RESTORING youth clubs and other support for young people will be part of fact finding exercise paid for from council coffers next year.

Oxfordshire County Council passed its budget for the 2020/21 financial year at a meeting on Tuesday.

Council leader Ian Hudspeth described the budget as an ‘investment budget’ which will allow the county to provide ‘much needed’ services for residents.

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In past years, the Tory-led council’s budget proposals have been met with objections from the Labour and Lib Dem groups, who have presented alternative documents setting out how money should be spent.

But this year, the two opposition parties were broadly in agreement with the plans, and instead submitted one amendment to the budget.

This was to spent £200,000 on finding out what services young people want from the council and to find out if they are currently on offer.

Witney Gazette:

Labour group leader Liz Brighouse.

Labour group leader Liz Brighouse said: “This year, for the first time in 10 years we have got money going towards funding young people. We are not going to challenge the budget this year, we are just tabling one amendment.”

She added: “Oxfordshire is a land of milk and honey for some, but not many of our young people. I hope our analysis can help lift up our young people.”

Lib Dem councillor Richard Webber said the budget was not ‘contentious’, unlike many in the past.

He added: “Austerity has hit young people particularly hard. If you have a bank of mum and dad who can help pay for university fees or getting on the housing latter you are okay, but if not you are stuck and that puts an enormous amount of pressure on the young people of this county.”

Witney Gazette:

Lib Dem councillor Richard Webber.

Other councillors at the meeting spoke about how support for young people which used to be offered by the council now often came from charities or voluntary organisation.

This included youth groups and support workers.

The £200,000 to look at the future of young people's services in the county will come from a pot of money called the budget priorities reserve.

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What is in the budget?

Witney Gazette:

Ian Hudspeth. Picture: Ed Nix.

As he introduced the budget, council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “For the first time I can genuinely say that I’m proposing an investment budget that will provide much needed services for all of Oxfordshire’s residents.

“That is due to additional one-off funding from central government as well as the fact that we have taken many difficult decisions over recent years that have put Oxfordshire County Council in a sound financial state.”

He added: “Although we can not ignore the fact that we have a deficit for next year of £24.3 million which will need to be addressed.”

The budget will include:

  • £2.3 million for new family safeguarding measures
  • £1 million for foster care services
  • £1.8 million to help communities protect vulnerable neighbours
  • An extra £7.4 million to support people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health issues
  • An extra £200,000 for weight management plans
  • £200,000 for better school catering
  • £30 million for repairing roads and bridges

The council said many of its spending plans were part of an 'invest to save' approach.

The full budget for 2020/21 is made up of two areas of spending: revenue and capital.

Revenue pays for day to day services, while capital spending is for big building projects the council has planned.

The council has planned to spend £475,109,000 on day to day services in the 2020/21 financial year.

To pay for its plans for this, the council has been given a one off grant from the government of £40,485,000.

It also plans to collect £34,590,000 in business rates.

The rest of the budget will be made up from the £391,445,480 in council tax which OCC plans to collect.

Ratepayers across the county will see a 3.99 per cent rise in council tax, or the equivalent of an extra £58 for a band D house.

Big capital schemes on the cards for the council are budgeted until 2029, with £987 million pound currently set aside to invest in roads, education, ICT, property and council vehicles among other things.

At the meeting on Tuesday, councillors also voted in favour of taking over South Oxfordshire’s Local Plan, but only if the county is invited to by the government.

Discussion of the Local Plan eclipsed budget proceedings, which were brief, while the debate on SODC stretched out over two and a half hours.