This evening (18th February), Oxford City Council will be setting its annual budget against a backdrop of rising inequality in the City and a housing crisis fuelled by ever increasing rents and rising house prices. Oxford officially has the least affordable housing in the country.
As the Government continues to cut the support given to local Councils, the Greens have sought to resist austerity with a bold budget which directs an additional £2m into frontline services targeted at the most vulnerable City residents.
New initiatives include:
- £600k extra into housing and homelessness targeted at preventing families being relocated out of the City. So far, the Council has relocated more than 50 families.
- £400k into a new Inequality Fund to be overseen by the Scrutiny Committee and the newly established Inequalities Panel
- £25k funding to investigate innovative means of funding new social housing. To including municipal bonds, direct investment of Council savings and crowd-funding.
- £50k to set up a new no-fees lettings agency - following in the footsteps of several leading Councils.
- £200k top-up to the over-subscribed community and voluntary grant fund (see details below)
- £100k for a new cycling officer - a response to the Council's failure to new schemes.
The Green budget also reverses cuts being made by the Council:
- £200k reinstated for apprenticeships
- £72k reinstated for the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults
- £134k reinstated into the Education Attainment fund to be re-launched as a Learning Outcomes Grant.
A further £300k have been put into community engagement with the reinstatement of Area Committees with delegated powers and additional funds to increase voter registration following the decline in registered electors.
To secure future revenues for the Council, the Greens have also proposed funding research into a 'Tourist Tax' - mostly likely a 1% levy on luxury hotels - which would bring in more than £100k per annum.
Says City Green Group Leader, Cllr Sam Hollick, who will present the Green Group budget tonight: "In resisting the Government's austerity agenda, the Council can, and should, be doing more to protect and support the most vulnerable people in our communities."
The budget is to be seconded by Green Group Deputy Cllr Craig Simmons, the City's Deputy Lord Mayor, who also chairs the Council's influential Finance Panel.
Details of £200k top-up to community and voluntary grant fund:
This year, the Greens have said that would fund the following organisations who failed to get the funding they requested:
- Archway Foundation - plug £5k shortfall in requested funding
- Asylum Welcome - plug £2.5k shortfall in requested funding
- BBL Adventure Playground - plug £2.5k shortfall in requested funding
- Donnington Doorstep - plug £5k gap in requested funding
- Oxfordshire - My Life My Choice - plug £2.5k gap in requested funding
- Oxford City of Sanctuary - to plug £2k shortfall in requested amount
- Dovecote Voluntary Parent Committee - to plug £5k gap in requested funding
- Oxford Credit Union - to plug £10k shortfall in requested amount
- Exeter College Vacations Project - to plug £5.5k shortfall in requested amount
- Broken Spoke Bike Co-op - Asylum earn-a-bike project- plug funding gap of £5k
- Cuttleslowe community associated - plug £5k of £7.5k shortfall in requested funding