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Vale of White Horse District Councillor update

April 22, 2021

Hello! We hope that everyone has been able to enjoy the warmer weather recently, as the lockdown restrictions continue to ease and we can now meet with friends and family outdoors again in groups of six, including at local hospitality venues.

The council-owned leisure centres have also reopened under the government’s roadmap, with covid-safe measures including social distancing in place for both staff and public safety, and more outdoor activities have resumed. See the Active Communities web page for more details.

We will continue to keep you updated on council matters and the council’s response to COVID-19 through these newsletter articles, as well as on our dedicated councillor Facebook Page: Cllrs Hayleigh Gascoigne & Sarah Medley. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with any issues or concerns – our email addresses are hayleigh.gascoigne@whitehorsedc.gov.uk and sarah.medley@whitehorsedc.gov.uk.

COVID-19 Update

The Community Hub continues to be available to help people access support and essentials during the lockdown if they have nobody else to turn to and can be contacted on the usual details below. The councils’ Housing Needs team are available to help people who are at risk of being made homeless or who are sleeping rough – for more details visit whitehorsedc.gov.uk/housing. Support is also available to residents who are experiencing financial difficulties – to find out more please visit whitehorsedc.gov.uk/benefits. If you are having difficulty paying your council tax please visit  whitehorsedc.gov.uk/counciltax or call 0345 302 2315.

To contact the Community Support Team:
call: 01235 422 600 Monday to Thursday 8.30-5pm and Fridays 8.30-4.30pm
email: communitysupport@southandvale.gov.uk
fill in an online form at: www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/communityhub

Remember, for the most up-to-date coronavirus information relating to district council support and any changes to services, please take a look at the dedicated Vale webpage for updates: www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/covid19

Whilst those currently shielding are no longer required to from 1 April, help is still available through the Community Hub. The new government guidance states that while there will be no additional rules for people who have been shielding outside of the national restrictions, they are advised to take extra care and precautions. Advice includes to work from home if they can, visit shops or pharmacies at quieter times and take care when socialising with friends and family according to national restrictions. Priority supermarket shopping slots continue until 21 June.

The council will continue to assist everyone, including anyone who has been shielding. Anyone who is in difficulty or needs help should contact our Community Hub who can signpost to help or assist with supermarket vouchers if they have financial concerns. We’re also now shifting our focus onto providing continued support for those who need to self-isolate following a positive diagnosis – this in turn will hopefully encourage people to continue to get tested regularly.

Cases: As of 15th April, infection rates across the county had reduced to a rate of 22 per 100,000 of the population and rates have dropped in each district. The latest figures are updated on the county council’s interactive dashboardon a daily basis.

Vaccinations milestone reached 

The NHS in Oxfordshire has now vaccinated more than 320,000 people against COVID-19; over 40,000 people in the county have also now had their second dose. Locally, the vaccine totals are 73,418 in South Oxfordshire and 65,855 in the Vale. Vaccine outreach work across Oxfordshire continues to help encourage take up, working with health partners and looking to focus on individuals in vulnerable cohorts 1 – 4 (residents in a care homes; frontline health and social care workers; those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals) who haven’t turned up for second doses.

Testing: Public roll-out

Alongside following the rules and the rollout of the vaccine, regular testing forms an essential part of the government’s roadmap plan. From Friday 9 April, everyone in England will be able to access free, rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests for themselves and their families to use twice a week.

One in three people with COVID-19 do not experience any symptoms and may be spreading the virus without knowing. Rapid testing detects cases quickly, meaning positive cases can isolate immediately and help stop the spread.

The expanded regular testing offer for people without symptoms will be delivered through:
• Workplace testing programmes, on-site or at home
• Secondary school and college testing on-site or through home test kits provided
• Community testing at council-run symptom free testing sites in Banbury, Carterton, Oxford and Wantage.
• Collection of home test kits from any local testing site
• A home ordering service, which allows people to order lateral flow tests online to be delivered to their home. If testing at home, individuals need to register their results online or by calling 119.

