Proposals for better local government for Oxfordshire have been formally supported by a unanimous vote at the Vale of White Horse District Council – offering real power and influence to every local community in the county.
The joint proposal: ‘A new council for a Better Oxfordshire’, makes the case for abolishing the existing two-tier structure of six councils - replacing them with one single council for Oxfordshire.
The detailed plans by Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire District Councils and Oxfordshire County Council, are the result of joint working on a revised proposal, following engagement with thousands of residents and community groups across the county – who support a new council, providing it is more local and offers better joined up services.
Seventy per cent of Oxfordshire residents agree with the draft proposal to abolish all six councils and replace them with one unitary council for the whole of Oxfordshire. This result is based on an independent representative household survey commissioned by Oxfordshire County Council.
Oxfordshire at its heart – the Better Oxfordshire proposal sets out how parish and town councils will play a bigger role under a new single council. Once established, the council will set up between 15 and 20 local area boards covering market towns and surrounding areas across Oxfordshire – giving communities a strong voice and ensuring local matters are heard. They will have significant budgets and the ability to make important local decisions such as prioritising investment in local transport and tackling anti-social behaviour.
There will be fewer councillors, with each unitary councillor representing their community as a local area board member and as a councillor for the new council, giving them a much greater say in their services than under the current two-tier system. Cllr Matthew Barber, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council said: “The Better Oxfordshire proposal will ensure Oxfordshire continues to be a great place to live, work and bring up a family. Importantly it will join up important services such as housing, social care and homelessness, enabling the new council to prioritise people’s needs and plan effectively. We are working jointly with South Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council to ensure local communities play a big role with the new council. A single council for Oxfordshire will be simpler, more local and will deliver better services at a lower cost. We have ensured that these revised proposals provide for more local area boards, so that communities across Oxfordshire can have their say on important local issues, from setting car parking charges and tackling anti-social behaviour.”
The survey results show that overall 70% of people surveyed agreed with abolishing the six councils and setting up a unitary council, and 20% disagreed. The majority agreed with abolishing the six councils and setting up a unitary council in all district and city council areas, including those districts which are actively campaigning who disagreed:
· 78% in West Oxfordshire
· 75% in South Oxfordshire
· 69% in Oxford
· 67% in Vale of White Horse
· 63% in Cherwell.
You can read the full proposal: A new council for a Better Oxfordshire at: www.betteroxfordshire.org
Residents living in the Vale of White Horse district will have a chance to influence how decisions are made on local planning applications, as the district council consults on part two of its local plan. The council adopted part one of its local plan in December last year – this explained where the main housing sites in the district could be built and identified the infrastructure that the district will need to support them.
Part two of the plan includes the detailed policies the council will use when making day to day decisions on planning applications. It will also explain how it proposes to accommodate 2,200 homes for Oxford that they have agreed to plan for within the Vale.
Residents can read the draft version of the Local Plan 2031 Part Two and find out how to make comments at www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/LPP2. Paper copies are available at libraries and council offices. The consultation is open for comments until 5pm on 4 May.
The Vale is holding a range of public events for residents to find out more about the plan and ask the council’s planning policy officers any questions they have. If you would like to take part in a public meeting please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our Customer Service Team on 01235 422600 (there is no need to book exhibitions).
Saturday 11 March 10am-2pm
Jubilee Room, Pump House, Faringdon
Tuesday 14 March 1-6pm
Main hall, Wootton and Dry Sandford Community Centre
Tuesday 14 March 7-8.30pm Arrival time – 6.30pm
Main hall, Wootton and Dry Sandford Community Centre
Wednesday 15 March 11am-2pm
Cricket Pavillion Harwell Campus
Drop-in Exhibition and Public Meeting
Monday 20 March Exhibition 5.30-7.30pm Public Meeting 6-7.30pm Arrival time 5.30pm
Public Health England Building, Harwell Campus
Saturday 18 March 10am-2pm
St Helen’s Church Centre, Abingdon
Tuesday 21 March 1-6.30pm
Large Hall, Southmoor Village Hall, Kingston Bagpuize
Saturday 25 March 10am-2pm
The Barn, Vale and Downland Museum, Wantage
(joint event with South Oxfordshire District Council) Wednesday 5 April 1-7pm
A better unitary proposal for Oxfordshire
As you might have seen, Oxfordshire County Council has launched a proposal entitled “One Oxfordshire” calling for a single unitary council to be created for the whole of Oxfordshire.
