OXFORD City Council’s budget, which includes £5.4m of savings by 2018, was approved by councillors last night.

Money from a council tax increase will be spent on flood defences, with a final decision on the budget taken on Wednesday.

The local authority is proposing to put up parking fees by as much as nine per cent and council house rents by an average of 5.42 per cent in a bid to raise cash.

Presenting the budget to the executive board, city councillor Ed Turner, board member for finance and efficiency, said: “It is worth recalling that we are in a context where we are seeing increasing pressures on our services.

“This budget is balanced over four years. We are looking at increasing the Oxford Living Wage and there is a fair bit of investment in this budget as well, such as funding for the Covered Market, for cycle lanes and the new Rose Hill Community Centre. It is a very positive budget.”

Mr Turner also highlighted the fact that of those who responded to the city council’s public consultation, 85 per cent said they would prefer a council tax rise to services being cut.

He said: “I think Oxford is a nice place to live and that’s because the people are nice and kind, so there was support for us raising council tax rather than cutting services.”

Some of the changes which have been made following the consultation include plans to keep letting community groups use parts of the town hall free of charge, increasing the amount of money spent on staff training and the purchase of two new high- volume pumps for flooding.

Green city councillor Craig Simmons, a member of the authority’s scrutiny committee, said: “It is a robust budget and there are healthy reserves.

“If anything you could say the budget is overly conservative. The city council is in good shape which is a particular surprise given the national situation.”

Council tax will also be increased from the next financial year by 1.99 per cent, if the budget is approved by full council.

Originally the Labour-run city council had planned an increase of 1.49 per cent because of uncertainty over whether central Government would lower the cap on increases.

But last week the Department for Communities and Local Government confirmed the cap would remain at two per cent – and any increases over that will remain subject to a local referendum.

This means the city council will plough ahead with its plans for a 1.99 per cent increase – or£272.19 for Band D properties – and the extra money it raises will be spent on flood defences.

  • Full council will meet to agree the budget on Wednesday at 5pm in the Town Hall.