Agenda and minutes

Agenda and minutes

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Venue: St Aldate's Room - Oxford Town Hall. View directions

Contact: John Mitchell, Committee Services Officer 

No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Djafari-Marbini  (substitute Councillor Cook), Councillor Fry and Councillor Altaf-Khan


Declarations of interest




Chair's Announcements


The Chair noted with regret the passing of Councillor Angie Goff who had, among other things, been a member of the Committee’s Housing Panel. A vacancy would remain on the Panel for the time being. A minute’s silence would be held in her memory at the next Council meeting.


The Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Board Scrutiny Panel had met. He had been elected as its Chair and Councillor Henwood as its Vice Chair.


Patsy Dell, Head of Planning, Sustainable Development & Regulatory Services, attending this meeting of the Committee, was leaving in a few  weeks’ time. He paid tribute to the valuable contribution she had made during her time with the Council. 


Minutes pdf icon PDF 123 KB


Recommendation: That the minutes of the meeting held on 06 September 2018 be APPROVED as a true and accurate record.



The Committee resolved to APPROVE the minutes of the meeting held on 06 September 2018 as a true and accurate record subject to changing “positive” to “limited” in minute 37.9.


Work Plan and Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 77 KB

The Scrutiny Committee operates within a work plan which is agreed at the start of the Council year. The Work Plan is reviewed at each meeting so that it can be adjusted to reflect the wishes of the Committee and take account of any changes to the latest Forward Plan (which outlines decisions to be taken by the City Executive Board or Council). The Committee is asked to review and note its work plan for the 2018/19 council year.


Following comments made a the previous meeting in relation to the Quarterly Performance Report, the Scrutiny Committee has been provided with an updated list of service level key performance indicators, and is asked to select which items it wishes to monitor going forward.




Additional documents:


The Scrutiny Officer introduced the item.  The report on the East Oxford Community Centre Improvement Centre, originally  destined for CEB in the Autumn had been postponed until March 2018; Scrutiny consideration had therefore been postponed until then.


The  No Local Connection” review was in its final stages and the resultant report would come to the next meeting of the Committee.


The last meeting of the Committee had questioned the reasons for the removal of some key performance indicators (KPIs).  Some KPIs are no longer being measured at service level and have been replaced by others. The Committee had before it an expanded list of indicators and members were asked to consider which it wished to monitor in the future (views to be passed to the Scrutiny Officer).


The impact of the Westgate Shopping Centre was scheduled for the next meeting of the Committee.  The Director of the Centre had been due to attend this meeting but was now unable to do so. The Committee agreed to postpone this item until the following meeting in the hope that the Director could attend the revised date.


Report back on recommendations pdf icon PDF 81 KB

At its last meeting the Committee considered a report on Fusion Lifestyle’s Performance as a result of which a recommendation was made to the City Executive Board. The Board’s response to that recommendation,   discussed at its meeting on 18 September, is attached.




The Chair was pleased to note that the Board Member had given a verbal  assurance that there would be an audit to address the matters which had been identified by the Committee. He agreed to seek confirmation at the next meeting of the City Executive Board that there was clarity about the nature of the audit sought by the Committee.



Oxford Local Plan pdf icon PDF 149 KB

At its meeting on 16 October  2018, the City Executive Board will be asked to approve the Oxford Local Plan 2036 proposed submission draft  for public consultation.


This is an opportunity for the Scrutiny Committee to make recommendations to the Board beforehand.


Please note that the following supporting documentation will be published as supplement:


1.    Appendix 2

      i.        Sustainability Appraisal

    ii.        Habitat Regulation Assessment

   iii.        Infrastructure Development Plan

   iv.        City Council’s Response  to the Preferred Options  Consultation

    v.        Policies map


2.    Monitoring Framework



Additional documents:


The Chair introduced the item by reminding the Committee that this was the third phase in production of the Local Plan, following preliminary public consultations in 2016 and 2017. The principal purpose of this phase was not to look at detailed aspects of the plan but, rather, to consider if the plan met the necessary test of soundness before submission to the Secretary of State.  


 Councillor Hollingsworth agreed that while the principal purpose was not, at  this stage, to look at detail, if either the Committee or the City Executive Board made compelling cases for detailed changes they would of course be given serious consideration. He paid tribute to the work of officers in preparation of the plan, with particular reference to the contributions of Sarah Harrison (Team Leader (Planning Policy)) and Amanda Ford (Principal Planner).


Councillor Hollingsworth went on to set out the overarching purpose of the plan with reference to  its foreword.  The plan sought to contribute to a better society for all and  to strike the right balance between the competing pressures that Oxford and its people face. Oxford is a wonderful city, with a beauty and a history and is a centre of learning and innovation on a global scale much of which it can be rightly proud. But it is also a city where inequality is stark - where decent and affordable housing is out of reach for so many of its citizens, and where poor air quality damages the lives of many more.  The plan will seek to respect the city of previous generations while shaping the city for those to come.


The plan can only address matters within the City’s borders and within which the amount of land suitable for housing development is very limited.  The plan will address this by look at opportunities for higher buildings and increased density of housing. Wharehouses within the City do not represent a good use of space and would be discouraged.