My priority is to ensure that any new council gets the best of both economies of scale, but just as importantly that the importance of local communities are recognised. Local decision making will be key in making a single county unitary a success.
On this basis, the Vale of White Horse District Council is working with South Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council on a joint proposal for a single unitary authority, which will transform the way we deliver our services to people of Oxfordshire for the better.
Having raised this issue last year it is clear that a single unitary council will provide the best prospects for maintaining high quality services and secure badly needed investment in infrastructure, including housing, roads and health care. The Vale of White Horse District Council will play an important role in developing the final joint proposals for a unitary council and will ensure they have a strong local influence for our communities and offer value for money.
Oxfordshire County Council are asking residents across Oxfordshire for their views on these proposals – you can find out more here.
The final proposal will be submitted to government in the spring subject to approval by our Full Council. We will keep residents updated on progress and decisions made.
My 10k Monster Race
I’m running a 10k obstacle race to raise funds for for SpecialEffect because of the fantastic work they do to improve lives.
In 2016 I ran the 5k Monster Race for Special Effect. Now I am challenging myself to two laps! 10 kilometres (that’s just over 6 miles in old money) through mud, icy water and over obstacles that seem to get higher the more exhausted you are.
Thank you again to those who supported me last time and I hope you will sponsor me for the 2017 Monster Race by clicking www.justgiving.com/fundraising/matthews10kmonster.
Didcot Garden Town masterplan unveiled
Over the past few months, town and parish councillors, schools, businesses, landowners, partners and residents from Didcot and the surrounding villages have all given their thoughts on what a new Garden Town could include.
Over 4,000 comments have been made, through face to face meetings and via the dedicated Didcot Garden Town website – which has helped to shape the proposals set out in the draft masterplan.
The main features include a better connected town centre, with safe cycle routes to multiple locations, including the Harwell Campus, Mowbray Fields nature reserve, Didcot Parkway, allotments and Culham, and a new Leisure Centre in the North East of the town. There is also potential to upgrade the station and the access to the railway museum.
Ensuring green spaces between the edge of the town and the surrounding villages is also an important part of our proposals.
The draft plans have been published on the Didcot Garden Town website www.didcotgardentown.org where everyone who lives, works and visits Didcot and the surrounding villages to comment on these proposals.
The final draft Didcot Garden Town Delivery Plan will be published for public consultation in the spring of 2017, followed by a six week consultation.
Extending East-West Rail to Grove and beyond
Ed Vaizey MP has successfully brought together MP’s, Local Authories and LEP’s (Local Enterprise Partnerships) from Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Swindon to take forward exciting proposals to open a new rail line west of Oxford, running through to Bristol.
The new rail line could be an extension of the already planned East-West line linking Oxford to Cambridge and could include a new “parkway” station at Grove as well others in Corsham and Royal Wooton Bassett.
The new group plans to meet regularly to develop concrete proposals which could be taken forward by government.
The new link between Cambridge and Oxford will provide a vital economic corridor between two of the most vibrant parts of Britain. Our proposals involve extending that link through Wantage/Grove, Swindon and Wiltshire, to provide vital connectivity between Bristol, Swindon and Oxford, linking up communities and stimulating economic growth. In particular this could significantly relieve pressure on the A420 between Oxford and Swindon.
Operation Hornet: One of the largest frauds ever investigated
Thames Valley Police, together with the Crown Prosecution Service, has just completed the investigation and prosecution of one of the largest fraud cases it has ever undertaken.
The sum of money lost by HBoS as a result of the actions of a corrupt senior employee and others was at the very least £250M. He and his fellow conspirators embarked on a spending spree involving yachts in the Mediterranean, villas in Barbados and Majorca, prostitutes, overseas bank accounts, and a general high life. This has been at the expense of the shareholders of the bank, and many medium and small companies which have been bankrupted and ruined. Little will be recovered.
This case highlights the lack of coherence in tackling major fraud in this country. The case is estimated to have cost Thames Valley more than £7m and with finite resources this puts additional pressure on police officer time that could be used to tackle other issues.
I add my congratulations to the Thames Valley Police officers and staff who have pursued this case to a successful conclusion over the last 6 years. It has been an uphill struggle at times, and their persistence has been rewarded.
