Agenda and draft minutes

Agenda and draft minutes

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Speaking at a Council or Committee meeting

Venue: Council Chamber - Oxford Town Hall

Contact: Jonathan Malton, Committee and Member Services Manager  email:  democraticservices@oxford.gov.uk tel: 01865 529117

Media

Items
No. Item

79.

Declarations of interest

Minutes:

Item 13a: Stop the Anti-Boycott Bill

Councillor Linda Smith stated she had an interest relating to this item; this declaration had been entered on her register of interest; she indicated that she would leave the room during the consideration of this item.

 

Item 10: Questions on Notice from Members of Council (CM6-8: New leisure provider 1-3)

Councillor Imogen Thomas stated she had an interest on items relating to the award of contact to Serco; she indicated that she would leave the room during the consideration of these items.

 

Item 10: Questions on Notice from Members of Council (CM4: Allotment sites asbestos contamination)

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth stated that he was the Chair of Cripley Meadow Allotments association; he made the declaration for reasons of transparency; it was not a pecuniary interest and he was not required to leave the room during consideration of that item.

 

Councillor Roz Smith declared an interest relating to allotments and made the declaration for reasons of transparency; she was not required to leave the room during the consideration of this item.

 

Councillor Louise Upton declared an interest relating to allotments and made the declaration for reasons of transparency; she was not required to leave the room during the consideration of this item.

 

Cllrs Gant and Mundy arrived the meeting.

 

80.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 596 KB

Minutes of the ordinary meeting of Council held on 27 November 2023.

Council is asked to approve the minutes as a correct record.

Minutes:

Council agreed to approve the minutes of the ordinary meeting held on 27 November 2023.

81.

Announcements

Announcements by:

1.     The Lord Mayor

2.     The Sheriff

3.     The Leader of the Council (who may with the permission of the Lord Mayor invite other councillors to make announcements)

4.     The Chief Executive, Chief Finance Officer, Monitoring Officer

Minutes:

The Lord Mayor announced that she had attended Prayers for Peace at Rose Hill Community Centre, which had been organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.  She had also attended Oxfordshire Together for Humanity which was hosted by the Oxfordshire Civic Community.

 

The Leader of the Council announced that she had also attended Oxfordshire Together Humanity and noted that the event was very well-attended and extremely organised. She expressed her thanks to those involved.  The Leader provided an updated on the Mayor of Ramallah's address to Council and stated that a Christmas video message was circulated during the Christmas period.  A request for an updated video message was made and would be shared upon its receipt.

 

The City Rector addressed Council and shared his sombre reflections, having attended Together for Humanity and the Holocaust Memorial event.  He conveyed appreciation for the efforts councillors give towards the welfare of the city and their ability to draw out the best in people.  He concluded with a call for grace in serving and promoting humanity.

 

82.

Public addresses and questions that relate to matters for decision at this meeting

Public addresses and questions to the Leader or other Cabinet member received in accordance with Council Procedure Rules in the Constitution relating to matters for decision in Part 1 of this agenda.

Up to five minutes is available for each public address and up to three minutes for each question. Questions must be less than 200 words.

 

The request to speak accompanied by the full text of the address or question must be received by the Head of Law and Governance by 5.00 pm on Tuesday 23 January 2023.

 

The briefing note will contain the text of addresses and questions submitted by the deadline, and written responses where available.

A total of 45 minutes is available for both public speaking items. Responses are included in this time.

Minutes:

There were no addresses or questions.

83.

Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Rent Setting Report 2024/25 pdf icon PDF 521 KB

The Head of Financial Services submitted a report to Cabinet on 24 January 2024 which presented the outcome of Oxford City Council’s (the Council’s) annual rent review and associated rent setting proposal for 2024/25 in respect of all Council dwellings within the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), including the setting of associated services and facilities charges.

The draft Cabinet minutes will be available here when published.

Councillor Ed Turner, Deputy Leader (Statutory) and Cabinet Member for Finance and Asset Management will present the report and present Cabinet’s recommendations.

