CUTS in council spending are nothing new – they were happening in Oxford 80 years ago.
In the autumn of 1931, the budget was so stretched that city council officers agreed to a reduction in their salaries.
Even low-paid council workers didn’t escape – their wages were also cut as the Depression took its toll on Britain.
On salaries, there was no reduction on the first £100 earned, but deduction of 2½ per cent on those over £100 up to £220, five per cent on those over £220 up to £500 and 7½ per cent on those over £500.
There was no reduction on wages of up to £3 a week, but workers earning more than £3 a week faced a 2½ per cent cut.
The salary and wage cuts were to remain for six months, until the end of the financial year, but with a proviso that they might be extended for a further six months if the economic position did not improve.
The Government had been asking local authorities to cut expenditure as the Depression deepened.
Council officers agreed to their salaries being cut and were praised by the mayor, Alderman William Stobie, at a council meeting.
He said told councillors: “I think you will agree this is a most happy and satisfactory ending to our deliberations.
“It represents a friendly co-operation on the part of our officers at a time when the country is passing through a very critical period.”
When the mayor was asked by Councillor A B Gillett if the rank and file had been consulted on their wage cuts, the mayor was a little evasive.
He said: “There are a few people who are not members of the local branch, but I don’t expect there is any reason to think that those people will have any opinion contrary to the others.”
When Dr Gillett repeated his question, the mayor said: “We have had no communication of a similar nature from the wage-earners.”
Dr Gillett proposed that the salary and wage cuts should be delayed, claiming they would make Oxford the “laughing stock of the country”.
He said: “This is not the time for reducing wages. I think it is extremely fine of the officials to have sent this letter (agreeing to the cuts), but I am against a reduction in salaries and wages at the present time.”
He motion to delay the cuts was defeated by 46 votes to 12.
A special committee set up by the council to consider the issue was praised for its speedy work by the Oxford Mail.
The committee’s report was completed at lunchtime on a Saturday morning, and sent to the printers, corrected and ready, by 6pm.
The Mail commented: “Such speed is not generally associated with the affairs of the city council.”