Leader’s Report – 18 July 2019

Released on July 21, 2019

Leader’s report to South Oxfordshire Council Meeting, Thursday 18 July 2019 

Importance of climate change - new committee and within the Local Plan

I said in my last report that having declared a climate emergency, we needed to find ways to put reducing our impact on climate change at the heart of every decision we make. You will have seen from an earlier item on this agenda, and I am very pleased, that we are setting up a Climate Emergency Advisory Committee. although a snappier name might be nicer in future! This will have wide ranging remit to advise the cabinet on matters relating to the climate emergency and ecological crisis. We need to look at all areas where we have power or influence to see if we can deliver our services in a more environmentally friendly way.. I really look forward to having some useful, practical ideas from this committee which we can start to implement as soon as possible.  Of necessity these will need to be low cost, cost free or those that might make savings.  And of course much of our work going forward with Local Planning will have to address these environmental needs.

5 Councils contract

Work continues on trying to improve the Five Councils Partnership Corporate Services contract. Under revised arrangements we now need to have 2 members on the associated Joint Committee so David Turner and I will be our members. David has more knowledge of the past history of this contract than many of us. You may be interested to know that manning of reception comes from Capita back in house with effect from 1 August. 

LGA Conference

Earlier this month I attended the Local Government Conference. It was certainly very interesting, especially meeting up with a number of other new leaders in similar positions to myself. There was much talk about climate change issues with suggestions on possible ways forward. But the main focus was on the need for more resources for Local Government and with more power to be devolved. Some councils are creating income streams from commercial activities in their area and many more are exploring this as indeed we hope to do. The address from the minister, James Brokenshire, exactly filled the time allotted with no time for questions so we did not learn anything about the proposed spending review and in fact there seems to be widespread doubt that the review will take place this year while the government is preoccupied with other issues. 

Growth Board and Leaders’ meetings

Since our last Council meeting there has been one meeting of the Growth Board, which I am chairing for the current year, and 2 meetings of the Oxfordshire councils’ leaders. As you are probably aware, the Growth Board is currently undertaking a review of its functions, membership, ways of working and communicating. I am not alone in being quite keen on a name change as the name “Growth Board” scares many people conjuring up pictures of vast numbers of houses and roads being inflicted on our county. Board implies that we direct whereas although there are representatives of industry, academia and Homes England, the only voting members are the county, city and district council leaders who cannot commit their areas to anything without authorisation from their council so very little voting takes place. Really, I like to think we are about working together for the good of all our residents and areas. With the current focus on climate change and the need to look after our environment and not squander its resources there could be more input from environmental groups. So, any name change to include words such as sustainability will need to wait until our future remit is clearer; hopefully in the not too distant future.

I am sure you will appreciate that the past couple of months have been a time of intense learning for me and my cabinet, not to mention for our wonderful officers who have had to explain everything for us. Our education will no doubt continue as we wish to work on a basis of open, well informed and evidence-based principles. 

Cllr Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council