Oxfordshire County Council in child centre cuts U-turn

Ian Hudspeth
Image caption Last year, council leader Ian Hudspeth said children's centres were no longer under threat

Oxfordshire County Council has announced proposals to cut services by an extra £20m.

Areas affected include adult social care and children's services, including children's centres.

The county council said an increase in demand meant it needed to save the extra cash by 2018.

It comes on top of £64m cuts announced last year, when leader Conservative Ian Hudspeth said children's centres were no longer under threat.

Fears that some centres could close sparked protests last year.

A petition signed by David Cameron was presented by about 100 campaigners to the authority in a bid to save the county's 44 centres.

It was later agreed there would be a review to agree how the council could save £3m in 2017.

Image copyright Jonathan Mazower
Image caption David Cameron met children's centre campaigners in Chipping Norton and later signed their petition

This latest round of proposed cuts sees the children's services lose an additional £1m next year, and £2m the following year.

However, the authority said there would be "no immediate reductions in services for many months".

Mr Hudspeth, said: "The council is facing unprecedented budget pressures from the rising costs of care and this pressure is expected to continue for many years to come.

"Since 2010, we have had five years of reducing council costs and finding savings of more that £200m."

Labour county councillor Liz Brighouse said none of the county's centres should close, but said because of the "massive cuts in budgets" she did not know how the council could keep them all open.

"We have to make sure centres which are keeping children safe are properly funded and kept open," she added.

Unidentified cuts

A further £2m is set to come from the subsidised transport budget, which includes home to school transport, concessionary bus passes and dial-a-ride.

Another £6.1m would be found from learning disability services.

The council had already announced it would need to find that money and is running a consultation called the Big Plan looking at changing ways in which learning disabilities services work.

There will also be another £3m of unidentified cuts that would come from adult social care.

The annual cost of a resident parking permit would also rise from £50 to £60.

The new cuts would be implemented from next April up until the end of March 2018.

The council's cabinet will consider the proposals on 16 December. Full council is expected to make a final decision in February.

BBC political reporter Helen Catt: Is devolution the answer?

The leader of Oxfordshire County Council sees its financial woes as a clear case for more devolution.

Conservative Ian Hudspeth says its "the only way" the council can keep providing services, as it spends an increasing proportion of its budget on social care.

Certainly, many councils have been frustrated by constraints imposed by central government.

Cherwell District Council has already said it is planning to do without its Revenue Support Grant from 2017, and many have railed against the 2% cap on council tax rises.

But the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has repeatedly opposed large hikes in council tax as being unfair on families in a difficult financial climate.

If the council did have the power to set its own tax, would residents be happy to pay a different rate to neighbouring counties?

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