Woodstock Town Council

Incorporated by Royal Charter of Henry VI in 1453

                                      Mayor's Page

Town Mayor and West Oxfordshire District Councillor Dr Elizabeth Poskitt's
and West Oxfordshire District Councillor Julian Cooper's Joint Report for March 2017.

There was a District Council by-election on March 9th in the Hailey, Minster Lovell & Leafield ward (vacant since the death of Cllr Warwick Robinson last autumn). The results are tabled below. The gain by the Liberal Democrats creates a slight change in the distribution of Council wards with the Conservatives having 40 Councillors, the Liberal Democrats having five and Labour having four councillors. 

Candidate

Votes

Brendan Kay (Conservative)

504

Calvert McGibbon (Labour)

71

Kieran Mullins (Liberal Democrat)

567 - Elected

James Stanley (UKIP)

35

Andrew Wright (Green)

38

Turnout was 38.12%
Clllr Robert Courts has now announced his resignation from WODC. This resignation has been expected since Cllr Court’s election to Parliament in the autumn 2016. The election in his ward (The Bartons) will presumably take place the same time as all the County Councillors are elected on May 4th.  

A Unitary Council for Oxfordshire
We hope some of you were able to attend the hastily convened meeting in Woodstock Town Hall on March 13th when our County Cllr and Leader of OCC, Ian Hudspeth, very graciously gave some of his time to discussing OCC’s latest proposal for a Unitary Council for Oxfordshire. We recognise the interest this matter is raising with residents and the feelings many have that they do not have enough information to have views on the matter.  The ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of a Unitary Council are not clear. Cllr.  James Mills, Leader of WODC , has listed what he believes will be lost if WODC goes for a county wide Unitary:

                Loss of low council tax
                Free parking
                Proposed A40 improvements
                Local knowledge and a local voice
                Leisure centres and community facilities
                Dix Pit Waste Recycling Centre
                The buoyant local economy

There is little evidence to justify these concerns. The Unitary Council is not OCC taking over the rest of the county but a new Council which will allow some diversity in the way different parts of the county organise issues such as payment, or not, for car parking.

The Unitary local government proposal was discussed at WODC Council on Wednesday February 22nd. Although Council overwhelming approved rejection of OCC’s overtures to join with the Unitary Oxfordshire proposal, the Liberal Democrats voted in favour of exploring a more positive approach to the unitary concept and did not feel they could support WODC spending a further £25,000 on encouraging residents to oppose the  unitary concept. WODC preferred to continue exploring the devolution concept which they had been discussing with the County and with the other districts. The Liberal Democrats felt the quality of the letter sent by the Leader to residents was biased with no evidence for its claims.

You can read the latest Unitary proposal at www.westoxon.gov.uk, clicking on the Unitary tag:  ‘Once established, the council will set up between 15 and 20 local area boards covering market towns and surrounding areas across Oxfordshire – giving communities a strong voice and ensuring local matters are heard. They will have significant budgets and the ability to make important local decisions such as prioritising investment in local transport and tackling anti-social behaviour. There will be fewer councillors, with each unitary councillor representing their community as a local area board member and as a councillor for the new council, giving them a much greater say in their services than under the current two-tier system. Parish and town councillors will also have a place on their local area board, along with other public service representatives, such as the police - to enhance community safety’.

By the time we discuss this matter at WTC on Tuesday March 14th, OCC may have submitted the proposal to the Minister of Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, with the support of the Councils of the Vale of the White Horse and of South Oxfordshire as there is a deadline for the current round of applications for unitary local government.  The application will then be reviewed by the Minister who will give his preliminary view on whether he is mindful to support the concept in the autumn.  Following this there will be a period of public consultation before the final decision.  It is not necessary for all relevant Councils to be in support of the Unitary concept for the minister to approve the concept – nor for it to come into force. Oxford City is strongly against the unitary concept.  It would not be precedent for the County outside the city to be accepted as a unitary and the city to stand alone.  If that were the case, there is the worry that Oxford city may wish to extend its boundary to include all the Green Belt ……so, interesting times ahead. 

WODC Cllrs Julian Cooper and Elizabeth Poskitt

 


Oxfordshire County Councillor Ian Hudspeth's March 2017 Report

EXTRA FUNDING SECURED IN ADDITION TO 2017/18 BUDGET PROPOSALS
The County Council set its budget for 2017/18 on Tuesday 14
th
February. Ahead of the meeting, it was announced the Council had £1,957,000 extra, over and above the position reported to the Cabinet in January, as a result of better than expected business rate collections, council tax collection fund surpluses and a higher than expected grant. The County is proposing to hold £926,000 of this until the 2018/19 financial year, to deal with future pressures. Cabinet proposes to spend the rest of the money (£1.03m) in this financial year in the following ways:

·    £170,000 to be spent on additional grass-cutting work on highway verges. This is an area of spend that has been reduced in recent years.

