Oxfordshire County Councillor Ian Hudspeth’s November 2020 Report

The situation regarding the virus is fast moving and almost as soon as something is written it’s out of date. This was shown by the decision at the end of October to announce the National Lockdown. This was based on the scientific advice and data that was presented showing an increase in COVID cases across the country.

In Oxfordshire since the middle of October all the councils and Health partners had seen the spread of the virus from the younger age groups to the older age groups across all the Districts not just in the City. That is why OCC and partners were recommending that all of Oxfordshire be placed in Tier 2, to reduce the spread of the virus. The recommendations were sent to government however they did not implement the change in Tier level for the week 24th Oct then for the week 31st Oct it was only for Oxford City. This was disappointing as the recommendations were based on the data and good local knowledge to reduce the spread across the Districts. By acting early to reduce the spread of the virus it would have reduced the impact on the local economy.

The national lockdown will have an impact on the economy but its important that we reduce the spread of the virus so we all need to work together and to adhere to the rules.

There are some changes for this lockdown with household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) and registration services still able to operate.

Oxfordshire County Council’s libraries have had to close but the library service will continue to offer an array of online resources at www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/libraries and residents will still be able to benefit from the home library service. The county council is also investigating the possibility of a click and collect service in some libraries in addition to limited access to public network PCs.

The overwhelming majority of Oxfordshire County Council’s services will still be delivered without interruption. We will continue to provide care and support to vulnerable residents through home visits and our community support services; and our formally organised support groups that provide mutual aid or therapy will continue, with a maximum of 15 participants.

The over 60s and the clinically vulnerable people have been recommended by the government to minimise their contacts with others during the lockdown period. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, including working from home.

If anyone has a received a letter from the government about receiving additional support, they have been identified as being extremely vulnerable. In order to benefit from this support, they need to register themselves on the national system if they have not already done so. If they require additional support WODC will be informed and will contact them to identify their needs in more detail. If they need urgent support, then they can contact their WODC directly.

If residents do not have the means to register and have no one who is able to assist, they can call us on the number below.

  • Call 01865 897820
  • Email shield@oxfordshire.gov.uk.
  • The service is open 8.30am – 5pm Monday – Thursday, and 8.30am – 4pm on        Fridays. Closed Saturday – Sunday and Bank Holidays
The government’s business support webpages set out the COVID-19 support available to businesses such as loan schemes designed to support UK businesses that are losing revenue and seeing their cashflow disrupted as a result of the pandemic.

Information about the additional financial support announced by the Chancellor on Thursday 5 November to help support businesses and workers during the challenging times ahead is available at gov.uk.

The county council’s COVID-19 support for businesses webpages are also useful source of information.

The pandemic won’t stop Oxfordshire’s roads from being gritted as temperatures start to dip, the county council’s winter weather response springs into action, becoming one of our key frontline services that keeps almost half of the roads across Oxfordshire free as possible from winter hazards. The pandemic will not stop our efforts – we are ready to go. This year we have trained 15 extra drivers, will have 25 gritter lorries on the road at any one time, and will use approximately 220 tonnes of salt per treatment.

Council meetings continue remotely, details of all virtual public meetings can be found on the meeting details page on the county council website – simply click on each meeting in the calendar to view the link. Recordings can be viewed after each meeting.

Its important that we continue to hold meetings such as the North Cotswold Line Taskforce as we plan for the future to enable us to have a more frequent rail service from Hanborough with 4 trains an hour.

We are also in the budget setting process which has been made more difficult this year with the increased expenditure relating to the COVID situation. The Government has provided significant funds for the County Council but this year there was still a £15 million gap that we have had to solve. The outlook for next year is difficult as we’re only receiving a 1-year settlement and there will still be additional expenditure regarding the COVID pandemic.

Please do not hesitate to contact me and keep safe.