Recommendations: Cabinet recommends that Council resolves to:

1.    Approve an increase of 7.7% for 2024/25 (subject to any subsequent cap on increases imposed by central government) in social dwelling rents from 1st April 2024 giving an average weekly increase of £9.27 per week, and a revised weekly average social rent of £129.72 as set out in the Financial Implications section of this report;

2.    Approve an increase to rents for shared ownership dwellings as outlined in paragraph 15 of the Financial Implications;

3.    Approve an increase to service charges by 7.7% (CPI + 1%) to enable the HRA to recover the associated cost of supply;

4.    Approve an increase to the charge for a garage of 7%, equating to an increase of £1.25 per week for a standard garage with a revised charge of £19.10 per week, and an increase of £1.44 per week for a premium garage with a revised charge of £21.60 per week; and

5.    Approve the option to exercise the Rent Flexibility option in respect of re-lets to new tenants as outlined in paragraph 6 below.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Council considered the report from the Head of Financial Services which presented the outcome of Oxford City Council’s annual rent review and associated rent setting proposal for 2024/25 in respect of all Council dwellings within the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), including the setting of associated services and facilities charges.

 

Cllrs Diggins, Clarkson and Goddard arrived at the meeting.

 

Councillor Linda Smith, Cabinet Member for Housing, introduced the report and proposed the recommendation.

 

Councillor L Smith responded to questions, stating that social and affordable rents in Oxford remained significantly below the local housing allowance rate.  It was hoped that further government investments were made available to Councils like Oxford towards building more homes and preventing rent increases, however the Councillor pointed out that this was not the current situation.

 

In terms of council garage charges, Councillor Ed Turner, Deputy Leader (Statutory) and Cabinet Member for Finance and Asset Management, emphasised the need to strike a balance between encouraging car use and reducing the number of cars on the road.  Ultimately, the recommended figure was in alignment with the government guidance on rent increases.

 

The Committee and Member Services Manager clarified that the briefing note, which had been published on 26 January 2024 and available publicly, contained the updated figure of 7.7% applicable to garages.

 

In her summary, Councillor L Smith advised that tenant involvement and engagement consultation was in the process of being improved with additional staffing.  The Council was reminded that the proposed recommendation pertained to the Housing Revenue Account, a ring fenced budget used solely for the Council's housing services, separate from the General Fund.

 

The recommendation was agreed on being seconded by Councillor Ed Turner and put to the vote.

 

Council resolved to:

  1. Approve an increase of 7.7% for 2024/25 (subject to any subsequent cap on increases imposed by central government) in social dwelling rents from 1st April 2024 giving an average weekly increase of £9.27 per week, and a revised weekly average social rent of £129.72 as set out in the Financial Implications section of this report;
  2. Approve an increase to rents for shared ownership dwellings as outlined in paragraph 15 of the Financial Implications;
  3. Approve an increase to service charges by 7.7% (CPI + 1%) to enable the HRA to recover the associated cost of supply;
  4. Approve an increase to the charge for a garage of 7.7%, equating to an increase of £1.37 per week for a standard garage with a revised charge of £19.22 per week, and an increase of £1.55 per week for a premium garage with a revised charge of £21.71 per week; and
  5. Approve the option to exercise the Rent Flexibility option in respect of re-lets to new tenants as outlined in paragraph 6 below.

 

84.

Project approvals, budget and delegations to develop five small sites for affordable housing, using spend from the Brownfield Land Release Fund pdf icon PDF 284 KB

Appendices 1 and 2 to this item include exempt information pursuant to Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972. If Council wishes to discuss matters relating to the information set out in Appendices 1 and 2 to the report, it will be necessary for the Council to pass a resolution to exclude the press and public from the meeting (as set out at agenda item 14).

The Executive Director (Development) submitted a report to Cabinet on 24 January 2024 which sought project and contract approval and delegations, budget and delegations in relation to affordable housing schemes across five small/garage sites.  All sites had been allocated initial funding through the Brownfield Land Release Fund (“BLRF2”) following a successful bid.  The report sought approval for appropriation from General Fund (“GF”) to Housing Revenue Fund, and to a planning purpose, where necessary; approval for the disposal of land as required; approval for the demolition of garages held in the GF and approval for demolition of vacant units currently held within the Housing Revenue Account (“HRA”).

The draft Cabinet minutes will be available here when published.

Councillor Linda Smith, Cabinet Member for Housing will present the report and present Cabinet’s recommendations.

Recommendation: Cabinet recommends that Council resolves to:

1.    Allocate of a £340,213 capital budget (which will be funded entirely by the BLRF2 grant) to carry out the demolition/ enabling works on each site as detailed within the BLRF2 application (see table, paragraph 14).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Cllr Pressel arrived at the meeting.

 

Council considered the report from the Executive Director (Development) seeking project and contract approval and delegations, budget and delegations in relation to affordable housing schemes across five small/garage sites. All sites had been allocated initial funding through the Brownfield Land Release Fund (“BLRF2”) following a successful bid. The report sought approval for appropriation from General Fund (“GF”) to Housing Revenue Fund, and to a planning purpose, where necessary; approval for the disposal of land as required; approval for the demolition of garages held in the GF and approval for demolition of vacant units currently held within the Housing Revenue Account (“HRA”).

