TACKLING climate change has been placed at the forefront of a council’s budget, while it scrambles to deal with a lack of funding.

South Oxfordshire District Council has put together a draft budget for 2020/21 for more than £17 million, which it claims puts the climate emergency, financial challenges and the long-term future of the district first.

This week, South Oxfordshire District Council published its budget report for 2020 and 2021.

In the report, the draft budget is totalled at £17,630,305.

At the same time, the council has revealed it is in a difficult financial position and could face a funding gap of up to £6.1m by 2023, due to disappearing support from central government.

David Turner, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, has proposed funding a one-year climate emergency work programme.

Mr Turner said: “The climate emergency is the single most important issue we face, so it is essential that we have the funding in place which will allow us to work on projects together with those living and working in the district to tackle this issue.

“It will, however, be very difficult to make a lot of the changes we need locally if we’re not able to introduce a new local plan which puts the climate emergency and sustainability at the heart of our communities."

The budget proposals have been debated by the council’ s cabinet, and will also be discussed at the Scrutiny Committee on February 4, before being voted on at the full council meeting on February 13.

SODC has also allocated funding in the budget for writing a new Local Plan.

Mr Turner said funding for a new local plan would be 'necessary regardless of the outcome of the emerging plan.'

He added: “We are doing our very best to plan for the long-term future. However, like many councils, our financial situation is of growing concern.

“The major reduction in funding, combined with continued delays from the Government to address the funding situation and clarify how things will work going forward, has resulted in a particularly difficult situation.

“As things stand, we are having to create a proposed budget without knowing what funding we will receive beyond 2020 and 21. This situation cannot be allowed to continue. The Government must confirm its long-term plans for council funding as soon as possible.”

From 2011 to 2019, the district council saw its revenue support grant funding from the Government reduce from £7.9m to zero.

This funding was replaced by retained business rates and a new homes bonus, But in 2018 the new homes bonus ended.

The Green-Lib Dem coalition council was elected last May on the promise of scrapping the current emerging Local Plan as residents felt too many homes could be built in the district under the scheme.

But the current plan is currently in the hands of the government's housing minister, Robert Jenrick, but the council is awaiting a response from him about its future.

Mr Jenrick took control of the plan from the council as there were fears that if it were scrapped, millions of pounds of funding for all of Oxfordshire would be lost.

SODC supporters have called the suspension undemocratic, as the Conservative government has taken control from a council with a different political make-up.