added: “Further financial pressures will follow as we restart services in a Covid-compliant manner, such as operating home to school transport, with staggered school opening times and social distancing measures in place. The possibility of a second wave of the virus later this year, particularly if combined with a flu epidemic, would also place a huge strain on existing resources, especially if lockdown is required and services have to be stood down again.

“Moreover, there may well be significant costs in future years arising from Covid as a result of reduced business rates and council tax. When we get to Winter and need to set a budget for 2021/22 and beyond, it is likely to be extremely challenging. There is an ongoing debate about how local government services in Oxfordshire could be delivered differently in the future to protect ourselves better from financial challenges. The government is producing a White Paper in the Autumn about local recovery and the shape of local government across England. It will be interesting to see what emerges from that, and Oxfordshire’s councils are already engaging with each other in anticipation of that White Paper.”

A plan to plug the spending gap will be formally signed off on 18 August.