A meeting of the Oxford County Council has passed a new budget agreement meaning that 38% of proposed funding cuts to the homeless services sector will go ahead. The decision means a £1.5m reduction in funding for Oxford’s homeless services and comes after months of campaigning in protest from students, service workers and members of the public.
Lesley Dewhurst, head of an Oxford charity for the homeless told The Oxford Student: “This is very disappointing news, but it is not different from anything we expected. We were very pleased with the campaign and the public support that we found along the way.”
“We know that the County Council is now talking with district councils and hope that at least a bit of money can be found in other budgets to help us maintain a decent level of services.”
It is still unclear how the cuts will affect the homeless sector. Dewhurst explained that, “It is too early too early to tell what the future is for homelessness services, since we don’t know how the commissioners intend to apportion these cuts.”
“However, we do know one thing for certain – our services will need to shrink and adapt which will not mean good things for the homeless people we serve”.
Opposition to the cuts has been widespread. At a well-attended protest to oppose the changes last month, Dewhurst warned that there would be “more deaths on the streets and the closure of one of Oxford’s three night shelters”, if the budget plans go ahead.
The cuts follow a Central government plan to reduce Oxford County Council’s budget by £61m over the next four years.
In opposition to the cuts, Green councillor Sam Coates said: “I want to make the case for living in a society where people care about each other. A more humane society is something worth paying for.”
In defence of the budget, Conservative councillor Ian Hudspeth, the chair of the meeting, said: “Voting against this budget will be voting against flood relief money, against increasing care visits to 30 minutes and against the vulnerable residents of Oxford”.
The budget was passed by 30 votes to 27.