Monday, 13 December 2010

Funding cuts not as deep as feared for OCC

The Department for Communities and Local Government have today announced the level of funding that Oxford City Council can expect over the next two financial years. The proposed increment freeze and level of job losses were based on the assumption that funding in 2011/12 and 2012/13 would be £12.4million and £11.48million respectively. The actual figures announced today, of £13.305million and £11.73million mean Oxford City Council should be £1.25million better off than expected by March 2013.

If you, like us, spend your spare time looking at the Council website, you may have noticed Appendix 4 of the council budget (here). You can see that some of the job cuts have asterisks at the end of the line, to indicate they are a direct result of the central government cuts in Council funding. Sadly, those without asterisks are cuts that have been made anyway. So the 23 jobs under threat in Customer Services, for instance, will not be saved by this latest announcement.

However, this must be good news for Environmental Development, City Development and Community Housing and Development, all of which were facing job losses as a direct result of the predicted cuts in funding. 17.7 FTE posts were proposed to go in these sections, broken down as 6.4 (ED) 7.5 (CD) and 3.8 (CH&D). It is hoped that the additional £1,250,000 means most, if not all, these jobs can now be saved.

Further to this, we are asking questions about reserves the council can draw on. This year, the council budgeted to bank £1,256,000 at year end. We understand they probably won't achieve this but, at such a difficult time, while the Council's reserves are healthy, rather than putting any more money aside, we believe the council should be looking to spend a little of its reserves, in line with their commitment to world class services and stated opposition to compulsory redundancies. And, while Oxford City UNISON has never previously agreed with Eric Pickles, this is also the advice from central government.

Whilst we appreciate the need to maintain sensible reserves for an uncertain future, we think the Council's Labour Group should take some comfort from the knowledge that, the way things are going, this lot won't be setting public sector budgets for very much longer.