This is an editorial opinion piece from Ed Turner, Oxford City Council's cabinet member for finance, who writes about the newly proposed budget for 2024-2025.

Setting council budgets is always hard and got much harder since 2010 when austerity set in and government grants were cut to near zero, but this year is the worst in my period – over 20 years – as a councillor. We face rising energy bills, major increases in construction costs, other pressures from inflation, and huge increases in the cost of supporting households who have become homeless.

We are not alone: some councils have gone “bankrupt”, issuing a notice to say they have no money. The Conservative leader of Hampshire Council rightly talked of “financial meltdown”. We are not in that situation, but we must stabilise our finances.

We are restricted in the amount we can increase council tax (which will go up by 2.99 per cent next year, below inflation and up £10.06 on the average bill) and rents.

We are having to put up some charges – for car parks and garden waste collection for example. We have delivered major efficiencies in recent years (for instance, moving out of our office block so we can rent it out), and this will continue, with several millions of pounds still to come.

We also work hard to get income from commercial property we own.

Oxford Mail: Ed Turner warned of a “diabolical" financial situation.Our wholly-owned companies, Oxford Direct Services and OxPlace (which builds houses) will continue to give us substantial income, but they, too, face rising cost pressures.

To encourage landlords to speed up letting we will end the one-month unfurnished empty homes discount. We are also going to start charging the owners of second homes in Oxford double council tax from the first day we are allowed to.

It isn’t all bad: we remain committed to retaining leisure centres and parks, continuing council house building, and supporting youth work and community groups. Investment in electric car charging points and the Covered Market will secure reliable income streams.

We are planning several major investments, completing the transformation of East Oxford Community Centre, and refurbishing leisure centres with an investment of up to £4 million.

Given our housing crisis, we remain committed to delivering 1,428 new homes, including 1,277 council houses, as well as making our existing council homes more efficient.

Our Cabinet will consider the proposed Budget on 13 December, after which we’ll go out to public consultation. We encourage everyone interested to have their say.

But if you get the chance, please also spread the word: councils need fair funding, otherwise our citizens will suffer.