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City council budget: Charges will rise to bridge funding gap
COUNCIL house rents and parking charges in Oxford are set to rise next year as the city council strives to maintain services amid a fall in Government grants.
The city council last night revealed its draft 2013-14 budget, which also includes a two per cent rise in council tax.
The authority also wants to raise car park charges at its park-and-ride sites but will press ahead with a £40m investment in its housing stock and other property assets.
An extra £100,000 a year will also be pumped into the council’s apprenticeship scheme to help develop train new staff in-house, while more than £470,000 will be spent on sports pavilions across the city and £500,000 will be spent on roads and verges on estates.
The council has already slashed £12m from its spending since 2008, including almost £1.8m – or 7.3 per cent – this year, and in its draft budget for 2013-14, the authority has announced it will aim to make another £5.4m of savings by 2017.
Spending will only fall from £24,306,000 this financial year to £24,133,000 next year – or by 0.9 per cent – because extra income will be generated to cover the authority’s costs .
A total of £1,774,000 will be saved in council departments, but many of the “savings” are being covered by increases in income and extra revenue as a result of increased charges.
The council is proposing an increase in council house rents of 4.61 per cent, which will mean the average council tenant in a three-bedroom house will pay an extra £4.99 a week, taking the rent up to £105.42 per week.
Fees for kerbside collections of garden waste will go up by five per cent, for both wheelie bins and paper sacks. The yearly subscription of £36.75 for a brown bin would go up to £38.59.
The Government has increased planning fees councils are allowed to charge by 15 per cent, which is expected to generate a further £140,000 in income for the council.
Drivers who use the Pear Tree, Redbridge and Seacourt park-and-ride centres will also see parking fees increased from £1.50 to £2 per day, and charges at other car parks run by the council will rise by two per cent overall.
The council’s deputy leader and executive member for finance Ed Turner said: “We have very difficult funding cuts to contend with and what we have tried to do is protect the most vulnerable people, protect frontline services and avoid redundancies.
“Our staff have made great sacrifices in their pay packets in recent years, and that’s important to recognise.
“Next year we want to take on more apprentices, we want to build homes, we want to invest in communities and in buildings, all of which will be very positive for Oxford’s economy.”
The council also wants to commit to expenditure of £40m on its assets, including more than £19m on its housing stock of 7,819 houses and flats.
Large lump sums include £7.5m for a new swimming pool in Blackbird Leys, £1m for extra burial spaces and the £470,000 sports pavilions improvement scheme.
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