TOUGH realities will be laid bare by £50m of possible new cuts, the leader of Oxfordshire County Council warned last night.

Ian Hudspeth said people in Oxfordshire would now be asked to choose where the axe should fall, as the local authority revealed it was reviewing mobile libraries, arts funding, homeless support services, road gritting and even electronic bus stop signs in a bid to slash its budget by almost 10 per cent.

This would be in addition to previously announced proposals – still out for consultation – to close children’s centres and household recycling centres across the county, as well as to completely cut bus subsidies.

The county council said the 90 options suggested, which total £52.6m, represented “a worst-case scenario” in which the Government would cut its budget by up to £50m.

But Conservative council leader Ian Hudspeth admitted: “The reality is that a large chunk of them will have to be made.”

Speaking to the Oxford Mail, he said: “We have to work with the public to get our house in order.

“That is about making sure we make informed decisions and trying to get across the breadth of services we provide.

“I want to make sure that people who can’t help themselves are looked after and I’m sure most people feel the same.

“We have already seen communities willing and able to take over where funding has been reduced.”

Mr Hudspeth said he supported the budget reductions being handed down by central Government, after the electorate made a “clear decision” to back austerity measures proposed by the Conservatives in the General Election.

The fresh round of cuts proposed by the county council would start from next year and continue into 2019/20, with the authority rolling back much of what it provides to focus only on helping the ‘most vulnerable’.

It would be in addition to those already agreed for between 2010 and 2018, about £290m of savings, of which more than £80m are still to be made by 2017/18.

An online consultation on the new cuts starts today and there will also be three public meetings to discuss the options.

They include proposals to close all mobile libraries in Oxfordshire but keep the county’s 43 libraries open as the new “front door” of council services.

This would save £1m, the council said, with customer services staff sent to work at the libraries.

More than £90,000 of arts funding, currently given to the Pegasus Theatre, in East Oxford, the Oxfordshire Youth Arts Project and the Oxford Visual Design Agency, could also be axed, which the council admitted could “potentially jeopardise” their finances.

Removing funding for lunch clubs and the county’s seven ‘health and wellbeing centres’ – which cater for adults with disabilities and the elderly – could save £3m, while it was claimed that a review of the way care needs were assessed could save £3.1m.

There are also proposals for the council to shift some £3.6m of its day-to-day highway and street lighting repairs into the capital budget – usually reserved for big, one-off projects – but bosses warned this could prevent other major schemes from being delivered quickly.

Oxford Mail:

  • Bleak: County council leader Ian Hudspeth discusses the potential cuts with reporter Matt Oliver

Cutting back on clearing drainage underneath roads could also save a further £300,000, or further reductions in grass cutting another £291,000. Reducing the number of roads gritted during the winter could save £180,000.

Removing electronic signs at bus stops could save £140,000 – unless bus companies picked up the bill to keep them.

Senior figures stressed that some of the biggest savings would have no impact on services.

About £4.4m is expected in council tax not previously predicted from new homes, and further caps on public pay rises are likely to save another £4.2m.

The proposals assume that a rule requiring a local referendum on council tax rises of two per cent or more will still be in place, and Mr Hudspeth said he was doubtful that a proposal for a larger increase would be successful.


Cuts being considered range in size from £3.1m spent on day services and centres to the £140,000 spent on electronic signs at bus stops.

Other savings being considered include:

* £92,000 of arts funding given to Pegasus Theatre, Oxfordshire Youth Arts Project and Oxford Visual Arts Design Agency.
* £180,000 from reducing the number of roads gritted during the winter.
* £270,000 by cutting four enforcement posts at Trading Standards.
* £1,000,000 from closing mobile libraries, six library vehicles, reducing the county book fund and a reduction in library staff.
* £1,220,000 from removing all bus subsidies.
* £1,406,000 by making the council’s schools support service a commercial “trading arm” and reducing staff.
* £2,000,000 (in addition to £6,000,000 already agreed) by closing children centres and early intervention hubs, which would be replaced with eight family and resource centres. Universal services axed.
* £2,689,000 of so-called ‘patching’ works on roads to be moved from revenue spending to capital spending.