As we head into the Spring, I am looking ahead to the end of lockdown and (hopefully), slowly and safely back to normality for us all, thanks to the highly successful vaccine rollout.
During this last year, the County Council was soon used to working by video call and meetings of all the committees, sub-committees and Full Council were back to their normal timetables in this new format.
You may not be aware, but I am standing down after serving as your County Council for the past four years so I thought I would give a quick recap on my time representing Hendreds and Harwell.
At Full Council, I presented four motions over my time, all carried with unanimous cross-party support. (Many councillors present no motions during their term as elected members.)
- HGV Routing Agreements –My motion was to link a financial effect with those agreements, so that if they were flouted in the future, there would be a commercial imperative to ensure the developer or operator did not repeat the practice.
- HGV Developer Road Damage – My motion put more requirement on the developers to be responsible for the damage they cause, by demanding they undertake condition surveys before development starts and then return the damaged routes back the prior condition at their cost. This became a two-page spread across the front of the Oxford Mail.
- Steventon Reservoir – This reservoir (which will be the size of Heathrow and can be shown not to be needed) would be the largest and most intrusive construction project in the area, spread over ten years and highly disruptive to traffic in all local areas. It is being presented by Thames water as the main option in its draft plan, but the Council agreed to demand a second consultation with Thames Water. This was then further strengthened when I presented an amendment to the cabinet paper to demand a public enquiry, again accepted
- Adoption of New Housing Developments – There are several new developments across my division, with developers finishing their housing for sale, but in many cases, not finishing the elements fully so that the County can adopt the roads and lighting infrastructure. This motion called on the County Officers to use all their powers to push the developers to complete the works so that OCC can sign off the final adoption for the development. As overall planning permission actually sits with the District Council, I suggested that no more planning permissions are granted to any developers who take unreasonable time to complete outstanding snagging. District Councillors have yet to action this.
Support for Parishes
During the past 15 months, I have attended the majority of my eight Parishes’ meetings; reporting back from the County Council, but also hearing about local issues where I can bring additional pressure to bear on behalf of the residents. All the meetings from March 2020 have been by video call, which makes it easier when visiting two or three parishes on the same night. However, members of the public who attended many of the public meetings, tended not to join the video calls and I did miss that contact and hearing the residents’ concerns face-to-face, although email communications increased.
One of the over-riding issues continues to be traffic volume and speed and I continued to push for 20 mph limits within all Hendreds and Harwell residential areas, and more traffic calming where necessary.
Councillor Community Fund
During the past three years, a Councillor priority fund of £15,000 per year has been made available for each Councillor to spend in their own Division on specific community projects. Across my parishes, this has been fully invested in over 20 community projects including Playground equipment; Village Hall repairs; Replacement of recreation ground equipment; new footpaths; car park; lights for pedestrian crossing; extra street lighting; primary schools – healthy eating programme; Covid 19 support; Arboreal safety management.
Committees and Role
As well as assisting at Parish Level and attending the Full Council of the County Council, I have used my previous business and local government experience on three committees; the Performance Scrutiny Committee, holding County Council departments to account for performance; Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (where we kept Pet-CT Scanners within the JR); and the Planning and Regulations committee looking at minerals and waste. (Residential waste is the responsibility of the Districts, not County.)
Additionally, among my sub-committees were the transport Cabinet Advisory Group and I chaired our County Locality Group, as well as being the Group Deputy Chairman (Backbenchers). The most satisfying committee has been the Climate Action Cabinet Advisory Group, inputting into the Council, which has aimed to combat climate change, since before its official recognition.
The aim of the County is to achieve net-zero carbon on the OCC estate by 2030 and enable all Oxfordshire to achieve net-zero by 2050. The County supports over 85 community climate action groups, including many of my Parishes local sustainability organisations. OCC is pursuing over 80 projects, including; five Cycle Network routes; converting street lights to LED (initially over 30% completed); low traffic neighbourhoods; installing 240 Park and Charge EV charging points in Council owned car parks; delivering zero emissions zone in Oxford; Home to School transport decarbonisation plan; developing policy for zero-carbon new build schools; developing hydrogen strategy; sourcing zero-carbon grid electricity; programme to increase rooftop solar generation and improve energy efficiency in existing buildings.
I am proud to have been part of a pro-active Carbon Zero focussed Oxfordshire County Council.
Finally, I must thank all who have contributed to my work and to those valued residents and hard-working Parish Councillors whom it has been my honour to quietly serve.
Cllr Mike Fox-Davies, Oxfordshire County Councillor email@example.com