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Leader’s statement to Council 9 December 2020

New Corporate Plan Projects Underway

Since adopting our new Corporate Plan, Cabinet members have been working with officers to prioritise the projects and getting stuck into delivery. As we have heard this evening, Cabinet is pushing forward with Civil Parking Enforcement for the District, the new website is live and looking great, we have insourced Grounds Maintenance work to increase efficiency and flexibility. At the next cabinet meeting on 18 December we will be debating the community infrastructure funding we received from developers and how we can better spend it to meet our corporate objectives and the needs of residents.

Oxfordshire Strategic Vision

The Oxfordshire Strategic Vision will guide and shape development and services across the county for years to come. It was great to see so many members taking part in the members’ briefing and feedback session we held to inform the Council’s response to the consultation being run by the Growth Board. The draft Vision has been heavily influenced by our OxPlan2050 sub-group rep, Cllr Catherine Webber. It reflects many of our aims for the Vale, but please do encourage residents and organisations across the district to respond to the consultation via the Oxfordshire Growth Board website before 3 January.

Spending Review

On a less positive note, the government have once again delayed their fair funding review. This means we have yet another year of uncertainty. It makes budget setting harder as we try to cope with the financial impact of Covid on the council and our communities. A small positive is that New Homes Bonus will continue for one more year – although like this year, without legacy payments. I will continue to raise the uncertainty of local government funding at every opportunity and echo the LGA’s calls for increased funding for councils and more certainty so that we are able to plan for our future service provision.

Covid Thanks

While the brilliant work to create Covid vaccines brings hope for the coming year, we need to manage expectations.

Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many Vale residents that have worked on the development of the Oxford vaccine, and local scientists and medical professionals who have got us to the point of having an effective vaccine.

In terms of roll-out, this council is working closely with Oxford Health who are coordinating the vaccination program locally, but it will take many months before the general population will be able to access the vaccination. This is the biggest vaccination program that has been ever carried out and local councils will be involved in this huge logistical operation that is likely to run for most of next year.

In the meantime, while lockdown seems to have slowed infection rates, we still have a way to go before Oxfordshire can move out of Tier 2. I ask for your support in reminding everyone to stick to the social distancing rules to keep themselves and their neighbours safe – especially over Christmas.

We have worked closely with Oxfordshire County Council to ensure that families entitled to Free School Meals receive food vouchers during the Christmas break and other families and individuals have the food and supplies they need over Christmas and over half-term and Easter holidays as well. Getting this scheme set up is a real success, and our officers, again, have played a leading role in making this happen.

I am so incredibly proud of the work this council and our community partners have done this year to support businesses, residents, the NHS and other Oxfordshire Councils, while also keeping key public services running. While more of our officers will have to work over the holiday period to support emergency services like housing, environmental health and community support, I have granted officers an extra day’s leave this year as a thank you for going above and beyond for our residents this year. So, the office at 135 Milton Park will close a day earlier than usually, on 23 December and reopen on 2 January.  

I would like to wish all councillors and officers a very happy Christmas.  Please try to have a decent break and come back rested and refreshed to rise to whatever challenges 2021 throws at us and embrace the opportunities that come our way. 

Cllr Emily Smith

Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council