Yesterday evening Labour-run Oxford City Council passed its budget which is balanced over the next four years and continues to invest in our city and its people, despite the Tories and Lib Dems cutting the government grant by 47% between 2010 and 2015/16.
The budget plans investment of £142 million over four years including new community centres for Rose Hill and Quarry, 500 new council homes at Barton, flood alleviation schemes at Marston and Northway and £46m on refurbishment of existing council properties. £300,000 is being invested in the Covered Market. The investment programme prioritises local firms and is estimated to create over 1,000 jobs.
All public toilets are to be refurbished and their opening hours extended in the City Centre, and food recycling is coming to the 15,000 flats in Oxford. The Living Wage for council staff will increase to £8.36 and the council has committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies. The council are maintaining funding homelessness prevention despite a government cut in this funding, in stark contrast to the Tory-led County Council which has slashed funding by 38%.
Oxford Labour have shown a commitment to continue funding vital services and protect the most vulnerable where other councils across the country have been unable to do so. Oxford City Council is one of the dwindling number of councils still not to pass on the government's pernicious reduction in council tax benefit, and is one of the few councils to have increased funding for advice centres, which help the most vulnerable people in the City with the effects of the government's disastrous welfare policy.
In sport, leisure and the arts, the council is spending £1 million to refurbish all our sports pavilions, freezing leisure charges for those on low incomes, providing free swimming for those under 17 and providing grant funding to support the arts, such as £25,000 to the Pegasus Theatre.
Deputy Leader of the Council Ed Turner, who presented the budget, said: "We are proposing a budget which invests in communities throughout our city. A budget to alleviate poverty, a budget to safeguard the vulnerable. A budget which says that, whatever the government’s agenda, we want to keep Oxford as the tolerant, inclusive, attractive city we love, open to those of all backgrounds and incomes."