Anyone who tests positive will need to self-isolate immediately and book a second PCR test. A self-isolation information pack is available to provide advice and support.

If you test negative, you must continue to follow social distancing guidelines, wear a mask in public and regularly wash your hands. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should book a test online or call 119.

Pandemic financial support

Businesses

  • For details of the support grants available to businesses, please visit South and Vale’s Business Support website: co.uk.
  • The Restart Grantis a one-off grant for rate paying businesses that predominantly deliver in-person services for the general public.  It will pay up to £6,000 for non-essential retail businesses, and up to £18,000 for hospitality businesses, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym or sport business premises. As soon as we can offer more information on how businesses can apply for the scheme, we will send out details via our South and Vale Business Support newsletter. Businesses can sign up to our newsletter here.  Once the scheme is available, the applications will be open until 30 June 2021 and final payments will be made by 31 July.

Community Groups

Government funding is available for voluntary and community organisations to help with the costs of arranging and providing Covid-safe transportation for residents. Groups can receive funding of between £1,000 – £15,000 and it can go on revenue costs like paying for petrol as well as capital costs like PPE supplies or wear and tear on vehicles.The deadline to apply is Friday 14 May.  For more information, please contact grants@southandvale.gov.uk

Individuals: Test and Trace £500 payments

The government recently expanded the scheme to pay £500 to eligible people who lose income having been told to self-isolate through the Covid test and trace system – it now includes eligible parents and guardians who lose income if their kids are sent home from school due to positive cases among students or staff. A revised application form will be available on the council website soon.

Local News

Great Western Park Community Centres now open

We (Hayleigh and Sarah) are delighted by the news that the district councils have now opened all three of our community centres on Great Western Park in Didcot and Harwell. The Northern, Southern and District Centres are now available for residents and groups to hire with priority bookings given to groups that are helping to support the Covid-19 response.

The Southern and District centres are brand new buildings that the council took over from Taylor Wimpey last year. The Southern centre has a main hall and smaller meeting rooms with an outside multi-use games area.  The Great Western Park COVID-19 Support Group has moved into one of the rooms at the centre to store the group’s equipment, PPE and non-perishable foods, and to distribute food parcels for local residents in need.

The District Centre is a much larger facility and is built opposite the main shopping area on the park.  It has a large hall and many function rooms for people to hire for their events. The Northern centre is the smallest of the centres with a smaller meeting hall and was already being regularly used by local community groups prior to the pandemic.

More information about the hiring the centres is on the council websites:

Northern Community Centre

Southern Community Centre

District Community Centre

New cycle hub at Didcot Parkway opens

Didcot Parkway Station has just opened its new cycle hub with space for an extra 600 bikes.  The hub caters for standard and non-standard bikes to be securely parked. It is fitted with CCTV, motion sensor LED lighting and bike repair stands.  The new cycle hub has opened ahead of 16 May, when GWR aims to run around 90 per cent of its usual timetable of trains.

Council News

Full Council – 24th March

The latest Full Council meeting took place on 24th March – see the agenda and YouTube link to watch the online meeting. As of 19th April, the minutes have not yet been published. At this meeting, we (Hayleigh and Sarah) asked Questions on protecting women and vulnerable people in public spaces and on the Great Western Park infrastructure. We proposed a motion on improving healthcare provision for new developments, and supported a motion on improving cycling infrastructure; both motions passed. Other key items from the agenda are covered elsewhere in this newsletter.

Local Elections 6th May

Polling day – polls will be open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday 6 May.  For information about the measures we are putting in place to help keep our polling stations Covid-safe, please visit our polling stations page.

You can view the candidates for each of the following elections in the South and Vale district council areas by clicking on the following links:

  • Thames Valley area Police and Crime Commissioner election – South / Vale 
  • Oxfordshire County Council elections – South / Vale  
  • District council and parish council by-elections – South / Vale 

Councils agree to develop a joint South and Vale Local Plan

The two district councils in South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse have agreed to develop a joint Local Plan for the area to reduce costs and help the councils meet their ambitious targets for making the two districts carbon neutral.