·    £250,000 one-off funding initially for a pilot Communities Fund for parishes and towns to bid for matched funding schemes following changes/reductions for funding for services.

·    £600,000 additional funding for children’s social care – a part of the council that has been exempted from cuts since 2010 but has continued to experience significant rising demand on services in common with children’s social care departments across England.

·    £11,000 increase on the Council’s Flood Defence Levy.

OPEN ACCESS CHILDREN’S SERVICES TO CONTINUE AT 34 BUILDINGS
Start-up funding for 12 more community schemes to run open access services at children’s centres has been approved by OCC. The proposals, which will receive a total of £305,883, are among the latest to be considered as part of the transition from council-funded to community-led services at children’s centre locations. Community services will complement the council’s new service for 0-19 year-olds, which will meet the needs and aspirations of children at risk of abuse and neglect in Oxfordshire, and ensure that families who need extra help are identified at an early stage. When added to previously considered applications, the approval of these 12 schemes means funded plans are now in place for services such as ‘stay and play’ to continue at 18 children’s centres, with business cases at a further six centres supported in principle but deferred to the final round of the Transition Fund for more work. Added to this, open access sessions will also continue at the eight Children and Family Centres and two satellite centres at the heart of the council’s new Children’s Service. In total, it means a combination of council-funded and community-led solutions for open access services are now confirmed or supported in principle at 34 buildings across the county – with more to come when applications for the final round of transition funding are considered.

FIX MY STREET’ WEBSITE UPGRADE
Over the last six months OCC has been working hard to make Fix My Street work more effectively. The new service will launch this month. It will improve the quality and consistency of public reports, as well as OCC internal processes for closing down reports, making it easier to reliably see what's going on in a given area. Members of the public who consistently give good information can be rewarded with 'trusted reporter' status, meaning OCC will fast track future reports to the contractor, resulting in quicker resolution for the resident and reduced effort for the inspectors. Before the new system launches, OCC needs to deal with reports that are still marked as 'open' in the current version. This means: 1) Leave open anything which has been active within the last 12 months; 2) Close anything older than 2 years; 3) For reports between 1 and 2 years old, notify the reporter by email that OCC intends to close their report, but give them the option to 're-open' the issue if they believe it is still a problem.

EXTENSION OF FIRE & AND AMBULANCE SERVICE CO-RESPONDING
OCC Fire and Rescue Service has been working in partnership with South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) co-responding in the community for over 12 years. More recently OCC has also been working with Thames Valley Fire and Rescue partners to undertake a collaborative co-responding trial. (Co-Responders are firefighters trained by SCAS to provide a ‘first response’ to specific medical emergencies where there is an immediate threat to life prior to an emergency ambulance arriving on scene.) The trial has been a success with crews attending approximately 1500 medical emergency calls per year. To further support communities Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service are working in partnership with SCAS towards all fire engines within communities being available for cardiac arrests, so that casualties across Oxfordshire can receive the quickest available defibrillator and casualty support.

CADDY CAMPAIGN TO REDUCE OXFORDSHIRE’S FOOD WASTE
Residents are being urged to do their bit to make sure food waste doesn’t end up on the scrap heap. At the moment it is thought that around 30% of the county’s food waste is put in waste bins rather than the food caddy – a figure all Oxfordshire's councils hope to cut significantly. To do this, the councils have launched a campaign with Agrivert, the company who process the county's food waste, to encourage residents to recycle more of the food they would otherwise throw away. It is two and a half times cheaper to process food waste if it is put into a food waste caddy for recycling or composting than if the same waste is put in the general rubbish bin. There’s lots of advice on how to reduce food waste and information on how it is recycled at www.recycleforoxfordshire.org.uk/lovefoodhatewaste.
 

County Councillor David Nimmo Smith, Cabinet member for Environment, said: “It is as easy to recycle food waste as it is to throw it in the main rubbish bin – but the benefits of recycling can be quite startling. Food waste collected for recycling is treated at Agrivert’s anaerobic digestion plants in Oxfordshire, and used to generate enough electricity for over 9,000 homes, as well as making fertiliser for use on local farms."

UNITARY UPDATE
At the end of January, OCC launched ‘A Fresh Start for Oxfordshire’, a draft of OCC's intended proposal for DCLG on how and why a single unitary authority for Oxfordshire could work. The full proposal can be found online at www.oneoxfordshire.org. Since then, there have been meetings with the Leaders of South Oxfordshire and Vale Districts Councils and it has been agreed that the three councils will move forward with a joint proposal for a single unitary council across Oxfordshire. A statement has been issued to parish councils.

 

Ian Hudspeth
07956 270318
Ian.hudspeth@oxfordshire.gov.uk