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‘Increase council tax to boost social care’
GREEN councillors have called for a county-wide vote on a 3.75 per cent rise in council tax to fund social care services.
Larry Sanders, one of two Green Party county councillors, has launched a campaign to reduce £18.5m of proposed cuts to the council’s social care budget by increasing council tax.
The authority announced plans to cut the cash from its social care funds by 2017 last month, after its central Government grant was slashed by 12 per cent.
As part of the draft budget, which is expected to be approved next month by the Tory-controlled council, a council tax rise of 1.99 per cent is proposed.
The rise is just shy of the two per cent referendum limit set by the Government, but Mr Sanders said people in Oxfordshire should be given the opportunity to vote on a bigger hike.
He said: “The Conservative county council budget will make life even harder for people with disabilities.
“A small increase in the council tax of about 40p a week for the average household – less than the price of a stamp – used sensibly could bring in tens of millions of pounds of care money for Oxfordshire residents.
“Given the stark facts about the impact of more budget cuts, we believe the basic decency and good sense of the people of Oxfordshire will win out and allow councillors to provide the money necessary to reduce the crisis in care.”
The council’s adult social care budget pays for essentials like home care as well as day centres and other services aimed at reducing isolation.
Currently the county council’s share of the council tax payment for band D properties is £1,161.94. Under the Tories’ proposals, this will rise to £1,184.94. A 3.75 per cent rise would take the figure up to £1,205.27.
County council cabinet member for adult services Arash Fatemian said: “The savings in social care are about reducing the cost of care rather than the quality of the care that’s being delivered and a lot of that comes about through intervention and prevention, which saves money in the long-term.
“I don’t think there is wide enough support for a referendum on a 3.75 per cent rise in council tax. A referendum would cost the county council money and I’m not aware that anybody has ever voted in a referendum for a tax increase.”
Under Government rules, any council tax increase above two per cent will automatically trigger a referendum on the rise.
The full council is due to meet to vote on the budget, which includes a total of £46m of extra cuts on top of £119m which will already have been saved by 2014.
BREAKDOWN ON SAVINGS
- The council expects to save £3m by carrying out prevention and intervention work – such as installing technology in people’s homes to reduce their need for costly care.
- It will also save £500,000 by changing
- the way it commissions care services.
- Joint working with the NHS will save £1m, andit will receive extra funding of £4.3m for health services.
- The council will change the way it delivers services to people with learning and physical disabilities, saving £2.4m.
- Income expected from increased charges for day centres, added to proposed savings to the service in the future, will amount to £500,000.
- Extra pressures on the council’s budget for older people will be paid for out of the existing budget, saving £3.9m the council would otherwise have to save.
- Other savings, including a reduction in the council’s asylum seeker budget because of decreased need, will total £2.853m.