Savings planned in face of financial uncertainties as Cherwell seeks a sustainable future

Future uncertainties around funding and the impact of COVID-19 mean Cherwell District Council will for the first time in many years need to make significant savings over the next two years.

Published: Tuesday, 8th December 2020

There are a combination of factors coming together in 2021/22 and 2022/23 that lead to very challenging savings proposals that affect frontline services. A total of £4.3m of savings are proposed for 2021/22 with further savings predicted for 2022/23.

Councillor Tony Ilott, Cherwell District Council’s Lead Member for Financial Management and Governance, said: “Since 2010, we have been successful in local economic growth and innovation, which has resulted in jobs as well as income for the council. This has meant we have been able to avoid making the savings experienced elsewhere in local government during this time.

“However, alongside all local authorities, we now face a very uncertain funding situation. The government has delayed a spending review that includes a realignment of the distribution of business rates, which is likely to result in less funding for the council. The delay also leads to uncertainty around the New Homes Bonus. Added to this is a loss of income and other impacts on services due to COVID-19 and our population is growing and ageing at one of the fastest rates in our history, which puts more pressure on our budgets and services.”

Councillor Barry Wood, Leader of Cherwell District Council, added: “Protecting those in need will always be our priority. But with continued budget pressures, we will not be able to keep running services at the same level and we will have to continue to find ways to save money while protecting as many frontline services as we can. That is why we have moved services online, where appropriate, and why we are trying to generate more income. However, this year, regrettably, this will not be enough and our savings proposals reflect this.

“Being responsible now and having careful and measured forward planning means we can be a resilient and sustainable council in the future. We are proposing savings of £4.3 million and consulting the public on what we know now. As we move through the winter, the situation may change as our knowledge of financial support available from central government increases. In the meantime, we want to hear people’s views on our proposals to inform our decisions during the budget process.”

Budget proposals

The council will be consulting on savings including:

  • Saving £187,000 in the customer service and land charges team by measures including closing LinkPoint offices in Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington and providing appointment only services from Bodicote House, increasing land charges by £15 and removing cash and card payment machines at council offices. A number of other savings can be made by increasing the use of technology.
  • Saving £365,000 in 2021/22 by providing joint communications, strategy and insight services with Oxfordshire County Council and moving the Cherwell Link residents’ magazine online supported by a limited print circulation.
  • Mechanical sweeping in villages would be carried out annually with an ability to 'buy in' additional sweeps. This measure also includes some rescheduling of town centre sweeping. This would save £153,000.
  • Increase income from parking charges to generate £400,000.
  • Aligning charges for the five council operated public toilets in the district to 20 pence per visit everywhere. This would generate £15,000.
  • Saving £400,000 linked to the costs of the council’s main leisure contract for leisure centres by not adding to the repairs and maintenance schedule, which already has enough funding.
  • Entering into a joint working arrangement between Cherwell District Council’s property, investment and contract management team and counterparts at Oxfordshire County Council to save £304,000. By pooling resources and services, the council would achieve cost savings in buildings maintenance, security and cleaning and other areas of the operation and management.

Have your say

The council sets its budget for 2021/22 on 22 February. You can have your say on the budget proposals between 8 December and 8 January by visiting www.cherwell.gov.uk/budgetconsultation