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No guarantees on services as council seeks £61m cuts
COUNTY council leader Ian Hudspeth is today launching a consultation on massive cuts – but says he cannot guarantee he will be able to protect the services people want saved.
Oxfordshire County Hall could be left having to save up to £61m on top of savings of £201m already made or committed to.
A series of crunch meetings with residents across the county will begin tonight in Banbury, with another tomorrow at County Hall. Mr Hudspeth has called on everyone with an interest to attend.
But although he pledged to take all views raised on board, he said people attending would have to accept that not all their concerns would lead to the protection of services.
He said: “The bottom line is we have to save £61m. It’s an awful lot of money. We have done the easy-to-do stuff and now we’re reaching some really challenging decisions.
“I want to be sure we get the best deal for the people of Oxfordshire.”
The new cuts come after Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to reduce council budgets by 10 per cent. Council finance bosses will not know exactly how much needs to be saved until Mr Osborne releases his autumn statement, due on December 4.
Mr Hudspeth said: “It’s always important to make sure we give the opportunity for residents to speak to us directly so they can tell us what’s important to them and what’s not important to them.
“If we didn’t, we would be accused of not taking people’s views into consideration.”
He said the council would not be giving people a list of services and asking them to select which ones they value least and then making cuts in those areas.
He said: “We understand there is going to be a cross- section of Oxfordshire involved and they will have different views. But people who want to protect a particular service might discover from hearing from other people that that service isn’t as important to them as others.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for people to talk to me about what we’re trying to do.”
County opposition leader and Labour councillor Liz Brighouse said: “I think it’s important that people have the opportunity to speak up about the cuts and about the impact they will have on them and their communities.
“It’s also important that people actually understand what’s going on. Local government is being put into a position where it doesn’t have any money, and is trying to protect services which are very important.”
WHERE YOU CAN HAVE YOUR SAY
The first meeting is tonight at Banbury Town Hall, and mum-of-three and Oxon School Bus Action Group campaigner Sue Moon said she would be going along.
Along with her husband Perran, Mrs Moon has been a key member of a campaign against plans to charge parents for their children’s transport if they do not choose their nearest school.
The second meeting will be held in Oxford tomorrow, at County Hall itself, and next Monday the roadshow will be in Wantage, at the Civic Hall.
The final two meetings will be held at Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot on Wednesday, October 23, and at Henry Box School in Witney on Thursday, October 24.
All the meetings will last from 7.30pm to 9pm.
Mrs Moon said: “We’re taking an interest in all of the meetings and I am publicising them to our followers in chronological order.
“We are going along to all of them because it’s a great opportunity to meet with the council and have an open and frank discussion – an opportunity which won’t come up again soon.
“We want to have a joined-up approach, so one campaign group doesn’t get pitted against another.”
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