July 2018 (revised)

Welcome to our latest newsletter

In this edition:

  • Road maintenance budget doubled this year and a £120m long-term infrastructure investment proposal being considered
  • New partnership for investment and service improvement approved with Cherwell District Council
  • County council carries out property review to assess implications of Carillion collapse
  • Streetlight upgrades set to be accelerated
  • ‘Thriving communities’ formally adopted as the council’s vision
  • National Infrastructure Commission report calls for £150m Government cash for cycling in Oxford
  • Single-use plastics commitment and plans campaign to increase public recycling knowledge

Road maintenance budget doubled this year and a £120m long-term infrastructure investment proposal being considered

Oxfordshire’s highways maintenance budget has been doubled for this year (2018/19) and investment of a further £120m for infrastructure over the next ten years, including roads and schools, has also taken a step forward, following a Cabinet decision this week (17 July).
This year’s increased spend of £10m will be put into road repairs and other highway maintenance work to tackle the winter backlog of potholes. Cabinet members have also given ‘in principle’ agreement to borrowing £120m for investment, and approved the development of a full business case.
The business case will be considered in the autumn so that, if accepted, the investment proposal could be included in next year’s budget and capital programme, which will be agreed by full council in February 2019.
This would be the biggest ever council-funded investment in highways and infrastructure in Oxfordshire, and would address the long-term decline in road condition, which is happening across the country.
The county’s extensive network of rural minor roads suffered badly during the freeze-thaw cycle of last winter.
The investment would be funded through the additional Council Tax income that is projected because of population growth in Oxfordshire.
The proposed investment could include:

  • Maintenance of highways and other assets such as school buildings
  • Match funding for bids for capital projects (e.g. government funded)
  • Funding infrastructure to unlock future revenue sooner
  • Contingencies for capital investment

The Cabinet report can be viewed here.

New partnership for investment and service improvement approved with Cherwell District Council

Councillors at Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council have approved a proposal for a partnership between the two local authorities, including the appointment of a joint chief executive.

The partnership arrangement will offer long-term opportunities to join up services for residents, reduce the costs of providing services, and secure investment in Cherwell to enable the continued growth in homes and jobs.

The partnership proposal came after the financial problems in Northamptonshire County Council, which has implications for Cherwell’s existing partnership with South Northamptonshire Council, created an opportunity to explore closer joint working.

The joint arrangement was approved by county councillors on 10 July and Cherwell councillors on 16 July, and will come into effect on 1 October 2018.

Partnership arrangements under a single chief executive will make joint working more effective and deepen the partnership arrangements. Spatial and transport planners already work closely together on schemes related to housing and infrastructure, and that will be make day-to-day working simpler as they are working to a single chief executive.

Following a formal internal recruitment process, Yvonne Rees, the current chief executive of Cherwell and South Northamptonshire councils has been appointed to the new post of joint chief executive of Oxfordshire and Cherwell councils, with a start date of 1 October. The post of county council chief executive, currently occupied by Peter Clark, will be made redundant.

County council carries out property review to assess implications of Carillion collapse

Oxfordshire County Council is carrying out a detailed review of the costs and liabilities related to its properties following the Carillion collapse so that a robust financial plan can be considered by councillors in the autumn and included in the council’s budget.

Carillion provided services on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council including maintenance of council buildings; property services, and building work such as school extensions.

Members of the county council’s Audit and Governance committee will next week consider the process of assessing costs, liabilities and risks to assure themselves that the review of the county council’s properties is thorough and comprehensive.

Oxfordshire County Council made a net payment of £10.6m at the end of December 2017 to Carillion to cover work already completed as part of the final settlement to end the contract with the company, limiting any future financial liability.

However, the costs of dealing with ongoing construction and property maintenance problems following the Carillion collapse have not yet been calculated but are expected to be “very significant”. Surveys to assess defects in buildings including schools are continuing across the county council’s properties.

