Oxfordshire Liberal Democrats

Vale Budget for Bankruptcy 📉

The Conservative run Vale of White Horse District Council faces running out of money within four years if urgent action is not taken to fix the budget.

The budget proposals put forward to the Council on Wednesday 13th February show that the Council’s reserves will have been run down by 2023-24 with a funding shortfall of £1.5 million forecast in that year.

A series of poor decisions have led to this disastrous financial situation:

The Vale had expected to save £9 millon as part of the ‘5 Councils Partnership’. In reality it is likely the scheme will cost the Vale money with many staff now being brought back in house.
The New Homes Bonus – the grant to councils based on how many homes they build - is likely to be scrapped. The Vale has been using this income to prop up core services, rather than providing extra infrastructure needed to support new housing.
Funding was promised for major capital projects – like the new Wessex Leisure Centre at Grove – when it is now clear that the money was not in place to pay for them.

Paragraph 48 of the finance officer’s report to the Councilmeeting states: “based on current projections of government funding the review of NHB [New Homes Bonus] and the 2019 Spending Review, the budget is not sustainable over the medium to long term.” 

Projects that residents were expecting to be in this year’s budget, like the Wessex Leisure Centre in Grove, and money for leisure facilities in Botley, are simply not included.

Having relied far too heavily on the temporary New Homes Bonus scheme and non-existent savings from the 5 Councils Partnership outsourcing contract, the Vale now faces running out of money in four years’ time said Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of the Vale Liberal Democrat Group.

Yet there is little in this Conservative budget to address this funding crisis. Perhaps they are happy to cross their fingers and hope that the government will announce £ billons more for local councils in this summer’s Spending Review? I am less optimistic.

The Vale Liberal Democrat group are not prepared to sit back and do nothing.

They are proposing an amendment to this year’s budget to create a Commercial Investment Projects Fund. This will cover the costs of identifying and testing income generating schemes to help cover the costs of delivering core council services such as planning, waste collection and housing and make recommendations about raising funds to invest in our communities.

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