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Leaders Statement – Report to the council

Cllr Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, delivered her latest Report to Council at the meeting on 20 May 2021:

It is good to see everyone here this evening for a change although I must confess to having my doubts about the wisdom of having meetings of this size in this form. We do all still need to take great care with the gradual relaxation of restrictions as we are seeing from the latest twist in the Covid story. I said in March that we should avoid meetings of groups of people, especially indoors.  It is particularly difficult for those who have not yet had their vaccinations to decide how to participate. However, I would like to pay tribute to our staff for all the work they have put into planning the arrangements for this evening so that we are all as safe as possible.

And once the current consultation on  online meetings ends (which I hope you have also contributed to!) I really hope that the government will bring forward legislation to allow us to continue having official meetings in the very efficient and more inclusive online form. Going forward pragmatically, many of our day to day meetings will continue in the online format which enables us to save time and money and avoid some travel pollution.

As it’s the Annual Council Meeting today, even though we missed last year’s Annual meeting because of the Covid situation, I wanted to have a quick look back at the past 12 months, which have been among the most challenging our council has faced. I’m very proud of the work everyone has done – councillors and officers alike – to support the most vulnerable in our communities at the time they have needed the most help. We’ve had to adapt and change as an organisation, and that will continue as we support South Oxfordshire to the best of our abilities as we tentatively make our way out of the pandemic. There’s lots to do, but backed by a robust Corporate Plan and with the support of willing councillors, hard-working officers and the strength of our communities, we are in a good place to tackle what lies ahead.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my cabinet members for the tremendous amount of work they put in. Under the scheme of delegation there are just minor adjustments to some of our titles. Cllr Maggie Fillipova-Rivers is to be know as the cabinet member for Community well being, Cllr Andrea Powell is now the cabinet member for Corporate Services, Policy & Programmes

Councillor Pieter-Paul Barker is to take on responsibility for the Legal and Democratic portfolio in addition to his Partnership duties.

And I wish to be known as Leader with responsibility for Climate Change and Nature Recovery. This is to highlight the level of importance which this administration puts on these 2 important streams of our corporate plan.

The Corporate Plan continues to provide the strategic framework for all of our activities and our resource allocation.  The next step is to agree how we will monitor and measure our progress against our key priorities, in an open and transparent way.  Members of the Scrutiny committee will be looking at the proposed Performance Management Framework on Monday, and will make their recommendations to Cabinet in June. This examination will be online so that members of the public can observe if they wish.  The measures will be a mix of numerical values and descriptive, or qualitative narrative.   At our next Council meeting in July we will be receiving the first quarter’s reports within this new way of working for this Council and the results will be available on our website for anyone interested to inspect in accordance with our commitment to openness and accountability. It will be good to see the excellent work, much of which is already progressing, being recognised in this way.

On the wider front, work within Oxfordshire continues on the 2050 plan with a regulation 18 coming soon. And I am pleased to  be attending the first meeting of the new Environment group of the Growth board soon.

Littering has been a huge problem for local councils all over the country since lockdown. There is no way that we can tackle this in the traditional way with more bins or more frequent bin emptying. We need a change of attitude towards litter from everyone. The Waste Team has restarted its support for community litter picks and, with half term coming up at the end of this month, I hope you and your children or grandchildren or those who attend your local schools will be able to participate in our latest Litter bugs campaign. Getting over the message that you should take your litter home with you or at least dispose of it responsibly is really important. I hope that we can all lead on this.   

Thank you.