Local Plans are used to help determine planning applications and set out how and where new housing developments should take place, along with identifying the infrastructure needed to support them. They also set out policies on what kind of housing is appropriate and acceptable; what the local requirements for affordable housing are; and can even set requirements on the energy-efficiency levels of new developments.

These are all key themes and aspirations that are addressed in both councils recently adopted new Corporate Plans, which set out their visions for their districts. Both councils have also committed to do everything they can to address the climate and ecological emergency, and officers advised that the consensus on these issues makes this a rare opportunity to create a joint Local Plan.

The proposals on creating a joint Local Plan were agreed at Vale Council meeting on 24 March and the South meeting on 25 March. The reports had previously been considered by both councils’ Scrutiny Committees and Cabinets.

The reports set out the advantages and disadvantages of a joint plan. The advantages include the planning issues in the two districts are quite similar, like the need for carbon reduction, affordable housing and new and improved infrastructure, and so a joint plan would be able to address these issues in a co-ordinated way.

A joint plan would also benefit the residents of Didcot where the boundary separating the two districts runs through the town. Under the current arrangement, on some roads, development on one side of the street is covered by South planning policies, while development on the other side must abide by Vale policies.

There will also be cost-savings by producing one plan for both districts because there would be one set of evidence studies, one local plan examination and one Planning Inspector not two.

The Councils also approved the timetable for the new Joint Local Plan, which involves key public consultation stages in summer 2022 and summer 2023, followed by independent examination, and then adoption in autumn 2024.

White Horse Community Lottery

Local charities and good causes in the Vale of White Horse will soon be able to get a funding boost from a brand-new community lottery being launched by the district council this summer. The forthcoming new White Horse Community Lottery will allow players to choose which local charity their money benefits. Similar community lotteries elsewhere raise tens of thousands of pounds for charities every year.

The lottery will have a weekly jackpot of £25,000 and will be available for residents to play online.  The draw will take place every Saturday, with a jackpot going to anybody who matches a sequence of six numbers.  The other prizes are £2,000, £250, £25 or three free tickets. The district council will not receive any of the proceeds, although some will go into a central community fund, all of which the council will distribute to good causes in the district’s voluntary and community sector. Residents can get involved by buying tickets which will cost £1 per week with 60p going towards the player’s chosen local good cause. 20p of the remaining money goes into the central community fund, 17p towards the administration of the lottery, and 3p on VAT. It’s a great way for constituted community groups and charities operating in the Vale of White Horse to raise regular core funding, with 60 per cent of ticket sales going to good causes (50 per cent directly to good cause and 10 per cent to the central fund).

Any charities or voluntary and community organisations wanting to register their interest and find out more – please contact Alison at communityenablement@southandvale.gov.uk.

Vale of White Horse to give £344,000 towards building affordable homes in Botley

Vale of White Horse District Council has agreed to allocate £344,000 to help build eight new affordable homes at Dean Court on Eynsham Road, Botley, which falls within Cumnor Parish. Councillors agreed to provide the funds to the Oxfordshire Community Land Trust (OCLT) using Section 106 contributions – money that developers have paid as part of agreements to build new developments in the district.

OCLT is seeking to use the money towards building eight energy efficient homes.  The apartments could include high levels of insulation and PV solar panels to reduce carbon emissions and to help reduce the running costs for its occupants.  The one and two bed apartments will be available for an affordable rent with priority given to residents living in or having connections with the local area.

Vale Leader’s statement on the Expressway project cancellation

The Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council has welcomed the announcement that the government’s proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway has been scrapped, calling it a success for local campaigners. The statement by Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council is on the council website.

Former Leader of the Vale, Cllr Roger Cox

It’s with great sadness that we can confirm that Roger Cox, the former Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, passed away on Saturday 27th March. He represented his local Faringdon ward for many years and served in a number of different Cabinet positions before becoming leader. It was while he was Leader of the council in 2019 that he announced his retirement and didn’t stand at the subsequent election. Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, paid tribute to Roger who preceded her as council leader – read her tribute here.