September 2018

Welcome to our latest newsletter

In this edition:

  • Growth dividend’ could bring a £120m boost for roads and public buildings
  • Cabinet approves new operating model to make the council ‘fit for the future’
  • Councils join up to produce a spatial plan for Oxfordshire up to 2050
  • Councillors recommend improvements to monitoring of home education
  • County council responds to Highways England’s expressway announcement
  • Amazon Echo used as part of pilot to use smart technology to support home care
  • Councils work together of Oxford road maintenance
  • County council backs ‘active travel’ with walking and cycling plans

‘Growth dividend’ could bring a £120m boost for roads and public buildings

A proposal to invest an extra £120m on roads and property repairs has been approved by the county council’s Cabinet.

The Cabinet report outlines an opportunity to improve and invest in the Oxfordshire’s roads, pavements, bridges and county council maintained buildings, especially schools. The borrowing would be funded from a potential £6m-a-year increase in council tax income as the result of expected growth in homes in Oxfordshire.

The Cabinet agreed in principle to borrow up to £120m, with detailed business cases produced for each proposed project funded from the investment pot. The Cabinet report references research that shows that the condition of the highway network influences where small and medium size businesses choose to locate. It also points out that an improved road condition would make Oxfordshire more competitive and increase economic growth.

Around £80m would be spent on highway improvements, with the remainder invested in other county council-owned assets especially schools.

CORPORATE PRIORITY:‘Supporting a thriving local economy’

Cabinet approves new operating model to make the council ‘fit for the future’

Oxfordshire County Council will get a complete overhaul to ensure it is ‘fit for the future’ and continues to meet rising demand for services. The changes are crucial to enabling the county council to deliver its vision of ‘thriving communities for everyone’.

The Cabinet has accepted the business case for a new ‘operating model’ and will consider how it will be implemented next month.

The transformation plan would protect and improve frontline services for residents, while cutting red tape and reducing the costs of ‘back office’ administration. The proposed redesign of the county council could save between £34m-58m a year and ensure a continued balanced budget, with the possibility of reinvesting in services in the future.

Customer service, supported by new technology, would be at the heart of the proposed new ‘operating model’ to make the council much more efficient. Residents contacting the council would see improved customer service with use of digital technology freeing up time for specialist staff to provide personalised services where needed.

CORPORATE PRIORITY:‘Continuously improve our services and provide value for money’

Councils join up to produce a spatial plan for Oxfordshire up to 2050

Oxfordshire’s councils are working jointly on a countywide strategic plan which integrates planning for growth and infrastructure, with a focus on quality of life and health and wellbeing. The county council’s Cabinet approved a scoping document for the creation of the joint strategic spatial plan (JSSP), which will be considered by the districts and city council in the coming weeks.

The JSSP will address the strategic and cumulative implications of growth and set out a long-term framework covering the whole of Oxfordshire up to 2050. The JSSP will not allocate specific sites for development (any such decision to do this would require the explicit agreement of all the local authorities). Detailed local policies will be covered by future Local Plan reviews as necessary.

The six Oxfordshire Councils and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OXLEP) under the Oxfordshire Growth Board agreed the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal with Government in March 2018.
Under the terms of the Deal the local authorities have committed to producing an Oxfordshire Joint Statutory Spatial Plan (JSSP) for submission to the Planning Inspectorate for independent examination by 31 March 2020 and adoption by 31 March 2021.

Early stakeholder engagement starts this Autumn and a public consultation is due in 2019 first on preferred options and then a proposed draft of the joint plan.

CORPORATE PRIORITY:‘Improving transport links to create jobs and homes for the future’

Councillors recommend improvements to monitoring of home education

The county council’s Education Scrutiny committee recently investigated the reasons for an increase in elective home education (EHE) across the county. Although still a very small percentage of overall numbers, there were 557 pupils being home education in 2016/17 compared to 379 in 2011/12.

Councillors made a series of recommendations that were accepted by the Cabinet, including the need for further analysis of the figures locally. There should also be a two-week cooling off period before taking pupils off the roll at a school is discussed. The council should advocate that school leaders include information about numbers of EHE children in their termly reports to governors/directors or other reporting mechanism that may exist.

CORPORATE PRIORITY:‘Giving every child a good start in life’

County council responds to Highways England’s expressway announcement

The county council welcomed the announcement of a preferred corridor for part of the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway as it offers a degree of clarity on where the final scheme would go.
However, we were disappointed that we still don’t know about access to the M40 through Oxfordshire.Oxfordshire County Council supports better transport links and accompanying infrastructure in the so-called “brain belt” but a project of this magnitude will inevitably have an impact on communities and the environment. The county council has said it will work to ensure that those effects are mitigated and that benefits are spread.

Our main “transport test” is that the Expressway should provide relief to congestion on the A34. It should not put more pressure on existing overstretched roads, but function as a separate strategic route alongside other local schemes.

We will continue to push Highways England for clarity on how the corridor choice is developed so that a decision can be made on the best route for the scheme.

CORPORATE PRIORITY:‘Supporting a thriving local economy’

Amazon Echo used as part of pilot to use smart technology to support home care

The adult social care team are piloting the use of Amazon Echo to reduce loneliness and isolation, while offering access to low level care via smart technology. The £75,000 project has seen the council negotiate with Amazon to provide the kit required for free, install broadband in triallists’ homes, and deliver training for staff and users.

Aside from enhancing the quality of life for individuals the project also means that it’s a smart way for carers to connect with their clients and for family and friends to be able to check in on a loved one and physically see they are well.

The technology could also allow some care resources to be freed up and directed to those in greatest need of personal visits. For instance, video calls can be used for reminders to take medication.

CORPORATE PRIORITY:‘Enabling older and disabled people to live independently’

Councils work together on Oxford road maintenance

An agreement has been struck that will see Oxford City Council provide routine highway maintenance services in the city, for a period of up to five years, on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council.

The move reflects the county council’s commitment to get the best out of its resources, and investing more money in road repairs. This has recently seen it commit to doubling this year’s budget by adding an extra £10m, which will be spent on surfacing across Oxfordshire.

The city council, through its wholly-owned company Oxford Direct Services, will repair potholes, carry out resurfacing work, and deal with other road-related issues such as signing, lining and drains. The agreement builds on a long-standing arrangement which has seen the county council providing funding for the city council to do similar work on minor roads in the city.

CORPORATE PRIORITY:‘Services that enhance the quality of life in our communities’

County council backs ‘active travel’ with walking and cycling plans

The government is funding a project to improve cycling and walking provision as part of the Department for Transport’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.

The county council will initially produce Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs) for Bicester, Didcot and Oxford. These will involve assessing existing walking and cycling routes, prioritising improvements and maintenance schemes designed to encourage active travel and reduce congestion and pollution.

Over 85,000 new jobs and 100,000 new homes are planned in Oxfordshire by 2031. The council is committed to ensuring that as the population grows, infrastructure is in place to encourage active travel. The county council recently produced guidance for developers and planners on designing in cycling and walking connections to new developments.

CORPORATE PRIORITY:‘Help people live safe, healthy lives’