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Leader’s Report – Annual Council Meeting 16 May 2024

Today I have circulated the names of the new cabinet which will be responsible for implementing the current and soon the new corporate plan.

There are 3 new members of the cabinet and I would like to thank those stepping down: Cllrs Sue Cooper, Andrea Powell and Freddie van Mierlo for their work. You will see that I have split the Community Wellbeing portfolio into two, Housing and Communities, as the amount of work that we are doing in that area was becoming too much even for the ‘force of nature’ that is Cllr Maggie Filipova-Rivers.

Although today’s meeting is largely formal, we should remind ourselves that the work of the council goes on.

Protect and restore our natural world

Wallingford Beach has just been granted bathing water status which is a recognition of its importance as a bathing site and a commitment to monitor the quality of the water there. I would like to thank the team and especially our Thames Champion, Cllr Jo Robb, for her work in achieving this.

Recognising the very real threat to invertebrates in the district and throughout the country we continue to look at the way we manage our own land. Following on from our Let it Bee project last year, we will be designating areas as Meadows to encourage wildflowers which provide the food for these endangered species.

Openness and accountability

It is always good to have the work of the council recognised by others and the innovative and interactive public consultation on the Joint Local Plan has been shortlisted for an award in the Stakeholder Engagement category at the 2024 Planning Awards.

Action on climate change

Whilst we continue to implement our own measures on climate change, decarbonising our buildings, providing EV charging in our car parks and promoting car sharing clubs, much of our approach has been to work countywide through the Future Oxfordshire Partnership’s environment group which I chair. The Oxfordshire Net Zero Route Map and Action Plan, which I would encourage you to look at includes projects such as: Local Area Energy Planning and Nature Based Carbon Offsetting as well as looking at approaches to funding climate schemes at scale.

Economic and community wellbeing

The Economic Development team has been implementing work funded by the Shared Prosperity Fund and the Rural Prosperity Fund to support the small and medium sized businesses which make up the major part of the district’s economy. We have signed up to the Oxfordshire Inclusive Economic Partnership with their commitment to social value in procurement policy.

Yesterday I joined a group of about 200 school pupils to see a performance of ‘Chelsea’s Story’, a play for schools about the risks of sexual exploitation. This is one of many projects with schools and community groups to improve mental and physical wellbeing in our community. Projects such as You Move and Move Together help hundreds of people lead more active lives.

Homes and infrastructure to meet people’s needs

The Joint Local Plan is the main vehicle for delivering homes and infrastructure to meet people’s needs and I would like to thank everyone who took part in the recent consultation, nearly 1,300 responses in total. These all need to be considered along with the further evidence which is being gathered before we move on to the next phase.

But we recognise that the market will not provide everything that people need and we are now progressing with our own Housing Delivery Plan which means that we now have people living in houses owned by South Oxfordshire District Council. We also have our Empty Homes Policy to bring more houses into use and Our Housing Enforcement Policy to ensure that rental homes are of a decent standard.

Investment that rebuilds our financial viability

This has been done against a background of transformation and financial management which has allowed us to end the year within the budget agreed by the council.

Cllr David Rouane

Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council