Ian Hudspeth
07956 270 318

Report of District Councillors for Bladon, Blenheim and Woodstock to Woodstock Town Council Tuesday 10th November 2020

Council meeting October 28th

 New Cabinet

Following James Mills’ resignation as Leader of Council, Michele Mead has been elected the new Leader. Her Cabinet is as follows:

Cllr Toby Morris: Resources including Finance and Management

Cllr Suzi Coul: Health and Leisure

Cllr Merilyn Davies: Communities and Housing

Cllr Jeff Haine: Strategic Planning

Cllr David Harvey: Climate Change

Cllr Norman MacRae: Environment

A positive change in gender balance. We shall have to see how they all work together.

Covid-19 Recovery Plan for West Oxfordshire

This Plan is an ambitious one involving £643k towards new officer appointments and activity over a range of areas including supporting market towns, well-being,, economic development, climate change, biodiversity and sustainability. These are the chosen priorities with other initiatives to be pursued when external finance can be assembled or future opportunities arise. We are concerned that the priorities chosen do not include any specific youth support officer nor action to help deal with homelessness although it is possible that the fields included in the chosen priorities could develop some focus on youth within their programmes. Much of the success of the Plan will depend on the quality of the recovery ideas generated and the success of their implementation. Underlying the whole Plan is not just recovery but renewal with the determination that the Plan should have a positive effect in terms of its equality impact and that it will seek to protect and enhance the environment through its effect on climate change and biodiversity.

The initial phase of the Plan is the re-start phase of 0-6 months; a recovery phase of 6-18 months; and a renewal phase of 18-36 months. However, the Plan is intended to inform preparation for the budget 2021/22 and to guide activity. Clearly it will change as time and events unfold.

Live streaming and electronic communication for Council meetings

Two motions which had been passed to the Finance & Management O&S Committee earlier in the year came back to Council for decision. For both items, Council determined not to take any action at the present time. Whilst live streaming of non-virtual meetings in the future would involve quite a lot of re-organisation of the sites where Council and Committees meet, live streaming of the virtual meetings is already taking place. As regards the electronic communication, some Councillors do already ask that they only receive electronic ‘papers’ and all papers have been sent round in electronic version as well as hard copy since the beginning of the pandemic. However lack of funding, concerns about security and the present lack of staff availability to increase IT support for Councillors, were deemed reasons to postpone approval of the motion at this time. These matters are likely to be taken up again once Council returns to more usual forms of business.

One good thing is that Council has agreed that motions are now acceptable at meetings – something which has not been allowed since meetings became virtual – one aspect of democracy restored.

Carbon Action Plan

Council approved the Carbon Action Plan which outlines the pathway to reaching carbon neutral by 2030. The first part of the Plan included a carbon audit of Council buildings and Council activities. Overall Council total emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents were estimated as 7% of the household emissions within West Oxfordshire. Policies in the Plan include actions to reduce these emissions.

Woodstock Parking Report

When questioned at the Council meeting, Cllr MacRae indicated that he expected the Woodstock Parking Report to come to the December Cabinet meeting.

Cabinet meeting October 21st

Developer Contributions Draft Supplementary Planning Document

Cabinet discussions included a draft paper on the developer contributions towards new and enhanced infrastructure to support planned growth in West Oxfordshire. Once CIL is in place there will be several different types of contribution in operation in West Oxfordshire relating to development and developers. The document attempts to explain the interrelationships between planning obligations for s106, CIL, s278 (highways related contributions) and conditions given in planning approval. The overall purpose of the document is to provide all parties with greater certainty and transparency about the likely requirements placed on developments. This document will now go out for a six-week consultation.

Meanwhile we have been trying to find out how much WTC might expect in CIL from future developments in Woodstock. The Finance Officer at Publica estimates the developments along Banbury Road and behind Hill Rise could, together, bring a total of over £300k in CIL to WTC but in instalments as the homes are built.

WODC Cllrs Julian Cooper & Elizabeth Poskitt