Agenda and minutes

Agenda and minutes

Speaking at a Council or Committee meeting

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 Altaf-Khan and for whom Councillor Harris was attending as a substitute.


Declarations of interest




Chair's Announcements


The Chair explained that the Growth Board’s Scrutiny Panel had met recently to consider the Joint Statutory Spatial Plan Regulation 18 Consultation Document  as this Committee had done at its previous meeting. The Growth Board’s Scrutiny Panel, as representative of all the authorities involved, had been able to go further than this Committee and recommended the redrafting of some aspirations and goals within the document.



Minutes pdf icon PDF 124 KB

Recommendation: That the minutes of the meeting held on 21 January

2018 be APPROVED as a true and accurate record.



The Committee resolved to APPROVE the minutes of the meeting held on 21 January 2018 as a true and accurate record subject to the addition of Councillor Kennedy to the list of those present. 



Work Plan and Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 76 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 remainder of the 2018/19 council year.


Additional documents:


The Scrutiny Officer said the update to the Corporate Plan had been moved to the agenda for the March meeting  of the Committee as the report to the City Executive Board had similarly been delayed by one month.


A progress report following the No Local Connection Review was scheduled for the June meeting, and the Committee agreed to schedule the second part of the JSSP Regulation 18 Consultation Document concerning locations for growth for its July meeting.


The Scrutiny Officer had been informed that the Fusion Lifestyle Audit Report, scheduled for the March meeting, would be dealt with as a verbal update because  the information required for the audit of performance data would not be available in time.  The Committee was disappointed to hear this, having been informed, previously, that the data would be available. The Scrutiny Officer was asked to convey the Committee’s view to the relevant officers and ask for every effort to be made to provide a written report for the meeting.


With reference to the recent Council motion recognising “Climate Emergency” the Committee agreed that an item on the subject should be noted, in advance, for consideration as part of the next council year’s Committee Work Plan.



Report back on recommendations pdf icon PDF 59 KB

The City Executive Board considered the Committee’s recommendation

concerning the Joint Statutory Spatial Plan on 22 January 2019. Its response

is attached.



The Chair was pleased to report the City Executive Board’s agreement to the Committee’s recommendations in relation to the Joint Statutory Spatial Plan Regulation 18 document.  The Committee agreed that the Chair should ask to see the draft council response to the consultation.



Appointments to the Housing Panel

The Housing Panel has a vacant post (Liberal Democrat), and the Committee

is recommended to appoint a new member for the remainder of the Council


The Housing Panel also requires that a Chair be appointed by the

Committee. This Chair must be a member of the Scrutiny Committee, and

can be from any political group. As the Panel will be at its membership

capacity, the Chair must be an existing member of the Housing Panel.

For information, the next Housing Panel meetings are on 4 March and 8 April




The appointment to a vacancy on the Housing Panel fell to the Liberal Democrat Group. The Chair announced that the position would be filled by Councillor Liz Wade.


The election to the position of Chair of the Housing Panel fell to the Committee. Councillor Bely-Summers was nominated and in the absence of other nominees and, on being put to a vote, was unanimously appointed to the position.



Oxford Rent Guarantee Scheme pdf icon PDF 100 KB

The City Executive Board, at its meeting on 12 February will consider a report

on the Oxford Rent Guarantee Scheme.


This item provides an opportunity for the Committee to consider the report

and make recommendations to the CEB if it wishes.



Additional documents:


Councillor Linda Smith, Board Member for Leisure and Housing said that while dealing with the consequences of homelessness and rough sleeping were a proper Council priority, the need to prevent homelessness in the first place was fundamental.


The Systems Change Manager (Homelessness Prevention), Paul Wilding,said that the Oxford Rent Guarantee (ORG) was a means of supporting those at risk of homelessness. The effectiveness of the previous model which focussed simply on finding possible accommodation  was  compromised by the difficulties of affordability in the City. ORG worked in partnership with landlords for whom, while the rent may be less than the market rate, there was a guaranteed  rental income paid three months in advance. Coaching was provided to tenants as part of the ORG to help them gain future financial independence and better resilience to prevent future homelessness. This important element of the ORG was modelled on the support provided by the Welfare Reform Team.


Over 73 families had benefitted from the pilot and lessons learnt from it had triggered some minor adjustments to existing Council systems.


In discussion it was noted that ORG’s focus had been on families as that was where the Council’s first duty lay. It was agreed that thought should be given to expanding the scheme by making a connection with the Lord Mayor’s Deposit Scheme which supports single people. Accommodation provided through the ORG outside the City was usually within the County and took account of the need for good transport connections with the City. Placements   made out of county were often at the request of individuals who had family connectons elsewhere.  One officer was dedicated to out of area work.


Despite the work of officers to attract more landlords to participate in the scheme, the lack of properties remained the biggest stumbling block to helping more families. The costs of the scheme were counterbalanced by costs which would otherwise be incurred elsewhere, though the committee noted that no formal analysis of this position had been done. Participating landlords signed up to the scheme for 12 months at a time and none had failed to renew at the end of the initial term.


