TWELVE months after the biggest public sector cuts in living memory began to emerge, figures from across the political spectrum in Oxfordshire have warned it could still get worse.

Last December, Britain faced a £149bn deficit and in turn councils faced huge budget cuts from Whitehall.

Nobody quite knew what the impact would be.

A year on and many of the predicted cuts have still not come to pass – yet.

Street lights were not switched off, library closures were scrapped, Redbridge tip is to stay open at weekends, and an additional £4m in government funding has seen police cuts scaled back dramatically.

Elsewhere, volunteers have stepped in to save threatened youth clubs, and Oxfordshire’s speed cameras have been switched back on after a new funding deal.

But with George Osborne’s Autumn Statement forecasts revising 2012 growth from 2.5 per cent to 0.7 per cent and the Government now predicted to borrow £111bn more than expected over the next five years, the age of austerity looks set to last longer than previously thought.

Oxfordshire County Council’s finance portfolio holder Jim Couchman said about half of the £119m savings County Hall must make by 2015 would be made in the current financial year.

But he warned: “Anybody who believes that after four years we will all be able to drawn breath and say “that’s it” is deluded.

“I think we are in for another two years on top of the current four years of savings.”

He added: “We have been very careful to minimise the impact on the frontline.”

But Mr Couchman said under the four-year plan, funding for adult social care would have “reduced to the point where we cannot go much lower without really beginning to hurt service”, while road repairs budgets were always vulnerable to further spending cuts.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust had to cut more than £50m from its budget. Director of finance and procurement, Mark Mansfield, said: “Savings have been generated across the full range of the Trust’s activities, including procurement, medicines management, facilities and staffing. We regularly monitor the impact of any savings schemes on the quality of services we provide.”

He said savings would continue to be made next year.

UNISON regional organiser Steve Waite said: “Our massive concern is that this is the first year where we are beginning to see an impact, and the second year is thought to be as bad, if not worse.

“All the warning signs are that it is not going to stop in 2012 but go on into 2013, 2014 and 2015.”

Thames Valley Police Federation chairman Graham Smith said extra Government money had meant the cuts to officer numbers had not been as great as feared.

It is now estimated 96 officers will be cut across the force out of a total of 535 police and civilian posts that have to go.

He said: “We are making savings and losing police officers, but compared to the rest of the country, Thames Valley and Oxfordshire are considerably better off.”

Jim Cranshaw, from lobby group Oxford Save Our Services, said the county council had become a “willing executioner” for Chancellor George Osborne.

He said: “We have had calls from disabled people who have lost their benefits, young people who’ve lost a youth club and teachers who have lost classroom staff.

“The Save Our Services campaign has seen so much anger that so many lives have been wasted.”


ADULT SOCIAL CARE: County Hall always admitted there were “significant risks” associated with delivering £38m of savings in adult social care, because of untested efficiency drives and the unpredictable pressures of an aging population. But it is set to meet this year’s savings targets after working to reduce the number of people going into care homes, closing the council’s in-house home support team and renegotiating fees with service providers.

ARTS FUNDING: When Arts Council England lost £100m of its budget, more than 200 groups across the country lost out on funding from 2012 to 2015. Oxfordshire Theatre Company lost 60 per cent of its income after touring the county for 30 years.

BENEFITS: Housing benefit is in the process of being reduced. Tenants will find their rates changing from January as the annual renewal dates come up. Oxford City Council warns the changes could lead to many long-term Oxford residents no longer being able to afford to live here and a rise in homelessness. Since February, people receiving Incapacity Benefit have begun to have their needs reassessed, with many now expected to work.

BUS SUBSIDIES: County Hall has twice reviewed subsidised bus services this year, as contracts expired in June and December, cutting the amount it puts into services, but without a knock-on effect on provision. With the Bus Services Operators Grant set to be cut by 20 per cent by 2014, operators may come under extra pressure if routes are no longer profitable.

CHILDREN’S SOCIAL CARE: County Hall has always protected the children’s social care budget in full.

