• Mon. May 20th, 2024

Oxfordshire County Council will face ‘major financial pressures’ this winter

Byoxfordnewspaper

Oct 11, 2022

THIS winter will bring ‘major pressures’ for local authorities, a councillor has warned.

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet is expected to agree its approach to next year’s budget during a meeting on October 18, when councillors will review a report that outlines the process for developing and agreeing the budget for 2023/24.

The report also lists the financial pressures on the county council, given the national and international economic situation.

The council said that all local authorities face ‘significant increases in inflation’ that are driving up costs and price increases in energy, fuel and materials.

This year, the government is not expected to hold a spending review so government funding will not keep pace with inflation, leading to a predicted funding shortfall of over £30 million next year.

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The council is also estimating around £20m of other demand-led pressures, which include:

  • the growing nationwide costs of supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities
  • the rising cost of social care and care placements for both children and adults
  • a national shortage of social care workers leading to a reliance on agency staff and higher costs

Councillor Calum Miller, the council’s cabinet member for finance, said: “We know that households across our county are facing huge financial challenges this autumn.

“Rising prices make this a cost of living emergency. The county council is also facing major budget pressures.

“The government has confirmed it will not be holding a spending review this year to update budgets in light of soaring inflation so we are facing a significant funding shortfall of at least £50 million.

“The county council is on the frontline of supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities. We are committed to them and their families but, as the cost of doing this rises and our funding fails to keep pace, we face tough choices.

“We will manage the council’s finances responsibly and are planning ahead carefully to meet current and future financial challenges.

“We are engaging with residents about the big issues that matter most to them and their communities and are sharing the challenge of delivering services under these circumstances.

“We encourage residents to take part in our Oxfordshire Conversation events. We will use this feedback to help us shape our budget proposals for next year.”

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The council also said that the financial impact of implementing the government’s adult social care reforms is unclear and could add to these pressures.

The long-term financial impact of supporting children with high needs also remains uncertain.

Currently, the council’s medium-term financial strategy is based on 2.99 per cent council tax rises in coming years with one per cent of this being ringfenced for adult social care.

However, council tax and budget proposals generally are reviewed annually and for 2023/24 would not be agreed until February 2023.

During the second half of November, the county council will publish the detail of its budget proposals for 2023/24 and the public will be asked to give views as part of a consultation.

Read more from this author

This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Anna.colivicchi@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @AnnaColivicchi