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Leader’s Statement – 6 October 2021

Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, delivered her Leader’s Statement to Council at the meeting on 6 October 2021

Supporting Vulnerable People

It is a particularly busy time for the council with a huge amount of work to support our communities happening in line with our corporate plan. 

Since our last council meeting, we have had the first weekly draw of the White Horse Community Lottery, which is already raising money for local good causes. I am keen to encourage more to sign up to raise funds and promote the vital work being done by volunteers and charities across the district. 

We have agreed to house a further three Afghan families in the Vale and are working closely with the county council and Asylum Welcome to ensure they have the support they need to stay safe and settle here. 

And as we prepare to mark World Homeless day on 10 October, we are highlighting the incredibly successful approach that our housing team take to prevent homelessness and end rough sleeping in our district. Thank you to all of our officers who are already achieving significantly better outcomes for those threatened with homelessness that other councils in the county, and indeed the country.  I am proud of the fact our officers continue to innovate. 

Women’s Cycle Race

I had the pleasure of attending the finish of this year’s Women’s Tour on Monday. Such a fantastic opportunity to see elite international cyclists in action so I was really pleased to see so many schools and residents in Abingdon, Farmoor, Wootton and Cumnor come out to support the competitors as they passed through the Vale. Thanks to our Chair and Cycling Champion for representing the council at the official start of the race, our officers who helped run this event and to members who got involved and supported the teams along the route. Oxfordshire will be hosting the tour for at least one more year.  

Garden Waste Service up and running 

Biffa are now emptying the brown bins and extra side waste – all be it at a different frequency than usual. All customers had a letter or email setting out their new collection dates – which are currently every 4 weeks but are of course being kept under close review – and the new timetables are on the Vale’s website. Cabinet are being briefed about IT solutions to support wider customer service improvements on Friday now that we have manage to bring the exchequer service and system for this work in house from Capita.

Local Government Finance

Less positive is the financial situation this council faces as we approach budget setting for 2022-23. As one of the leanest councils in the country in terms of staffing and with the 15th lowest band D council tax income, we are renewing calls for government to fund local councils properly. I am proud of the high quality services we provide, but this cannot continue without funding to cover our cost. I continue to work with colleagues across Oxfordshire and with the Local Government Association and as a member of the South-East Councils Executive Board, to call for a multi-year funding settlement so that local councils can plan service delivery, and more flexibility to raise funds ourselves.  

With a new Secretary of State it seems like a good time to renew these calls for a fair deal for councils and our residents.

Cabinet Pushes forward with Corporate Priorities

In the meantime, the Vale Cabinet are working hard to further our corporate plan objectives to tackle the climate emergency, plan for the homes and infrastructure communities need and support vulnerable people while managing our finance efficiently and working with partners.   

At last weeks Cabinet meeting alone we agreed:  

  • recommendations on CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) Charging that could raise an additional £6m from developments to pay for infrastructure
  • new policy around developer contributions (Section 106)
  • a new Tree Planting Policy to enable planting on Vale owned land
  • to commission advice services for residents in a more coordinated and transparent way and to protect funding for advice services as resident face increased financial hardship
  • a new Memorandum of Understanding with Oxfordshire LEP in relation to Enterprise Zones
  • a new Procurement Strategy that ensures our values around ethical investment and climate are part of our supply chains and procurement decisions
  • a disposals policy for council assets – following a huge mapping exercise of the council’s land and buildings. This significant piece of work will open doors to delivering on many other corporate projects in the coming months and years.

There really is a huge amount of work happening at this council and I thank our officers, members, partners and communities for your commitment to making this district an even better place to live, work and visit.