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(UK) Oxfordshire: Costs of SPED and adult social services grows

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

Jan 24, 2023, News Updated budget plans reflect new pressures and include extra money for transport and children and families

SE England

Updated budget proposals for 2023/24 at Oxfordshire County Council include more funding than when proposals were first announced in late 2022 but also significant further pressures on services that stem from escalations in inflation and growing demands….

The newly updated position and revised proposals were agreed by the county council’s cabinet on 24 January and would see some previously announced savings no longer being taken forward. These now need to be considered by a meeting of the full council on 14 February.

Meanwhile £4.9 million is proposed to promote access to public transport and improve roads along with £2.3m to help the lowest income households with cost of living pressures. A total of £1m [$1.2M] is proposed for people with special educational needs and disabilities and for community hubs to support families and young people….

“The government has also acknowledged the huge social care pressures being experienced by local government and supplied some of the extra money needed. However, this was done on the assumption that councils will raise more of the finance required through a 4.99 per cent rise in council tax, two per cent of which must be spent on adult social care. Officers are recommending this course of action.

“We are very mindful of the financial pressures facing many Oxfordshire residents so we are proposing allocating money to ensure that the lowest income households do not see this further increase and receive further support in the face of the cost of living emergency.

“We can budget for some additional income but since the autumn yet more new pressures have emerged and even more may still need to be absorbed….

“We also propose to target other areas in line with our overall priorities including special educational needs and steps to establish community hubs to bring support services closer to families and children across the county. We are committed to improving the experience of children with special educational needs and disabilities and their families and to earlier, supportive intervention to help vulnerable children and families. These investments will help us do that….

In November, the council launched a consultation on the basis of potential budget shortfalls of £44 million. This was made up of £27m of inflationary pressures and £17m of other demand led pressures with £35m of savings proposed and a £9m overall gap.

Since then, there have been a number of additions to funding from different sources but also rises in financial pressures.

Overall, government has proposed £20.2m of extra funding for social care, made up of £11.3m in grants and a proposed additional £8.9m from an anticipated council tax rise of 4.99 per cent….

Original estimates of the council tax base (the number of homes paying council tax) have been upgraded by Oxfordshire’s district councils, resulting in a £1.1m increase in income. However, there are also new, recurrent pressures totalling £19.4m since the government’s autumn statement.

New pressures arise from the higher increase to the national wage announced in the autumn and inflationary pressures over and above what was expected earlier in the budget process. Anticipated additional inflationary impacts are on areas such as the cost of delivering both adults’ and children’s social care, waste management, highway maintenance, school transport and streetlighting….

There are also further demand pressures that need to be absorbed in special educational needs related services and both adults’ and children’s social care. Meanwhile, the council is also estimating a higher national pay award for staff in 2023/24 than was the case when the budget was first announced in November.

These new pressures of £19.4m are in addition to the £8.7m shortfall from the first iteration of the budget that was announced in November. So £28.1m is needed just to balance the books….

Responding to the feedback received from people during public engagement, a total of £4.9m is proposed to be assigned to improving public transport and the travel experience for residents in 2023/4.

This includes community transport initiatives in both rural and urban areas (£1.2m); the extension of the current discounted ticket offer at park and rides (£500,000) and expanding the supported transport team to work with young people and their families to develop active travel options for getting to their place of education (£300,000). A further £500,000 will be invested in expanding the School Streets pilot to make it safer and easier for children and parents to walk and cycle to school….


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