The county council’s Audit and Governance Committee meets on 25 July to review the process for estimating the council’s financial liabilities that emerged following the collapse of Carillion. The council’s Cabinet is expected to receive an assessment of the costs in the autumn, along with a long-term plan for dealing with the problems identified in surveys.

Streetlight upgrades set to be accelerated

A £40m investment may be made into upgrading more than 50,000 streetlights in Oxfordshire, following a decision by the county council’s cabinet on Tuesday July 17.

The council wants to accelerate its replacement of old streetlighting columns with modern and more energy efficient LED lighting. There are almost 60,000 streetlights in Oxfordshire – around 9,000 of these have already been upgraded to modern LED lighting in recent years.

The £40.8m funding for the work will be borrowed by the council with the entire cost paid back within nine years from cheaper energy bills as a result of having more modern lighting (£39m) and less of a requirement for maintenance given more modern lighting (£1.8m).

More information on streetlighting can be viewed here.

Thriving communities’ formally adopted as the council’s vision

County councillors last week agreed the corporate plan, called “Thriving Communities for Everyone in Oxfordshire”, which sets out the council’s strategy for the period 2018-2021. ‘Thriving communities for everyone in Oxfordshire’ is the council vision statement, and the corporate plan describes our main priorities and the specific actions that will be taken up to March 2019.

The council’s vision statement after feedback from residents who are passionate about where they live. The vision statement is supported by three priorities that are set out in the corporate plan:

Thriving communities

  • We help people live safe, healthy lives and play an active part in their community.
  • We provide services that enhance the quality of life in our communities and protect the local environment.

Thriving people

  • We strive to give every child a good start in life and protect everyone from abuse and neglect.
  • We enable older and disabled people to live independently. We care for those in greatest need.

Thriving economy

  • We support a thriving local economy by improving transport links to create jobs and homes for the future.

The priority outcomes and indicators for measuring performance against the corporate plan were presented to Cabinet for information on the 19 June 2018 and considered by Performance Scrutiny in detail on the 5th of July. These indicators will be used to assess the county council’s performance against its agreed priorities.

Read the new corporate plan here.

National Infrastructure Commission report calls for £150m Government cash for cycling in Oxford

The county council has welcomed a report commissioned by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) into improving cycling in Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge as part of the evidence base for the proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway project.

The report highlights the need to increase the number of journeys that are made by bike by improve cycling infrastructure and makes several recommendations for improving provision for cyclists in Cambridge, Oxford and Milton Keynes, including new separated cycle tracks on main roads, new off-road routes and remodelled junctions to make them safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

The report was written by former London Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan, who calls for Queen Street to be re-opened to cyclists and a network of segregated cycle lanes to be set up across the city. Gilligan estimates the total cost of full implementation of its recommendations at £150m although the county council has pointed out that none of these measures currently have funding. The NIC makes clear that the author’s conclusions are his own.

The county council has a track record of successfully securing significant funding for cycling improvements, including the separate cycle lane on The Slade and a £5m improvement to Botley Road. We also produce guidance for planners and developers to ensure cycling is designed into new developments across Oxfordshire, which has been praised by cycling campaigners.

The county council will continue to push for more investment to improve cycling provision.

Andrew Gilligan’s report is here

Single-use plastics commitment and plans campaign to increase public recycling knowledge

County councillors voted last week to phase out single-use plastic cups, stirrers and straws from all county council premises.

The motion, brought by Councillor Suzanne Bartington, follows the Secretary of State for the Environment’s commitment to reduce the use of plastics in the UK. The county council’s Cabinet will work on a realistic timeframe for this to be implemented at the council.

A recent public consultation highlighted the confusion among residents about which types of plastics can be recycled and that residents would like more information on this topic (see the recycling report above).

All six Oxfordshire councils are currently considering plans for a information campaign to improve the public’s knowledge of plastic recycling.

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