David Williams, leader of the Green Party group on Oxfordshire County Council, outlines his strategy for a fair budget that protects the most vulnerable
I think this budget is mean and malicious, in two words. What the council has done is cuts to adult social care, cuts to the homeless and we have had cuts in cultural services.
It is a budget which doesn’t protect the vulnerable. With all the cuts in advisory services like the Citizens Advice Bureau, only the poor will be affected by that. With the advice they give, for every pound we give it generates £10 for the local economy and that’s poor people who benefit from that.
These cuts are going to affect a strata of people who can hardly make it at the moment.
Gandhi said you should judge politicians by how they treat the powerless and I always thought that is a very good statement, but the county council has rushed in there and the cuts they have made are quite mean and nasty.
Protesters outside County Hall on Tuesday
What we have done in the Green Party is try to find some money. We are willing to put the rates up by about 2.5 per cent so we would have a rate increase of about 4.5 per cent (the current planned rise is 1.99 per cent), which spreads the burden around the whole of Oxfordshire.
That works out at 23p extra per week and when you see the impact that the cuts will have on the most vulnerable, it is morally correct to ask people to pitch in a tiny bit more.
We are quite willing to go to a referendum if we have to and we are willing to have a 20 per cent cut in the allowances for councillors and the equivalent of a 20 per cent cut for senior officers on more than £100,000 a year.
All these things help in terms of generating extra money, as well as a little bit extra on parking.
We need to generate that money to pay for those cuts where it is the most vulnerable groups suffering. We are trying to take a moral stance – that we must try to protect those people who have got mental or physical disabilities, people who are poor and people who are vulnerable.
The council does have a choice. We have had four major meetings with council finance officers and we finalised the Green budget just before the cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
This really is doable and it is a balanced budget and I would call on all the other parties’ leaders, including the Tories, to join with us and do the right thing.
There is £96m coming out of the system and that is the reality of the situation but the important thing is to focus on honouring those direct services to people in the community.
Our stance is that we have no other option than to try to reangle the focus of the council and that’s the way we are approaching it.
The council’s stance will be that this is some sort of fantasy but this is a doable budget and we appeal to them to follow us.
We are in a political situation here where if Labour, the Lib Dems and some of the independents vote with us, this budget will become a reality.
That’s the political balance of the county council and I will be writing to all the other parties and each of the independents so that we can have an opposition budget.
It is possible politically because the Tories are in a minority.
To pay for the cuts altogether we would need a rate increase of approaching 20 per cent but we are suggesting just 2.5 per cent above what is currently proposed and that boils down to just £53 a year.
If we put the case to people across Oxfordshire and ask them if they want cuts against the homeless and the poor and the elderly, I think Oxfordshire people are caring and would vote for a very small rate increase.
We would put that case directly to them. We are willing to fight for this.