 

Councillor Linda Smith, Cabinet Member for Housing introduced the report, proposed the recommendation and answered questions.

 

The recommendation was agreed on being seconded by Councillor Ed Turner, Deputy Leader (Statutory) and Cabinet Member for Finance and Asset Management, and put to the vote.

 

Council resolves to:

  1. Allocate of a £340,213 capital budget (which will be funded entirely by the BLRF2 grant) to carry out the demolition/enabling works on each site as detailed within the BLRF2 application (see table, paragraph 14).

 

85.

Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2024-25 pdf icon PDF 183 KB

The Head of Financial Services submitted a report to Cabinet on 24 January 2024 which sought approval for changes to the Council’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2024/25.

The draft Cabinet minutes will be available here when published.

Councillor Ed Turner, Deputy Leader (Statutory) and Cabinet Member for Finance and Asset Manager will present the report and present Cabinet’s recommendations.

Recommendation: Cabinet recommends that Council resolves to:

1.     Adopt the new Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2024/25.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Council considered the report from the Head of Financial Services seeking approval for changes to the Council’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2024/25.

 

Councillor Ed Turner, Deputy Leader (Statutory) and Cabinet Member for Finance and Asset Management, introduced the report, proposed the recommendation and answered questions.

 

The recommendation was agreed on being seconded by Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Inclusive Economy, and put to the vote.

 

Council resolved to:

  1. Adopt the new Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2024/25.

 

86.

Questions on Cabinet minutes

This item has a time limit of 15 minutes.

Councillors may ask the Cabinet Members questions about matters in these minutes:

86a

Draft Minutes of the Cabinet Meeting held on 13 December 2023 pdf icon PDF 408 KB

Minutes:

Minute 98 – Equalities Update

In response to a question form Councillor Ed Turner, Councillor Nigel Chapman, Cabinet Member for Citizen Focused Services and Council Companies agreed that investing in diverse workforce was central to the Council's vision for the city and belief in equality, diversity and inclusion, and stated he would not be deflected by the government in its recent audit of EDI spending in civil services.

 

Councillor Katherine Miles wished to put on record that this was the first Council meeting held where increased representations of women of significance to Oxford's political history were proudly displayed on the walls of the Council Chamber, reflective of the Council’s ethos.  She congratulated the women represented in the photographs, as well as the Council on progressing its work equality, diversity and inclusion.

86b

Draft Minutes of the Cabinet Meeting held on 24 January 2024

To be circulated with the briefing paper.

Minutes:

Minute 111 - Scrutiny Reports

In response to a procedural question from Councillor Christopher Smowton, Councillor Chewe Munkonge, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Parks sought advice from the Monitoring Officer.

         

The Monitoring Officer clarified that the evaluation of bids submitted followed legal processes that Councillors should not be involved in the actual procurement process and in the evaluation of the bids.  It was explained that the procurement process would be susceptible to challenges in the context of legality where they were further assessed by Councillors outside of the process with view to re-evaluate the outcome of the procurement.

87.

Questions on Notice from Members of Council pdf icon PDF 359 KB

Questions on notice from councillors received in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 11.11(b).

Questions on notice may be asked of the Lord Mayor, a Member of the Cabinet or a Chair of a Committee. One supplementary question may be asked at the meeting.

The full text of questions must have been received by the Head of Law and Governance by no later than 1.00pm on Wednesday 17 January 2024.

These, and written responses where available, will be published in the briefing note.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

49 written questions were asked of the Cabinet Members and the Leader, and these and written responses were published before the meeting.  These along with summaries of the 20 supplementary questions and responses asked and given at the meeting are set out in the minutes pack.

 

Council agreed to consider items 12a and 12b next of the agenda before the 30 minutes break and then return to the agenda as listed.

88.

Outside organisation/Committee Chair reports and questions

As set out in the Constitution at procedure rule 11.16, Members who are Council representatives on external bodies or Chairs of Council Committees who consider that a significant decision or event has taken place, may give notice to the Head of Law and Governance by 1.00 pm Wednesday 24 January 2024 that they will present a written or oral report on the event or the significant decision and how it may influence future events. Written reports will be circulated with the briefing note.

88a

Outside Organisation Report: Future Oxfordshire Partnership pdf icon PDF 382 KB

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Inclusive Economy and Partnerships, has submitted a report which updates Council on the work of the Future Oxfordshire Partnership.

