Council plans for a sustainable and resilient future with new budget agreed

A budget to help create a sustainable and resilient future for Cherwell District Council has been agreed as the authority continues to plan for uncertainties in future funding.

Published: Tuesday, 1st March 2022

A budget to help create a sustainable and resilient future for Cherwell District Council has been agreed as the authority continues to plan for uncertainties in future funding.

During the last twelve months a combination of national and local factors came together to present significant financial challenges for the council, which resulted in a need to make savings of £4.4 million. For the coming financial year, the council has received £2.8 million more government funding than originally expected. However, this funding is one off and can only be used in 2022/23.

The budget proposals first announced in December included needing to make new savings of £2.6m in 2022/23. As part of the budget process, the council’s Executive agreed earlier in February that some of these savings can now be removed or delayed meaning the council is now looking to make £2.4m of new savings.

This means that of the extra government grant money a total of £2.5m would be allocated to contingencies. The annual budget-setting meeting of the council approved the proposals on February 28.

Changes to the original 2022/23 budget proposals include:  

  • The removal of the proposal to discontinue the council’s £99,000 contribution to a shared public space CCTV system, which has cameras in Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington. The council now understands that Thames Valley Police may be considering a review of all CCTV across the force area with a view to improvements, so it is right to support that approach.
  • A delay to the proposal for an additional car parking increase of no more than 10p per hour from April 2022. The council will delay this increase to ensure increases in car park fees do not occur more frequently than annually. The council has historically kept car parking charges as low as possible and any increase would be benchmarked against the prices charged by other car park providers locally and in neighbouring towns. Under the original proposal this would have increased income by £100,000 in 2022/23. Under the new proposal it would increase income by £66,000.

Councillor Barry Wood, Leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “We have now reached the conclusion of our budget process and as ever there have been some changes in circumstance to navigate since December when we first published our proposals for 2022/23.

“Some of the changes have worked in our favour and we were pleased to learn that we had some extra scope to make changes to the budget first proposed before Christmas. This was as a result of more government funding being received than anticipated. However, the funding applies only to 2022/23 and not 2023/24 and beyond.

“We still therefore needed to make the majority of the carefully planned savings we announced originally. Longer-term issues include uncertainty around the government’s plans on resetting business rates and the New Homes Bonus Scheme, which is currently winding down, both of which are being prepared for in the council’s financial plans. 

“COVID-19 is also continuing to have an impact across services, for example on income-generating streams such as car parking.

“To deliver a balanced budget for 2022/23, we planned ahead carefully and in a measured way. This responsible forward planning means we can continue to be a resilient and sustainable council as we look to the future.”

Councillor Tony Ilott, Cherwell District Council’s Lead Member for Finance and Governance, said: “Continued budget pressures have meant that we have needed to focus on finding ways to deliver services differently and more efficiently – saving money overall, including the running costs of the council – and generating more income, all while protecting as many frontline services as we can.”

As announced in December, the council is proposing to increase its element of council tax by £5 per year for the average Band D property. This works out at less than 10p per week and is the maximum amount the government will currently allow.

It remains too soon to understand the cost implications of ending the council’s formal partnership with Oxfordshire County Council that was recently agreed by councillors at both authorities. The council will plan contingency funding carefully as details emerge from negotiations with the county council in the coming months.