Councillors in West Oxfordshire have met today (Wednesday 15th February) to approve the annual budget of the council for 2023-24.
The District Council which is run by the Lib Dem, Labour and Green coalition have been criticised by their opponents for increasing council tax whilst spending more money on "pet projects" rather than frontline services.
At the council meeting in Witney the Conservative Group Leader, Cllr Michele Mead, said "After years of Conservative leadership in West Oxfordshire and not one single negative budget, its taken less than 12 months for the coalition to squander years of prudent financial planning. The medium term financial strategy clearly shows that if reserves continue to be used to top up the budget at the current rate this council will be bankrupt in 2-3 years. All this coalition are doing is going spend, spend, spend and the residents of West Oxfordshire are going to be picking up the tab for it."
West Oxfordshire District Council collects council tax on behalf of all of the bodies that receive it, including Oxfordshire County Council and the fire and police authorities.
Each body decides how much its part of council tax will be increased by up to a maximum amount permitted by national government.
The district receives a small portion of what households pay and can only put up its part by a maximum of £5 for the financial year starting in April 2023, which the coalition have voted to do. It will raise an extra £235,000.
The coalition at Oxfordshire County Council have also supported a 4.99% council tax rise – 2.99% plus 2% that must be allocated to adult social care – which is approximately £82 per year for what is considered to be an average (band D) property.
Cllr Ted Fenton, who is both a District and County councillor, addressed the council meeting and also took aim at the coalitions plans to risk the council going bankrupt. Cllr Fenton said, "We all love a Lib Dem bar chart but there is a graph in these papers today that is a little worrying. Look at the green line and look at where it crosses the horizontal zero line which is not at the bottom but just below the middle of the graph - that ladies and gents is when this council goes bust and this bankruptcy that the coalition dare put in as part of their 'strategy'. How can anyone vote for this budget?"
The budget was supported by Lib Dem, Labour and Green councillors with the Conservatives and an Independent councillor voting against the budget plans.