The Committee expressed great concern at the  longer term future of the  Council’s homelessness reserves, and how this might affect delivery of the scheme in future. A paper on the opportunity costs of continuing to pursue the scheme or not would be welcome.


The introduction of Universal Credit touched on this matter as well as many others. It was agreed that the suggestion of a review group to look at the consequences of its introduction should be noted in advance  for consideration as part of the next council year’s Committee’s Work Plan.


The Chair thanked the Board Member and the Systems Change Manager for their contribution to the discussion following which the Committee would make a recommendation to the City Executive Board that the scheme should be expanded to better align with the Lord Mayor’s Deposit Scheme and the needs of single  ...  view the full minutes text for item 90.


Graffiti Prevention and Removal pdf icon PDF 567 KB

The Scrutiny Committee has requested a report to update them on the use of

Street Art to reduce unwanted tagging in Oxford City.

The Committee is recommended to:

1. Note and comment on the report; and

2. Include any additional recommendations.


Additional documents:


The Committee had before it two reports, one dealing principally with street art, and the other with the policy on graffiti removal as delivered by Oxford Direct Services.


Councillor Hayes, Board Member for Safer, Greener, Environment  introduced the item by emphasising the distinction between street art and graffiti. He said the former can be a valuable expression of the values and views of a community and have a very positive effect, the latter is an unacceptable blight. The amount of graffiti had increased considerably in recent years but so had the rate of its removal.


Councillor Chapman, Board Member for Customer Focused Services said Oxford Direct Services (ODS) was intensifying its work to remove graffiti, responding quickly to new incidents and working hard to address a backlog. Central to this new regime was a revision to the previous policy which had required owners of all premises affected by graffiti to pay for its removal. Owners of smaller/private/domestic properties were not now required to pay for removal, although permission to do so was still needed. This facilitated swifter removal and removed the need for sometimes protracted and unsuccessful attempts to persuade owners to pay.


A pragmatic approach was called for in determining whether a charge should be made in a particular case. Dealing with graffiti on buildings/ items owned by utilities could be problematic given those organisations’ policies often resisted intervention by third parties. The loss of income from the new approach was considered by the Board Member to be probably marginal. There was sufficient budgetary provision within ODS for the purpose at the moment on the basis of the present level of demand.


The City Centre and Street Scene Service Manager said that Street Scene teams dealt with ‘low level’ graffiti as part of their usual day to  day work. New working practices were soon to be introduced in which Street Scene colleagues would have responsibility for a particular part of the City and would, as a result, be better placed to spot new graffiti and deal with it quickly. Reports of graffiti from members of the public were dealt with as soon as possible and if, for example,  racist or sexist, treated as urgent priorities. Owners of larger/commercial properties failing to cooperate would, if necessary, be faced with fixed penalty notices.


The Regulatory Services and Community Safety Case Manager said that following a significant increase in the amount of graffiti in 2015, an appreciative inquiry, involving a significant number of stakeholders resulted in agreement that  the Council would provide free wall space for local artists to use.  Officers said the spaces used in this way were well regarded by local communities  and, once established,  were not often damaged by subsequent graffiti. Engagement of and consultation with local communities was essential before proceeding with such a scheme as was   the case in relation to the wall surrounding the Convent of Incarnation in Meadow Lane mentioned in the report.


In discussion it was suggested that the Council might become  ...  view the full minutes text for item 91.


Report of the Budget Review Group 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 437 KB


To endorse the report and recommendations of the Budget Review Group,

before submission to the City Executive Board and Full Council on 12 and 13

February respectively.The report will be issued as a supplement to this




Councillor Fry spoke to the report before the Committee, drawing attention to a few matters in particular. While the Council was powerless to challenge the proportion of business rates it retained, the regrettable fact that it would retain a mere 8.5% of them  should be noted as should the fact that this small share was under threat from the “Fair Funding Review.” Maintenance of support for twinning arrangements was important in the present environment as was the desirability of being clear about environmental consequences of Council plans. The use of the Council’s homelessness reserves, touched upon in the previous item, was a matter of great concern and the recommendation to the City Executive Board about it should be expanded to request a contingency plan to deal with the consequences of its significant use. It might, for example, be necessary to revisit the Council’s decision to maintain the Council Tax Reduction scheme.


Subject to some points of clarification and minor ammendments, the Committee endorsed the report for submission to the City Executive Board on 12 February 2019.


Dates of future meetings

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

as follows:

Scrutiny Committee

·         05 March 2019

·         02 April 2019

·         15 May 2019

Standing Panels

·         Housing Standing Panel: 4 March, 8 April

·         Finance Standing Panel: 4 April, 01 July

·         Companies Panel: 6 March

All meetings start at 6.00 pm



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


Scrutiny Committee



·         05 March  2019

·         02 April 2019

·         15 May 2019



Standing Panels

·         Housing Standing Panel: 4 March, 8 April

·         Finance Standing Panel: 4 April, 01 July

·         Companies Panel: 28 February


All meetings start at 6.00 pm