FIRE SERVICE: The county council safeguarded funding for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue.

HOSPITALS: Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust approved plans in January to cut £52.8m – or eight per cent – from its budget, on the back of £47m savings last year. The cuts equivalent to closing six wards or losing 286 newly-qualified nurses, and staff numbers were predicted to be cut by up to eight per cent.

HOUSEHOLD RECYCLING: Oxford City Council introduced a new £35 charge for collecting garden waste in May. But all of the Oxfordshire’s district councils rejected Community Secretary Eric Pickles’ offer of a slice of a £250m pot of cash to help councils re-introduce weekly bin collections.

LIBRARIES: The county council’s announcement that it wanted to stop funding 20 of its 43 libraries to save £1.7m a year prompted unprecedented uproar across Oxfordshire. Urged on by figureheads including Philip Pullman and Colin Dexter, thousands of book-lovers campaigned to save their local branches. The council was forced into a U-turn. All the libraries will now be saved, but volunteers will be needed to help run half of them.

POLICE: Thames Valley is facing a £52.9m cut to its budget over four years, about 11 per cent of its revenue spending. It was feared that 819 posts would go over four years as Thames Valley Police, but a £4m Government boost in November has reduced the expected losses to 535 posts. It is now expected 96 police officers will be cut, down from the 255 feared last year.

PARK & RIDE: Redbridge, Seacourt and Peartree car parks have been handed back to Oxford City Council from County Hall and Town Hall bosses introduced £1.50-a-day fees. Oxfordshire County Council is set to impose charges on people commuting out of the county from Thornhill.

PARKING CHARGES: Oxford City Council hiked parking charges in April, increasing the price of an hour’s stay in Worcester Street 34 per cent to £3.10. Oxfordshire County Council reintroduced pay and display fees in evening and Sundays in St Giles, Broad Street and Beaumont Street, despite the opposition of drivers and theatres. Parking charges have been scrapped by Vale of White Horse District Council , and Cherwell District Council dropped its evening fees.

ROADS MAINTENANCE: Some £13m was wiped from the county council’s transport budget, including road maintenance. To save money, the council scrapped its seven-day target for mending potholes, now fixing all but the most serious within 28 days. The Government made extra funds available to help fix potholes caused by two harsh winters, and there is currently a zero waiting list for repairs.

SCHOOL REBUILDS: When the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme was scrapped in 2010, Iffley Mead, Larkmead, Cheney and Banbury schools all saw their dreams of a rebuild dashed. But enough money has been found by Oxfordshire County Council for Bayards Hill Primary School in Barton to press ahead with £6.6m redevelopment. Oxford Spires Academy has been given an £8m Government grant for a new science block and inclusion unit.

SPEED CAMERAS: All the speed cameras in Oxfordshire were switched off in August 2010, after the county council withdrew £600,000 of funding. But on April 1, they were turned back on after a new deal was put in place.

STREET LIGHTS: The county council originally planned to turn off 28,000 street lights at 12.30am to save £300,000. But changes in electricity tarriffs now mean charges for using power in the small hours has been vastly reduced, leading councillors to scrap the plans. Now the county wants to pilot a £300,000-a-year project to replace the traditional streetlights with LEDs.

RUBBISH TIPS: County Hall originally planned to close five waste recycling centres at Ardley, Dean, Alkerton and Stanford and only accept trade waste at Redbridge to save £750,000, opening a new facility in Kidlington to serve the city and finding a replacement site in Banbury. But a public backlash forced the council to announce in March that Redbridge would stay open to the public at weekends and bank holidays when it reopens after a nine month refurbishment next year.

YOUTH CENTRES: Campaigners lost their battle to stop county council axing funding for 20 youth clubs as part of a reorganisation to save £4.2m a year. But although many youth workers have been made redundant, all of the threatened youth centres have been saved through grants given out by the county council’s Big Society fund and the involvement of volunteers. Oxford City Council has allocated £240,00 in its 2012 budget towards youth work in the city to make up for county cuts.