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Leader’s Report to Council – 15 July 2021

Council Leader Sue Copper delivered the following report to full Council at its meeting on 15 July:

I would like to start by emphasising that actually an increasing number of our officers are still on Covid related work. It is well known that numbers of Covid cases in Oxfordshire and in Oxford in particular are high. So even after some relaxation of rules on Monday we all still need to be wary of the virus and show consideration for all around us.

The Local Plan is now confirmed as being legally in place you will have all heard the update from our Chief Executive on the current position relating to our 5 YHLS. I am looking forward to receiving a list of all the policies in the Local Plan for ease of reference when considering planning applications. As you know, the Local Plan itself is quite a lengthy tome and I am sure all the background information preceding the policies is useful but many would welcome having the actual labelled policies in an easily accessible form. I am sure this will be helpful to the Parish and Town Councils across our District as well.

We have had all member briefings recently on the work of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 and the Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy (OxIS) (Members can see recordings of these if they couldn’t make the sessions.) These sessions were in preparation for some important consultations which are coming up soon:

– The Oxfordshire 2050 plan regulation 18 consultation should be launched on 30th July and run until 10th October. Several councillors will have been involved at looking at this through the scrutiny process. I would like to thank all those who have been involved in the preparation and scrutinising of these quite extensive documents and a lot of work has gone into them. I hope that with the help of the scrutiny committee’s suggestions earlier this week that we shall be able to engage the public positively in this important consultation.

– Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy (OxIS) will launch on 16th July. This consideration of possible infrastructure projects across the county is obviously very tied in with the 2050 Plan which is why the consultations are running concurrently.

-Spatial Framework for the Arc – Vision consultation to be undertaken by the government and we think will be launched next week for 12 weeks. Unlike the other two consultations, this one is of course on the Government’s proposals, but I would encourage all members, and residents, to respond if they can as this document is likely to become part of national planning policy in due course.

I recently chaired the first meeting of the new Environment group of the Growth board.

A background paper produced for this, which is now on our website, gave us a comprehensive list of documents worthy of our consideration on the areas we could be studying.

The group concentrated on forward planning for future work and decided to concentrate initially on climate change as an Oxfordshire Nature Partnership is also being set up which could consider our nature recovery position.

We agreed that we probably need a good uniform data base on carbon emissions across the county to work from.

Before the next meeting of full Council we shall be saying goodbye to 2 very long serving members of our staff. Many of you will know Paul Howden as fount of great wisdom willingly shared on the subject of revenues and benefits. I fear that an amazing amount of knowledge will leave with Paul when he retires in September although he is doing a good job of training and supporting his successor.

Tonight we say goodbye to Margaret Reed our long-standing head of Legal and Democratic and the Council’s Monitoring officer. Her last working day is tomorrow. I’d like to take this opportunity, and I am sure you will all wish to join me, to thank Margaret for her many years of dutiful service ranging from organising elections to helping many parish councillors to comply with codes of conduct as well as making sure that we all operate within the law. Margaret was due to retire last year but as we were all very much tied up with trying to cope with the Covid situation she very kindly agreed to stay on so that we didn’t have to worry about a major recruiting exercise and change of an important person in the council at that time. We are very grateful for her considerate dedication on this.

Now things have eased somewhat we can say thank you very much Margaret for all your efforts on our behalf. In more relaxed times I might well have been raising a glass to you after this, perhaps with beer in it as we have met up from time to time at the Great British Beer Festival normally held in London in early August but not unfortunately this year. But I can at least say may you have a very happy retirement. (I shall invite members to clap – be interesting to see what it sounds like!)