Recommendation: that Council resolves to:

1.    Note the annual update report on the work of the Future Oxfordshire Partnership and the Oxford Inclusive Economy Partnership.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Inclusive Economy and Partnerships, introduced the report which updated Council on the work of the Future Oxfordshire Partnership (FOP).

 

Councillor Katherine Miles, Chair of the Future Oxfordshire Partnership Scrutiny Panel, spoke to expressed appreciation to Councillor Brown and FOP officers for their support in the work of the FOP Scrutiny Panel. Councillor Miles drew attention to some challenges of the panel, including delay in the availability of papers for adequate oversight, and an unclear expectation and scope of the panel’s responsibilities in relation to the partnership.  It was clarified that these challenges had not stopped the collaborative work between the scrutiny panel and the partnership, however it was hoped they were improved moving into the next Council year.

 

Councillor Brown acknowledged the concerns raised by Councillor Miles.

 

Cllr Latif arrived at the meeting.

 

Council resolved to:

1.     Note the annual update report on the work of the Future Oxfordshire Partnership and the Oxford Inclusive Economy Partnership.

 

88b

Scrutiny Committee update report pdf icon PDF 194 KB

The Chair of the Scrutiny Committee has submitted a report which updates Council on the activities of scrutiny and the implementation of recommendations since the last meeting of Council.

Council is invited to comment on and note the report.

Minutes:

Councillor Lucy Pegg, Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, introduced the report and thanked the members of the Scrutiny Committee and the Scrutiny Officer, Alice Courtney, for their hard work and contributions.  Councillor Pegg updated the Council on the activities of the committee from 01 October 2023 to 31 December 2023, highlighting some of the reports that had been considered during this period, including the Local Plan 2040 Regulation 19 Consultation Document, Equalities Monitoring report, and the Action Plan following the Local Government Association Corporate Peer Review. 

 

Council noted the report.

89.

Public addresses and questions that do not relate to matters for decision at this Council meeting pdf icon PDF 329 KB

This item will be taken at or shortly after 7.00pm

Public addresses and questions to the Leader or other Cabinet member received in accordance with Council Procedure Rules in the Constitution and not relating to matters for decision in Part 1 of this agenda.

Up to five minutes is available for each public address and up to three minutes for each question. Questions must be less than 200 words.

 

The request to speak accompanied by the full text of the address or question must be received by the Head of Law and Governance by 5.00 pm on Tuesday 23 January 2024.

 

The briefing note will contain the text of addresses and questions submitted by the deadline, and written responses where available.

A total of 45 minutes is available for both public speaking items. Responses are included within this limit.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Council heard four addresses and Cabinet Members read or summarised their written responses. Both addresses and responses are set out in full in the minutes pack.

 

  1. Address from Isabel Tucker – Operation of Gloucester Green Market
  2. Address from Emma Jones – Oxford's Leisure Contract to Serco
  3. Address from Maryam Firdous Ahmed – Anti-BDS Bill
  4. Question from Chaka Artwell – Female Sanitary Products

 

The Lord Mayor thanked the speakers for their contributions.

 

90.

Motions on notice 29 January 2024 pdf icon PDF 428 KB

This item has a time limit of 60 minutes.

Motions received by the Head of Law and Governance in accordance with the rules in Section 11 of the Constitution by the deadline of 1.00pm on Wednesday 17 January 2024 are listed below.

Cross party motions are taken first. Motions will then be taken in turn from the Oxford Socialist Independents, Independent Group, Labour Group, Liberal Democrat Group, Green Groupin that order.

Substantive amendments to these motions must be sent by councillors to the Head of Law and Governance by no later than 10.00am on Friday 26 January 2024so that they may be circulated with the briefing note.

Minor technical or limited wording amendments may be submitted during the meeting but must be written down and circulated.

Council is asked to consider the following motions:

a)    Stop the Anti-Boycott Bill (proposed by Cllr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, seconded by Cllr Chris Jarvis)

b)    Moving Oxford City Council to a committee system of representation to increase residents’ confidence in democracy (proposed by Cllr Amar Latif, seconded by Cllr Shaista Aziz)

c)    The Cost of Living Crisis and local spending in England (proposed by Cllr Ed Turner, seconded by Cllr Nigel Chapman)

d)    Scrap the two-child benefit cap (proposed by Cllr Christopher Smowton, seconded by Cllr Katherine Miles)

e)    Disposable Vapes (proposed by Cllr Lucy Pegg, seconded by Cllr Rosie Rawle

Minutes:

Council had before it five motions on notice submitted in accordance with Council procedure rules and reached decisions as set out below.

