Revised Oxford City Council Business Plan 2020-21
- Meeting of Finance and Performance Panel (Panel of the Scrutiny Committee), Wednesday 2 September 2020 6.00 pm (Item 21.)
- View the background to item 21.
On 09 September the Cabinet will consider a report on the Revised Oxford City Council Business Plan 2020/21. The Panel is asked to consider the report, making any recommendations to Cabinet as it sees fit.
Mish Tullar, Corporate Policy, Partnerships and Communications Manager, and Shelley Ghazi, Policy and Partnerships Officer, will be at the meeting to present the report.
NB The report for this item will be issued as a supplement.
Leader of the Council, Councillor Susan Brown introduced the report on the revised Oxford City Council Business Plan. With the immense disruption of Covid it had been necessary to revisit the Council’s plans for the current year, particularly due to the increased need to support economic recovery and promote safe, green travel. It was reassuring, however, how much of the Council’s plans and priorities remained. Particular highlights and priorities within the updated Business Plan included the launch of a new Procurement Strategy, which was being considered by the Panel that evening. The importance of the Council’s staff reflecting the demographics of the city they sought to serve was also underlined. Black Lives Matter had really resonated with residents in the city and given fresh impetus to a priority for the Council where progress had been made, but where work remained still to do. The area within the Business Plan most changed was in relation to economic recovery, but it was pleasing to see that much of the Council’s original ambitions would help to support recovery. One caveat to the Business Plan was in regards to how much central government’s new Planning guidance might alter the Council’s ability to deliver its housing ambitions. Finally, an amendment was also put forward to the text on page 32 of the report pack. The amended version was to read ‘continue to reduce the carbon footprint of Oxford City Council’s operation so that each year there is a reduction in line with achieving zero carbon by 2050 or earlier.’
Mish Tullar, Head of Communications, Partnerships & Policy, underlined that the Business Plan was Year 1 of the Council Strategy, which had been adopted in February 2020. Regarding KPIs, it was explained that under usual circumstances there would normally have been 16 or so corporate-level KPIs for the entire Corporate Strategy. That had not happened due to Covid and was being deferred until March 2021. At the same time, service level KPIs would also be considered. The Council’s auditor would work with the Council to collaborate on developing the most beneficial KPIs.
In response to the presented report, the Panel raised a number of questions and suggestions. Potential concern was raised over the Council’s support for the County Council’s bus gate plans on small businesses and overall economic recovery, and it was asked what research had been done to underpin the Council’s position. The exact proposals had not been made available by the County Council, making it difficult to assess their detail. However, the idea behind bus gates was to support businesses, and national and local policy indicated that reduced congestion and greater ease of access for customers was supportive of local business overall. The County Council would be expected to produce a case looking at those issues, but it was fair to say that business in those streets which had reduced traffic significantly through pedestrianisation were amongst the most thriving. Further, consultation on the proposals had included many businesses and the results would be expected to be incorporated into forthcoming proposals by the County Council.
At times it was suggested that the Business Plan could benefit from more clarification or being more explicit, rather than implicit. This was particularly the case for the Council’s aim to build back better after Covid, the meaning of its operations in relation to defining its carbon reduction ambitions and what SMART targets would be introduced around the Council’s ambition to reduce the number of pollution hotspots in the city. It was noted that the large number of recommendations made by the Climate Emergency Review Group would need to be considered as part of the Council’s response to its carbon reduction ambitions, but that no mention had been made in the Business Plan.
Further discussion was held over the Council’s ambitions for greening the City and the tensions of wanting to protect existing green streets, whilst at the same time not preventing the Council from taking down trees that were becoming a nuisance to residents.
It was suggested in discussion that Low Traffic Neighbourhoods would be, for those areas that implemented them, potentially more meaningful in terms of traffic and noise reduction, and biodiversity than some of the items listed in the Business Plan, including those on which the Council had to partner with others. Consequently, whilst Low Traffic Neighbourhoods were primarily a County Council responsibility, it was suggested that the Council’s commitment to seeing them established before the March 2021 deadline should be included.
Having noted the impact of Covid on demand for office and retail space it was suggested that the Council and City would potentially benefit from tackling the issue head on by developing a strategy for those units which would otherwise be left empty. It was agreed that the greater Planning flexibility which had come into place due to the pandemic meant that there were increased options, and that the issue merited further consideration as a consequence, which would be significantly covered by the Council’s City Centre Vision and Action Plan.
It was AGREED to request the following changes be made:
1. Add ‘to include consideration of the Climate Emergency Review Group recommendations’ in outcome 11 as a year 1 action.
2. Make explicit reference to the Council’s ambition to build back better as a year 1 action
3. Add a bullet point in priority 1, probably in outcome 5, to include reference to working with the County Council to encourage the establishment of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods
4. Include reference to a strategy for retail and offices which risk being left unoccupied in priority 1 outcome 4
5. Seek to weave in reference to appropriate protection of trees when discussing greening neighbourhoods in priority 4 outcome 8
6. Add clarification over what is and is not included in the reference to ‘its own operations’ in priority 4 outcome 1
- Business Plan report to Cabinet Sept 2020 FINAL, item 21. PDF 140 KB View as DOCX (21./1) 167 KB
- Appendix 1 Draft Business Plan with Council Strategy outcomes 140820, item 21. PDF 504 KB View as DOCX (21./2) 76 KB