I FIND it astounding that the leader of Oxfordshire County Council actually boasts of the council’s good record in decimating essential public services, made necessary by government cuts to local authority funding.
Councillor Ian Hudspeth says that these cuts “mean challenging decisions, but local government has shown it can deliver”.
However, the austerity regime that Cllr Hudspeth endorses clearly does not apply to the massive current and projected transport projects in Oxfordshire, where the council is happy to avail itself of the enormous sums of government funding made available to support the voracious and ever-growing demands of road transport.
According to the current county council consultation on A40 improvements, Oxfordshire has a “prosperous and vibrant community, combining a successful, thriving economy with a high-quality environment”.
This glowing depiction is hard to reconcile with a county which cannot afford to adequately fund its social care, children’s centres, recycling centres, libraries, subsidised bus services, and school support services, with additional cuts under review for mobile libraries, arts funding, road maintenance, and homeless support.
How will these services, already struggling under pressure, cope with the demand generated by the council’s schemes for more business and science parks and supporting transport infrastructure?
How will the well-being of Oxfordshire’s communities be improved by the loss of green spaces and damage to the environment that these developments will entail?
There is little reason to believe that the wealth created by this relentless drive for economic growth – in a county which already enjoys high employment and a “thriving’ economy” – will be used to restore the multiplicity of public services so vital to maintaining a “vibrant community” and a good quality of life for the people of Oxfordshire.
The really courageous decision for Cllr Hudspeth and the county council would be to challenge government funding priorities and deliver not the erosion but a defence of Oxfordshire’s essential public services.