Oxfordshire County Council has released the first draft of its budget for the coming year which includes plans to invest £1.7million in a workplace parking levy project.

The Oxford Mail sat down with Liberal Democrat cabinet member for finance, Dan Levy, who said the council is “not in financial distress”, despite challenges.

The talk covered special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and council tax.

Confirmation of the budget is a fluid process and the existing funding gap of £9.1million will need to be plugged before final decisions are made at a meeting of the county council on February 20 next year.

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Mr Levy said: “Our budget contains large investments to meet new pressures in many areas primarily in adult and children’s social care and services for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).”

The county council proposes to invest £1m to create additional capacity in the special educational needs service.

Mr Levy said the recent damning SEND report had been a “real wake up call” and that he hoped this investment would help towards addressing issues.

Oxford Mail: SEND protests at Oxford County HallSEND protests at Oxford County Hall (Image: SEND Parents Group)Investment plans outlined in the budget draft for the introduction of a workplace parking levy (WPL) were also referenced.

The scheme aims to “improve air quality and invest in public transport and active travel” in conjunction with other work through its annual charge to employers for staff parking places at their premises.

Money raised through the total proposed £1.7million towards developing the project would be ringfenced and used “to improve transport in the city".

This includes "bus services, walking and cycling infrastructure, and to cover the cost of implementing and running the scheme”.

Implementation of the WPL would be subject to a cabinet decision and Department of Transport approvals once the case is developed and submitted.

A “key pressure” highlighted was funding of £695,000 to pay for the council’s Local Transport and Connectivity Plan with connected hopes of reducing pollution and the conducting of HGV studies which would aim to reduce collisions between lorries and other roads users.

Mr Levy said he thought criticism of LTNs was “nonsense as they make people’s lives better within them” adding “I will stand by them and they have been through all the rigorous scrutiny".

Oxford Mail: Councillor Dan LevyCouncillor Dan Levy (Image: West Oxfordshire District Council)He went on to say that the measures were cost effective and features such as bollards were not expensive to install.

The proposed council tax rise of 4.99 per cent - the maximum allowed – will be voted on at the February 20 meeting after an updated version of the budget is presented to the cabinet on January 30.

Mr Levy suggested the tax increase was necessary, largely given cuts in central government funding.