The Greens have labelled the Oxford City Council budget, passed tonight, as a 'missed opportunity' after the ruling Labour Councillors were whipped into voting down amendments to the Administration budget from opposition Councillors that it was clear many privately supported.
However, City Green Group Leader Craig Simmons remained optimistic: "As in previous years, I expect to see several items from the Green budget being quietly adopted by Labour over the next few months. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!"
Green Councillor Craig Simmons who, as Chair of the Finance Panel had helped shape the Administration budget, also drafted and presented the Green budget amendments along with Green Deputy Cllr Sam Hollick.
Says Craig "The Green budget amendments were aimed at making a good budget better. Our philosophy is that - at a time of austerity - the Council should be investing in services not standing still. It is a missed opportunity. I am extremely disappointing that Labour chose to whip their Councillors into voting down all amendments despite the fact that many spoke very positively about our proposals. As a result, the people of Oxford lost out on more than £7m of targetted spending on housing, environmental and social measures."
Says Sam, who presented several Green amendments aimed at reducing council rents and improving funding for homeless services; "Despite rightly complaining about the savage £1.5m cuts being made to homelessness services by the Tory-run County Council, Labour Councillors failed to back several opposition amendments aimed at putting more City money into these same services."
The fully funded balanced budget amendment (approved by Council Finance Officer) from the Greens included the following highlights.
- £0.4m extra for energy efficiency measures for Council buildings
- £1.8m to make new 800 Barton houses zero carbon
- £1.5m towards new funding for flood mitigation
- £2.0m to Council house rent rise at inflation (currently 5.45% annual increase)*
- £1.2m to buy the Gladiator Club*
- £0.5m to provide alternate leisure facilities on Temple Cowley Pool site after Labour demolish the pool and gym
- £0.25m to insulate the new Blackbird Leys Pool (which is currently being built without insulation)
- New housing officer - to tackle rogue landlords and improve the quality of private rented housing
- Reverse Labour's decision to cut a homelessness officer
- Support to set up new 'no fees' letting agency
- Reverse planned increase in garden waste charges
- Reinstate the popular Area Committees
- Reduced cost pest control services
- Support for charities including Aspire, Oxford Food Bank, Cowley Road Carnival, Chinese Community language project
- Increased advice centre funding - targeted at debt advice and immigrant communities
- New local economic development officer (part time)
- New officer to monitor and enforce Low Emission Zone (part time)
- Reverse Labour's cut to sustainability team
- Additional flood spending - more to Groundwork project and a £50k reserve
- Inflation increases to Park and Ride and off-street car parking fees
- Efficiency saving in materials procurement
- Additional income from purchased properties and energy savings deliveed by new investments
- Introduction of late night licence fees
- Halving the number of Executive Board members that receive a 'special responsibility' allowance