The plan seeks to provide a framework for the future with as much of a qualitative element as a quantitative one which should, in turn, lead to more subtlety in planning decision making.


The Chair asked why a new calculation of housing need based on the Government’s methodology set out in the National Policy Framework was not undertaken (para 2.29 of Appendix 2ii). It was explained that this methodology reduced the City’s unmet housing need to zero, contrary to previous projections and despite the clear need for affordable housing; very high housing costs; and Government recognition that Oxford was set to make a significant contribution to the economic growth of the Country. The Government had also indicated, just a few days after their publication, that the recent household projection figures would be revised.  The Strategic Housing Market Assessment undertaken in 2014 remained a sound basis for calculating future housing demand in the City and had been adopted, also, by other parties to the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal.


The consultation process to date was welcomed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 47.


Update report on progress with the Planning and Regulatory Service Improvement Plan pdf icon PDF 196 KB

This report provides the Committee with its  annual update on progress with the Planning and Regulatory Service improvements that were started in 2016.


The Head of Planning, Sustainable Development & Regulatory Services introduced the report which provided the Committee with its latest update on the Planning and Regulatory Service.  There had been a continuous programme of improvement since her arrival three years ago and she was grateful for the Committee’s interest in the service over that time.  She was pleased to confirm that Adrian Arnold, the  Development Management Service Manager would take over her role  following her departure in a few weeks’ time. 


Oxford was a great place for planners to work but also, of course, a very expensive place to live which, as for other areas of work, had significant consequences for recruitment and retention. The service set great store by its successful apprentice programme and a wish to ‘grow their own’.


The service’s performance as measured by key indicators exceeded national standards and the service was not, therefore, subject to government scrutiny as it otherwise would be.  There was a higher level of enforcement activity than hitherto.


The Committee were pleased to note the continuing improvement and particularly the steps taken to address the staffing difficulties with particular reference to the apprenticeship programme.


The difference in response times to deal with enforcement matters was asked about. The time taken to respond would depend on the circumstances, history and complexity of a case and these could be significantly different.  The use of a generic contact number for enquiries was intended to ensure that no delays were caused by the temporary absence of a particular officer.


The introduction of work placements for young people up to the age of 16 was not viable because of the levels of supervision required under the council’s safeguarding policies, something which was not sustainable in such a busy team.  Future work placements for those older than 16 could however be given consideration and accommodated where capacity exists. 


In discussion about the future, it would be important to secure the necessary resources to ensure the resilience of the service; developing in-house capacity and being innovative would be key.


Councillor Hollingsworth reiterated the importance of resilience. The transition to the current service structure had, inevitably, been disruptive and had had an effect on performance. The challenge was to ensure that the current systems and processes can cope with disruption however caused.


The Development Management Service Manager said that account was taken of anticipated applications over a  3-4 year horizon so that steps can be taken to ensure that projects are adequately resourced when they come on stream.


The Committee were grateful for the update and agreed that it would be helpful to have a further one in a year’s time.


Staff Absence and Wellbeing pdf icon PDF 132 KB

This report is provided in response to a request from the Committee to provide an update on sickness absence levels and management interventions to monitor and address sickness absence across the Council. The Committee may wish to comment on the report and make recommendations to the City Executive Board.



Councillor Chapman, in his capacity as Board Member for Customer Focused Services, introduced the report which had been triggered by discussion earlier in the year. The story was one of improvement for the first part of the year but care should be taken not to draw too many conclusions before the year end given the likelihood of increased levels of sickness and absence in the Winter months. The service was providing a lot of good work with a few members of staff on long term sick leave and whose absence can distort the overall picture to some degree.


The HR & Payroll Manager said that the Council’s position is currently a little out of kilter with that of the rest of the UK where sickness absence levels are at their lowest for the last 10 years.


It was suggested that it might be helpful to record vacancy levels in a service area alongside absence rates; this would enable any correlation between the two to be identified.


The Committee noted that, the Council sickness absence data no longer included those relating to colleagues working in Oxford Direct Services.


Reference was made to the increase in the number of those experiencing mental ill health and the importance of appropriate interventions in relation to something that was not necessarily immediately visible.


The HR & Payroll Manager said that considerable efforts were made to work with colleagues who had significant attendance issues, with the aim of supporting the employee’s return to work and termination of employment as a very last resort.


The 10th October was World Mental Health day, it was suggested that, in future, consideration might be given to an event in the workplace to mark it.


In discussion it was agreed that different management styles might contribute to levels of sickness and attendance and that good practice should be celebrated and serve as a model for others.





Dates of future meetings

Meetings for 2018 are scheduled as followed:


Scrutiny Committee



  • 06 November
  • 04 December
  • 14 January (provisional)



Standing Panels

·         Housing Standing Panel: 11 October, 12 November

·         Finance Standing Panel: 06 December

·         Companies Panel:  13 November, 11 December, 03 January 2019


All meetings start at 6.00 pm




The next meetings of the Scrutiny Committee and its panels are scheduled as follows:


Scrutiny Committee



  • 06 November
  • 04 December
  • 14 January (provisional)



Standing Panels

·         Housing Standing Panel: 11 October, 12 November

·         Finance Standing Panel: 06 December

·         Companies Panel:  13 November, 11 December, 03 January 2019


All meetings start at 6.00 pm