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Oxford City Council votes for tax and rent rises in 2014-15 budget
OXFORD City Council approved its budget for 2014-15 at a special meeting held at the Town Hall last night.
The budget was passed after more than three hours of debate and three alternative financial plans were defeated when put to the vote.
The decision means that the authority’s share of council tax bills will go up by 1.99 per cent, while savings of more than £5.4m will be made and rents for council houses in the city will go up by more than five per cent on average.
Ed Turner, the council’s executive board member for finance, said: “This budget and medium-term financial plan once again goes under the headline ‘A fair future for Oxford’.
“That fair future is in jeopardy, because of the actions of a Government which is in the process of whipping away 47 per cent of our Government grant, at a time of increasing pressure on our services.
“A Government whose welfare reforms have, quite rightly, been dubbed a disgrace by the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
“A Government seeing a huge rise in the numbers quietly turning to food banks to feed their hungry children.”
He said that the Labour-run council was using its “socialist values” to help the worst-off in society in a time of austerity.
The budget proposed by the Labour group, which will also see £2m set aside for new affordable homes and £1.5m spent on flood alleviation works in Marston and Northway, gained a good deal of support from the other parties on the council, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, but both said that it could be improved. Both parties put forward individual budget plans, along with a joint proposal.
Green group leader Craig Simmons, proposing the joint Lib Dem-Green budget, said: “We need to unite against Oxfordshire County Council and the coalition Government.
“There is nothing to say we cannot make a good budget better. We don’t have a monopoly on good ideas.”
This alternative budget proposed free parking for an hour at Oxford’s car parks, additional grants for debt advice and money to purchase the Gladiator Club, in Iffley Road, but it was defeated by the Labour group, which has a majority of 12 seats.
Jean Fooks, the leader of the Lib Dems, said it was “shameful” that the council was not contributing towards the East West Rail project, which will link Oxford and Bicester with Milton Keynes and Bedford, and said that their alternative budget included money towards it.
Colin Cook, the executive board member for city development, told the meeting: “You can tell how good this budget is by the brevity of the amendments. This is a world-class budget for a world-class city.”
Some of the councillors criticised the Conservative-run county council, which on Tuesday had passed a budget which included cuts of £1.5m to homelessness services.
Green councillor David Williams said: “We believe here that people should have a democratic voice in the system.
“But there are people there who don’t share those beliefs.”