Labour County Councillors voted against the Tory-run County Council’s budget this week. The County has faced a cut of 46% in its funding from the Tories and Lib Dems in government, but unlike the Labour-controlled City Council, the Tories have opted to pursue their budget reductions on the backs of the poorest in the County. There has been a savage 38% cut to housing related support which has sparked a vocal campaign in Oxford due to fears of the effect on the homeless.
Liz Brighouse, leader of the opposition Labour group on the County Council, said “Deficit reduction is being used a smokescreen for attacking the services provided by local government to the most vulnerable.”
Labour were able to make proposals which were included in the budget, such as grants for information and advice centres, the Pegasus Theatre and a Laundry service for those experiencing incontinence. Labour were also able to secure more money for Adult Social Care and reduce the size of the cuts to Learning Disability. Initial proposals to close children’s centres were also abandoned thanks to Labour’s campaign against it.
Several Labour amendments to the budget which would have gone some way to alleviating the misery were rejected by the Tories and their independent allies. Labour’s budget included money to fund a network youth workers which are currently only funded out of Councillors’ Community Budgets. Labour would have ring-fenced funding for Dial-A-Ride, which provides a vital resource to older people to allow them to maintain their independence, and would have increased the number of social workers to meet the needs of those in care. Labour would also have put £150,000 into the budget to talk to a credit union to support those who need emergency financial support without them having to go to a loan shark.
Ultimately, however, hefty budget cuts by the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition mean it will be poorest and most vulnerable who will suffer, until there is a government which invests in local government and the services they provide, which will only happen if Labour wins the next General Election.