 

Motions agreed as set out below:

 

a.     Stop the Anti-Boycott Bill (Proposed by Cllr Dr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, seconded by Cllr Chris Jarvis) [Amendment proposed by Cllr Chris Smowton, seconded by Cllr Laurence Fouweather]

 

Motions taken but lost:

 

b.     Moving Oxford City Council to a committee system of representation to increase residents’ confidence in democracy (proposed by Cllr Amar Latif, seconded by Cllr Shaista Aziz)

 

Motions not taken as the time allocated for debate had finished:

 

c.     The Cost of living crisis and local government funding (proposed by Cllr Ed Turner, seconded by Cllr Nigel Chapman). [Amendment proposed by Cllr Andrew Gant, seconded by Cllr Katherine MIles]

d.     Scrap the two-child benefit cap (proposed by Cllr Christopher Smowton, seconded by Cllr Katherine Miles)

e.     Disposable Vapes (proposed by Cllr Lucy Pegg, seconded by Cllr Rosie Rawle)

 

90a

Stop the Anti-Boycott Bill (proposed by Cllr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, seconded by Cllr Chris Jarvis

Oxford Socialist Independents Group Motion

 

Council Notes

 

  1. The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons on 10 January 2024.[1] It will now continue its passage through the House of Lords.
  2. The legislation has been dubbed the ‘Anti-Boycott Bill’ and seeks to stop public bodies from making any decisions around investment and procurement that aren’t in line with UK government foreign or economic trade policies. [2]
  3. The Anti-Boycott Bill is specifically designed to target the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement - an initiative launched by Palestinian civil society organisations. The BDS movement seeks to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law. 
  4. The only geographical areas that the legislation would prohibit the government making exemption provisions for are - as listed in the Bill - ‘Israel’, ‘the Occupied Palestine Territories’ and ‘the Occupied Golan Heights’.[3] The legislation would therefore explicitly prohibit public bodies - including local authorities - from engaging in any form of boycott of Israeli goods and services, including those produced or developed through an illegal occupation.
  5. More than 60 charities, campaign groups, civil society organisations and trade unions have publicly opposed the legislation, including ASLEF, CWU, FBU, Friends of the Earth, Global Justice Now, Greenpeace, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Liberty, Methodist Church in Britain, Muslim Association of Britain, Na’Amod, NEU, NUS, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, PCS, Unison, UCU, and War on Want.[4]

 

Council Believes

 

  1. The Anti-Boycott Bill is an anti-democratic measure which restricts the ability of public bodies to take ethics and human rights into account in key parts of their decision making. It has profound implications on public bodies’ ability to act upon human rights violations, slavery and environmental destruction. 
  2. Ethical boycotts from public bodies - including local councils - have played an important role in many historic campaigns for justice - most notably in the struggle against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. 
  3. Local authorities like Oxford City Council have a duty to speak out and resist such attempts to diminish democracy.

 

Council Resolves



To ask the leader of the council to: 

1.    Issue a public statement condemning the Anti-Boycott Bill. 

2.    Write to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities - Michael Gove - expressing Oxford City Council’s opposition to the legislation and calling for him to withdraw the Bill. 

3.    Write to Ben Jamal, Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, expressing Oxford City Council’s opposition to the Anti-Boycott Bill and support for the Right to Boycott campaign.

4.    Write to Labour leader Keir Starmer, Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey, and Green Party co-leaders Adrian Ramsay and Carla Denyer, encouraging them to ensure that their MPs actively oppose the legislation in parliament. 

5.    Write to the leaders of the parliamentary groups in the House of Lords, encouraging them to ensure that peers within their groups actively oppose the legislation in the Lords.

Minutes:

Cllr L Smith left the meeting, having declared an interest on this item.

Councillor Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, seconded by Councillor Chris Jarvis, proposed the motion as set out in the briefing note.  Councillor Djafari-Marbini proposed an amendment to the motion, replacing point 3 of ‘this Council resolves’ to “Write to the Right to Boycott campaign expressing Oxford City Council’s opposition to the Anti-Boycott Bill.”

Councillor Christopher Smowton withdrew his amendment as set out in the briefing note.

Council debated the amended motion. Following debate and on being put to the vote, the amended motion was agreed.

