Leader’s Report to Council – Tuesday 22 December 2020

The following report was given by Cllr Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council to full Council at their meeting on Tuesday 22 December.

As is almost customary this year I start with a Covid update.

I was going to start with the official figures for the week ending 18 December which were double those for the previous week but today the numbers are now in a different league going much higher and faster than before.

One of our members Cllr Sue Roberts has Covid so we wish her well. She is now in day 5 and is just starting to feel slightly better although still very tired.

Now for some better news, vaccinations are well under way in Oxfordshire. We certainly need to start seeing a light at the end of this awful tunnel we have been in since March. But we must stay vigilant. Unfortunately, this week’s figures are showing an upturn in the number of Coronavirus cases in South Oxfordshire, and in all age groups. So, it is unlikely that we shall be improving our position in the tier system in the short term. In fact, it looks as though we could soon be going into tier 4.

As before, thanks and credit to all those involved with our amazing community hubs and our community support groups.

In Oxfordshire, we have a reputation for working well together. Our staff have been involved in many meetings with other councils over wider areas and the health authorities to arrange efficient joint working on vaccination provision and coping with the virus outbreaks through enabling our environmental health & housing the homeless teams to work cooperatively.  We also cooperate on grant funding. More recently our chief executive, Mark Stone has been leading teams planning the mass vaccinations which are shortly to be rolled out. People and places need to be organised. Please tell people not to just turn up for a vaccination if they haven’t had a named invitation!

Our communications team have been really busy, again working with others across Oxfordshire.  The message remains, please be sensible – listen to the guidance – stay home. If you need to meet, outside is safer. And encourage others to do likewise.  Perhaps also think of those who may be lonely and possibly scared. Maybe try contacting those you know by phone, or a cheery word over the fence to a lone neighbour? We should all look out for each other.

Business Support

Our teams are helping businesses survive and adhere to the guidelines. They are making businesses aware of the financial support packages that are available, some of which we’re administering and some of which are done by Capita, and providing other advice. They do have a very comprehensive and useful website at svbs.co.uk if you know of any local businesses needing help.

My grateful thanks to all of our officers involved and especially to those who have been working well above their allotted hours in this somewhat hectic lifestyle we have at the moment.

Local Plan

Following the decision at the recent Council meeting on adoption we can now hopefully at least move on. Once the 6 weeks wait to see what might come forward in the way of judicial reviews has gone and our officers have sorted out any final editing necessary LP2035 will officially be in place. Now there will be work to do on new or revised supplementary guidance for this and an updated Design Guide is under way.

Improving standards of energy efficiency, progress towards zero carbon building, provision of more renewable energy sources etc will be looked for in applications coming forward.

There will be plenty for the planning committee to look out for and indeed for all members to be aware of in their own wards.  And there will be work to do on preparing for the next Local Plan.

Civil Parking Enforcement

Thank you for progressing this this evening. As has been said it long process setting the system up. Let us hope that the next steps can proceed smoothly so that we can start delivering later next year.

Budget

This year, once again we only have government spending lined up for one year.  A small positive is that New Homes Bonus will continue for one more year – although like this year, without legacy payments. Along with fellow council leaders I will continue to raise the uncertainty of local government funding at every opportunity and echo the Local Government Association’s calls for more certainty so that we are able to plan better for our future service provision.  Ten days ago, all councillors had the opportunity to attend a briefing about the approach to be taken over budgeting for 2020/21. The intention going forwards will be to have greater alignment with our Corporate Plan.

So finally, the Corporate Plan

Our corporate plan is starting to lead the work of the council. With officers’ work programmes and hopefully budgets aligning with it, it is really good to be able to look forward and start delivering for our district and its people.

Let us hope for some peace and please stay safe over Christmas and hope for a happier new year.

Cllr Sue Cooper