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Cash-strapped county may ask residents for donations + council report
IDEA: Arash Fatemian, cabinet member for finance, above at County Hall, wanted to investigate whether it was possible for residents to pay more council tax if they wanted
OXFORDSHIRE County Council is considering asking members of the public for donations as it tries to run its services with less money.
Officers have said a website allowing people to donate to the council could work and have recommended that the scheme goes forward.
But the idea has prompted accusations that the council is resorting to desperate measures to try to raise money.
County corporate finance manager Stephanie Skivington said: “ICT services advise that there are many ways in which the council could collect donations via its website, from embedding something like the PayPal donations module onto our site to using a similar site to the crowdfunding options.”
She said if approval was given in principle, the council would look at costs of setting it up. Last month the county council unveiled plans to slash its budget by £64m because of cuts handed down by central Government.
In a report before yesterday’s income generation cabinet advisory group it was revealed Arash Fatemian, the cabinet member for finance, had asked his colleague to find out whether the authority could let people pay more council tax if they wished.
He was told such a move was not possible, because any extra payment would have to be treated as an overpayment and refunded.
Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said the new idea of donation smacked of desperation.
He said: “This illustrates the depth to which the council has to go to try to raise money given the depth of cuts they have been forced to make.
“It is a measure of desperation really and it is likely to be pretty well ineffectual.”
Age UK Oxfordshire chief executive Paul Cann said: “I wish the county council well but I would be slightly surprised if they were inundated with donations. But who knows?”
After yesterday’s public meeting, to discuss the idea, Mr Fatemian, a Conservative councillor for Deddington, said: “When you are in our financial situation there are two things you can do: you can either make savings or raise income and that’s the point of this income generation advisory group. I don’t think it will give us a pot of gold but it could give us a bit more income to do some interesting things with.”
A county council spokesman said the authority would not be liable to pay tax on any donations residents made to it.
The proposal will go before cabinet at a later date.