Honouring Sargeant Edward Mott VC 100 years on
Towards the end of last month I had the privilege to join over 100 others at St Peter's Church in Drayton for a very special service. We were gathered to commemorate the remarkable achievements of one particular 'son of Drayton'. Edward Mott was born in the village in 1893 and after joining the army in 1910 he served in the First World War. Whilst still a corporal he earned the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) at Gallipoli. He was shot whilst carrying his injured commanding officer and leading his company against enemy fire. He was later sent back to Gallipoli and was shot again, this time in the face!
For most people that would have been more than enough, but Edward was then sent to the Somme. It was whilst serving on the Western Front that he earned the Victoria Cross.
The citation on his award read:
"Although severely wounded in the eye, Sergeant Mott made a rush for the gun and after a fierce struggle, seized the gunner and took him prisoner, capturing the gun. It was due to the dash and initiative of this NCO that the left flank attack succeeded.”
He survived the war and returned to live locally in the Vale. During the Second World War he served as a guard at RAF Milton Hill. Edward Mott's story is truly inspiring and the few paragraphs here do not do it justice. As the Bishop of Dorchester, who presided at the service, reminded the congregation - Seargant Mott's accomplishments and the modesty with which he bore his bravery are testimony to the difference individuals can make. We should all strive to show the kind of bravery displayed by Edward, whatever our background or role in life.
Have your say on the Community Infrastructure Levy
Residents in the Vale of White Horse have until Thursday 26 January to have their say on changes to the way funding is secured for new and improved infrastructure in the district.
The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) will allow Vale of White Horse District Council to raise funds from new housing and business developments for infrastructure projects which support the growth of the district. This could include new schools, transport improvements, flood defences, and community, leisure, and health and social care facilities.
For further information and to have your say please www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/planningpolicy.
Southern Oxfordshire New Business Competition 2017
Are you a new business that has achieved great success in the last two years? If so the Southern Oxfordshire New Business Competition is for you! The winner will receive a 12 month package of support including a free serviced office or workshop, expert marketing and social media advice, IT consultancy and support, skilled accountancy services, a full programme of business mentoring and publicity.
Applications are now open and close 28 February 2017. Competition details and application form are available at www.SONBC.co.uk.
Vale welcomes second Syrian refugee family
Vale of White Horse District Council has welcomed its second Syrian refugee family to the district, with four more families due to arrive later this year.
The council is committed to taking in six Syrian refugee families altogether and are calling for more private landlords to get in touch. They are offering a good package of support as an incentive.
The package of support includes; two months deposit; two month’s rent-in-advance; a tenancy securement fee; direct payment of rent to the landlord and ongoing tenancy support.
Private landlords who might be able to offer suitable three-bedroom properties to help refugee families are asked to contact Vale of White Horse District Council on 01235 422442.
Grants for community events
Community groups in the Vale of White Horse looking to stage local festivals can claim up to £1,000 grant funding - but they need to apply by Wednesday 1 March.
Vale of White Horse District Council which offers grants to non-profit community organisations, still has funds available to support local festivals taking place over the next 12 months. The funding can cover up to 75 per cent of the total cost of staging festivals open to the local community.
Events the council has helped to fund recently include the Abingdon Cycle Festival, ATOM (Oxfordshire Science Festival), ffennel Festival, and Wantage Summer Festival.
If you need help to fund a local festival in the Vale of White Horse visit www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/grants
Sign up for 2017 Business Breakfast
Vale of White Horse District Council invites you to our 2017 Business Breakfast, held at De Vere Oxford Thames Hotel in Sandford-on-Thames, just outside Oxford, on Tuesday 21st February 2017 from 7:30am - 10:00am.
Registration opens at 7.30am and a complimentary light breakfast will be available before the first presentations at 8:00am.
Find out more and register for this free event at www.matthewbarber.co.uk/events/2017-business-breakfast
New powers for to reduce noise nuisance in Abingdon
Police in Abingdon could get new powers to fine people who cause vehicle related noise nuisance.
This follows concern over incidents in the town’s car parks where the revving of engines, loud bass stereos and screeching tyres have created a disturbance for people living nearby, and caused some residents to feel intimidated.
To help tackle the problem, Vale of White Horse District Council is proposing a new Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO). This would allow police to fine people who cause vehicle related noise nuisance. It also includes existing powers to help police tackle alcohol related anti-social behaviour.
People in Abingdon can have their say on the proposed Public Spaces Protection Order by visiting www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/AbingdonPSPO. Comments close at midnight on Monday 6 February 2017.