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Leaders Statement – 7 December

As ever, it has been a busy couple of months. 

Recent Cabinet Decisions 

At Cabinet meetings in November and December we made further progress towards our corporate objectives.  

A new Housing Delivery Strategy and Action Plan was adopted that sets out how we are already working to provide the homes that people need and how we increase the provision of social and truly affordable housing  A new timetable for the Joint Local Plan that will enable us to establish housing need in the Vale and increase the proportion of social housing was also agreed.   

Our commitments to working in partnership, being open and transparent are evident in our new Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. This document confirms our responsibilities in terms of the Equality Act but goes much further, setting out our inclusive approach and lets people know that this council values all residents and celebrates diversity.  

Cabinet confirmed our support for our voluntary sector partners delivering advice services to those struggling with the cost of living, with an extension of existing grant arrangements and a new approach to partnership funding to be brought forward as part of budget setting for next year. 

And we also reviewed the council’s latest Quarterly Performance and Climate Action Plan reports – which as you know are published . It is incredible how much this council is achieving despite the tight resources and increasing demand on our services.  

Holding Thames Water to Account 

Cllr Povolotsky and I called a meeting with representatives from Thames Water to challenge them about the number of significant leaks in the Vale. We raised several issues, not least the huge impact that a series of leaks causing closures on the A34 on people living in the Vale – and the traffic chaos that ensued. We secured a commitment to meet regularly to discuss solutions to matters of shared concerns and improve communication – planning applications are likely to be the focus for a meeting early next year.   

Oxfordshire-wide Partnership Progress 

At the Future Oxfordshire Partnership meeting, I welcomed a report mapping how constituent FOP partners are working to deliver the Oxfordshire Strategic Vision, feedback from the official launch of the Oxfordshire Nature Partnership, and ongoing work of the Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership. These agenda items demonstrate a positive evolution from the growth at all costs approach of the “Growth Board” of the past, to a more sustainable and balanced approach to development in our county.

Passing the baton to a New Council Leader 

As the council agenda suggested this is my final leader’s report. I am this evening announcing my resignation at council leader.  

I have accepted an offer of full-time employment for a local charity and will no longer be able to give the role of Council Leader the time and attention it deserves. 

It was an incredibly difficult decision to make as I have absolutely loved being the leader of the Vale Lib Dem Group, and the Leader of the Vale of White Horse District. It is genuinely a role like no other and I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved over the past 4 years. 

I would like to thank every single member and every single officer for the work you do, day in, day out on behalf of our residents. I have learnt a huge amount working with Mark Stone and the Senior Management team, our officers really are the best. My group have been wonderfully supportive. I am especially grateful to my cabinet for your work, challenge, and guidance.  

Thank you to opposition members for your support and scrutiny. I have lost count of the times people have commented on how respectful and civil our council chamber is compared to other councils’. As politics should be, and long may that continue.   

Together, we have made real progress in stabilising the council’s financial position, supported our communities through a global pandemic, and have put tackling the climate emergency at the heart of our decision making.  

I will continue to serve the council as councillor for Botley and Sunningwell Ward and look forward to supporting my successor with the next stage of our council’s journey.