 

Council Notes

  1. The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons on 10 January 2024.[1] It will now continue its passage through the House of Lords.
  2. The legislation has been dubbed the ‘Anti-Boycott Bill’ and seeks to stop public bodies from making any decisions around investment and procurement that aren’t in line with UK government foreign or economic trade policies. [2]
  3. The Anti-Boycott Bill is specifically designed to target the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement - an initiative launched by Palestinian civil society organisations. The BDS movement seeks to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law. 
  4. The only geographical areas that the legislation would prohibit the government making exemption provisions for are - as listed in the Bill - ‘Israel’, ‘the Occupied Palestine Territories’ and ‘the Occupied Golan Heights’.[3] The legislation would therefore explicitly prohibit public bodies - including local authorities - from engaging in any form of boycott of Israeli goods and services, including those produced or developed through an illegal occupation.
  5. More than 60 charities, campaign groups, civil society organisations and trade unions have publicly opposed the legislation, including ASLEF, CWU, FBU, Friends of the Earth, Global Justice Now, Greenpeace, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Liberty, Methodist Church in Britain, Muslim Association of Britain, Na’Amod, NEU, NUS, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, PCS, Unison, UCU, and War on Want.[4]

 

Council Believes

 

  1. The Anti-Boycott Bill is an anti-democratic measure which restricts the ability of public bodies to take ethics and human rights into account in key parts of their decision making. It has profound implications on public bodies’ ability to act upon human rights violations, slavery and environmental destruction. 
  2. Ethical boycotts from public bodies - including local councils - have played an important role in many historic campaigns for justice - most notably in the struggle against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. 
  3. Local authorities like Oxford City Council have a duty to speak out and resist such attempts to diminish democracy.

 

Council Resolves

 

  1. To ask the leader of the council to: 
    1. Issue a public statement condemning the Anti-Boycott Bill. 
    2. Write to the secretary state for leveling up, housing and communities - Michael Gove - expressing Oxford City Council’s opposition to the legislation and calling for him to withdraw the Bill.
    3. Write to the Right to Boycott campaign expressing Oxford City Council’s  ...  view the full minutes text for item 90a

90b

Moving Oxford City Council to a committee system of representation to increase residents' confidence in democracy (proposed by Cllr Amar Latif, seconded by Cllr Shaista Aziz)

Independent Group Motion

This council notes:

Years of low voter turnout in local elections (less than 40% in May 2022) [1] within Oxford would suggest that there is discontent amongst the electorate in the city.

Low turn out has been suggested to disproportionately affect the more disadvantaged across communities and society who may find it more difficult to access elected politicians, find it challenging to access online consultations and be more disenfranchised with the political process. [2] [3]

That the Labour administration has lost 10 councillors since October 13th, 2023, which is almost a third of total Labour Councillors, yet continues as a minority administration.

Furthermore, despite Oxford having the third largest ethnic minority population, 29% [4], within the Southeast of England, and being proud of its diversity and internationalist identity as a city, there is only one cabinet member from an ethnic minority background.

Prior to the racist murder of George Floyd in the USA in May 2020 and the reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter and Rhodes Must Fall Movement in Oxford, the Labour lead Oxford City Council carried out internal work to ensure it has a racially diverse and representative Cabinet, the progress made has since been reversed.

That the decision-making process within the City Council leaves large numbers of decisions to individual cabinet members who cannot fully represent the diversity of views from residents across Oxford.

That other Councils, including Sheffield and Bristol, have moved towards a committee system of representation which better reflects views of residents across their respective cities.

This council believes that a committee system of representation:

Is a better and more transparent way for decisions to be made across Oxford, which will create a more equitable system ensuring residents voices are listened to and acted upon alongside a wider group of councillors.

Will allow a less centralised and more collaborative way of working.

Will better reflect the diversity of views and opinions from a wider demographic of society, including across the political spectrum.

Will allow individual Cabinet members to be replaced by Policy Committee Chairs who will have responsibility for different areas of Council policy.

This council agrees to:

Request the Officers assess the implications (financial, resource, legal and otherwise), negatives and positives of the Council moving to a Committee System of governance, including considering and developing plans as to how such a system of governance may work.

Present the final proposals to Cabinet and then Council for comments and consideration as to whether to commence the process to consider a formal change of governance arrangements in the Council, with a view to putting this to a City-wide referendum by May 2025.

References:

[1] https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20046/elections_and_voting/1521/oxford_city_council_election_results_-_5_may_2022

[2]

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277953623000746

[3]

https://www.democraticaudit.com/2019/10/11/have-we-all-underestimated-the-severity-of-socioeconomic-differences-in-electoral-participation/

[4]

Ethnicity | Ethnicity | Oxford City Council

Minutes:

Councillor Amar Latif, on being seconded by Councillor Shaista Aziz, proposed the motion.

 

Following debate and on being put to the vote, the motion was lost.

