COUNCIL CUTS: Motorists and tenants will be feeling the pinch

First published in News Witney Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

THE axe has fallen on more than £51m of council services.

Oxfordshire County Council yesterday approved plans to cut £46m by 2017, including £18.4m from adult social care budgets.

The decision came the day after the city council approved savings of £5.39m over the next four years.

Oxford City Council increased council house rents by 4.69 per cent, raised park and ride parking charges from £1.50 to £2 per day and hiked council tax by two per cent.

A council tax rise of two per cent was also approved at County Hall, where councillors rubber-stamped new daytime parking charges at Thornhill and Water Eaton park and ride facilities.

Council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “I believe we have a budget that balances the need to protect the most needy and vulnerable in the county, with our ambition to see Oxfordshire continue to thrive through hard work and economic growth.”

Taxpayers were last night counting the cost to their household budgets.

Blackbird Leys resident Joyce Hill, 83, faces a £4.46 increase in her £95-a-week rent for her semi-detached home, which she has lived in since 1968.

She said: “I don’t want the rent to go up, I don’t get any help, it is just the state pension which is not enough.

“My pension goes up in April at the same time the rent goes up so what extra I get will go on rent, I won’t have anything extra. I won’t benefit in any way.

“It is not right for us pensioners.”

Roy and Eileen Linton, 78 and 80, who have lived in the street since 1965, also hit out at the move.

The couple’s rent is £94-a-week and Mr Linton said: “I don’t agree with it, we can’t afford it. We haven’t got much coming in, any increase is difficult to find.”

His wife said: “The rent is only one thing there is. There is council tax, there is water and gas and electricity.

“We will do it with difficulty.”

Concerns have also been raised about a £1.01m reduction in the road maintenance budget between 2015 and 2017.

Painter and decorator Greg Parrott, from Grove, said the pothole problem was “out of control” and criticised the county’s attitude to repair spending.

The 52-year-old said: “I drive into Abingdon each day and I don’t feel like I can take my car as the roads are that bad. I ended up buying a small van.

“I think it’s ridiculous that they cut back on spending when surely to properly fix the roads would end up costing them less?”

At yesterday’s meeting at County Hall, Green group leader Larry Sanders tried to make the case for a referendum on a 3.75 per cent rise to avoid the social care cuts.

He said: “This rise represents a rise of £1.70 a month, 40p a week. How many people in this county are un-generous enough, stupid enough to say ‘no, we would rather not have a decent care structure’.”

Lib Dem leader Zoe Patrick used her party’s amended budget to try to pump £2m more into social care and more than £2m more into children’s services budgets.

She said: “We have put forward some innovative ideas, which we have thought through very carefully.

“We know these are difficult times, but we are making our money go a little bit further, work a little bit harder and give everyone better value for money.”

Labour did not propose any specific amendments, but called on the council to write to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to protest against Government grant cuts.

Group leader Liz Brighouse said: “Since 2010 it has become clear for all to see that the Lib Dem/Tory Government’s financial plan has not worked.”

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