 

This Council notes:

 

Years of low voter turnout in local elections (less than 40% in May 2022)[1] within Oxford would suggest that there is discontent amongst the electorate in the city.

 

Low turn out has been suggested to disproportionately affect the more disadvantaged across communities and society who may find it more difficult to access elected politicians, find it challenging to access online consultations and be more disenfranchised with the political process.[2][3] 

 

That the Labour administration has lost 10 councillors since October 13th, 2023, which is almost a third of total Labour Councillors, yet continues as a minority administration.

 

Furthermore, despite Oxford having the third largest ethnic minority population, 29%[4], within the Southeast of England, and being proud of its diversity and internationalist identity as a city, there is only one cabinet member from an ethnic minority background.

 

Prior to the racist murder of George Floyd in the USA in May 2020 and the reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter and Rhodes Must Fall Movement in Oxford, the Labour lead Oxford City Council carried out internal work to ensure it has a racially diverse and representative Cabinet, the progress made has since been reversed.

 

That the decision-making process within the City Council leaves large numbers of decisions to individual cabinet members who cannot fully represent the diversity of views from residents across Oxford. 

 

That other Councils, including Sheffield and Bristol, have moved towards a committee system of representation which better reflects views of residents across their respective cities.

 

This council believes that a committee system of representation:

Is a better and more transparent way for decisions to be made across Oxford, which will create a more equitable system ensuring residents voices are listened to and acted upon alongside a wider group of councillors.

 

Will allow a less centralised and more collaborative way of working.

Will better reflect the diversity of views and opinions from a wider demographic of society, including across the political spectrum.

 

Will allow individual Cabinet members to be replaced by Policy Committee Chairs who will have responsibility for different areas of Council policy.

 

This council agrees to:

 

Request the Officers assess the implications (financial, resource, legal and otherwise), negatives and positives of the Council moving to a Committee System of governance, including considering and developing plans as to how such a system of governance may work.

 

Present the final proposals to Cabinet and then Council for comments and consideration as to whether to commence the process to consider a formal change of governance arrangements in the Council, with a view to putting this to a City-wide referendum by May 2025.

 

90c

The Cost of Living Crisis and local spending in England (proposed by Cllr Ed Turner, seconded by Cllr Nigel Chapman)

Labour Motion

This Council believes that the English local government finance settlement proposed by the Tories for 24/25 is thoroughly inadequate and penalises our poorest citizens the most, who are least well equipped to face the continuing cost-of-living crisis.

Government pronouncements about increased funding are “smoke and mirrors” and do not reflect the reality that costs are rising faster than any increases in funding, and that increases in “core spending power” largely come from local residents, not government funding.

Council is very concerned that a one-year increase in local housing allowances (after years of freeze) will be eroded by the Government’s failure to increase the benefits cap and temporary accommodation housing benefit, thus offering support with one hand and then denying it with the other. That failure will be exacerbated by reintroducing the housing allowance freeze again in April 25.  This will once again increase homelessness in areas like Oxford.

In addition, this Council is angry that the Conservative Government has abolished funding for the Household support grant from May 24 – denying poorer people a welcome source of cash support for household and fuel bills, and vital heating repairs. This comes in addition to the end of centrally provided fuel bill support for many who had been in receipt of it.

Overall, English local government faces a huge funding crisis and cannot close the gap without cutting front line services, especially those aimed at its poorest citizens. This is evidenced by Oxford City Council having to draw down on its reserves and propose a reduction in funding for its Council Tax reduction scheme from April 2025.

More widely, Council believes households are feeling huge pressure as a result of substantial increases in taxes as well as, for many, higher mortgage costs and rents due to the chaos caused by Liz Truss’ mini-budget, and a sharp focus on the cost of living is urgently needed.

This Council calls upon the Leader of the Council to write to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government demanding:

1.    A sustainable long term funding settlement in the March Budget for councils like Oxford, facing a funding squeeze due to inflation and the rising costs of homelessness.

2.    A commitment to increasing local housing allowances annually in line with local housing costs and scrapping the benefits cap.

3.    The re-instatement of funding for the Household Support Grant which provides a flexible and rapid response to people with urgent needs.

4.    Support for councils like Oxford which retains a Council Tax reduction scheme for people struggling to pay these costs, and encouragement that other councils should instigate such schemes.

It also asks the Leader of the Council to contact our two local MPs, for Oxford East and Oxford West and Abingdon respectively, and ask them to write with the same demands to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Minutes:

This motion was not taken as the time allocated for debate had finished.

90d

Scrap the two-child benefit cap (proposed by Cllr Christopher Smowton, seconded by Cllr Katherine Miles)

Liberal Democrat Group Motion

Council notes that:

?      The two-child limit, introduced by the Conservative Government in 2017, restricts support in Universal Credit and tax credits to two children in a family.

?      The Child Poverty Action Group identified 4.2 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2021–22, with the prevalence of poverty much higher among Black and minority ethnic groups [1].

?      Research by the End Child Poverty Coalition shows that scrapping the two-child limit would lift 250,000 children out of poverty, and that the economic and societal effects of child poverty, including spending on public services, cost the UK £39 billion every year [2].

?      A new report by the Commons Education Select Committee warns that cost-of-living pressures on families are driving missed education [3].

?      In a country already struggling with fewer and fewer young people supporting an ageing population, it is not in any case in our interests to attempt to prevent or delay people from raising children through financial pressure.

?      Despite initially pledging to repeal the policy in 2020 [4], the Leader of the Opposition then reversed himself and pledged to keep the Tory policy [5], before eventually adopting a noncommittal stance on the issue [6].

Council resolves:

?      That the Leader should write to both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition expressing this council’s strong support for a repeal to the two-child benefit cap.

?      That the Leader should further write to Oxford’s MPs requesting that they in turn pressure both government and opposition to abolish the cap.

[1] https://cpag.org.uk/child-poverty/child-poverty-facts-and-figures

[2] https://endchildpoverty.org.uk/two_child_limit/

[3] https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/41590/documents/205047/default/ particularly para.148

[4] https://twitter.com/Keir_Starmer/status/1225465424092987393

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/jul/16/labour-keep-two-child-benefit-cap-says-keir-starmer

[6] https://news.sky.com/story/starmer-softens-stance-on-two-child-benefit-cap-amid-snp-attacks-ahead-of-by-election-12940684

Minutes:

This motion was not taken as the time allocated for debate had finished.

90e

Disposable Vapes (proposed by Cllr Lucy Pegg, seconded by Cllr Rosie Rawle)

Green Group Motion

Disposable vapes are creating an environmental and health crisis. Far from helping smokers to quit, with their attractive packaging and child-friendly flavours, disposable vapes are getting a new generation addicted to nicotine. Frequently littered and hard to recycle, disposable vapes are also causing damage to the natural environment and wasting critical materials. 

 

This council notes that:

  • There has been a fourfold increase in the number of disposable vapes being discarded over the past year, with 5 million vapes now being thrown away every week[1]
  • Vapes contain critical raw materials, such as lithium and copper, which are vital for our transition to a greener society. The disposable vapes thrown away over the past year contain enough lithium to create 5,000 batteries for electric cars[2]
  • 1 in 9 young people aged 11 to 18 have experimented with e-cigarettes, with 69% of these people choosing disposable vapes, according to research from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). There has been a 7-fold increase between 2020 and 2022 in the choice of disposables amongst this age group, alongside a 50% year on year increase in the proportion of children experimenting with vaping of all kinds. [3] 
  • Lithium ion batteries, like those used in vapes, caused 700 fires at waste sites in 2022 due to not being properly disposed of. [4]
  • Prominent environmental and health organisations have called for a ban, including The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Marine Conservation Society, Centre for Sustainable Healthcare and Surfers Against Sewage. [5]
  • Councils across the country have called for a UK ban on disposable vapes by 2024, and the Scottish Government has already agreed to carry out a consultation on banning disposable vapes.[6] The UK must rapidly respond to its consultation on youth vaping by bringing in a full prohibition on disposable vapes.
  • Whilst vaping can help smokers to quit, reusable vapes serve this same purpose.

 

This council resolves to:

 

  • Request that the Leader of the Council will write jointly to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, supporting a ban on disposable vapes by the end of 2024 on environmental and child health grounds.
  • Request that the Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford and Climate Justice and the Cabinet Member for Planning and Healthier Communities investigate ways the council can encourage retailers selling disposable vapes in Oxford to provide recycling facilities for vapes in their stores.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/sep/08/call-for-uk-ban-on-single-use-vapes-as-more-than-5m-discarded-each-week

[2] ibid

[3]  https://ash.org.uk/uploads/Use-of-vapes-among-young-people-GB-2023.pdf?v=1690455394

[4] https://www.materialfocus.org.uk/press-releases/over-700-fires-in-bin-lorries-and-recycling-centres-are-caused-by-batteries-many-of-which-are-hidden-inside-electricals/

[5] https://green-alliance.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Letter-to-ministers-on-disposable-vapes.pdf

[6]  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-66718599

 

Minutes:

This motion was not taken as the time allocated for debate had finished.