Agenda item

Agenda item

Draft Strategic Vision for Oxfordshire

Cabinet, at its meeting on 09 December, will consider a report on the  Draft Strategic Vision for Oxfordshire. The Committee is asked to consider the report and agree any recommendations thereon.

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of the Council and Caroline Green, Assistant Chief Executive, have been invited to attend for this item.



Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of the Council, introduced the report. As the Oxfordshire Growth Board had developed, so its members  had sought to identify common themes and the  ways in which they could work together. From the City Council’s perspective, the importance of inclusivity and the need for sustainable growth were key. The document before the Committee already included elements which reflected the Council’s input but this was not to say that further improvements could not be made. It was important to emphasise that as a vision document, it was not a strategy, an action plan or, indeed, a formal planning document.  

Caroline Green, Assistant Chief Executive, said that the document didn’t seek to set out a specific vision for Oxford or places within the City and that the final version would  have no statutory basis. It was, rather, a statement of collective ambition and common interests. A great deal of effort had been made to ensure that the document, as far as possible,  reflected the diversity of places and, therefore, the different strategies and actions that might be needed to respond to those variations. In discussion to date there had been a range of  views about the desirability of producing a more detailed document as opposed to one which remained at a more general level. All members of the Growth Board had been invited to contribute further to the next iteration of the document and the views of the Committee would contribute to that further response.

Cllr Simmons, as member, also, of the Growth Board’s Scrutiny Panel, drew the meeting’s attention to the views of the Panel to the document. These related to timescales within the document not necessarily aligning with existing policies and plans of Councils and partner organisations; asking Council Leaders to ensure clear visibility of the strategic vision with elected members; encouraging wider networks and the public to engage (and for young people in particular to be targeted as part of this); the need for terminology within it to  be clearly defined. The Committee agreed to support these views and the Leader said she would be pleased to take these views, among others,  back to the Board, so as to reinforce those of the Panel.

The Committee thought that, despite the improvements which had been made, still greater emphasis was needed on the issues of inequality and diversity, notwithstanding  recognition that the experience of other Districts in the County was very different from that in the City.

While there was  support  for the document’s aspirations there were some concerns that that it needed to be more “anchored in reality”, so while, for example, it hinted at significant housing growth it also spoke about seeking to “enhance the natural environment” which was seen as a contradiction. The aspiration that Oxfordshire should be carbon neutral by 2040 or earlier was seen as unrealistic, taking account, among other things, of the Council’s new Local Plan. However the point that this was not a planning document was noted.

The Committee was keen that the document should reference the national living wage and the Oxford Living Wage as appropriate.  The Leader agreed that this point would be taken forward.

The current emphasis on inequalities in health was welcome but a specific reference to the importance of mental health and wellbeing in particular might be helpful, as would a greater emphasis on economic inequality. The addition of a reference to the desirability of “active transport” would be helpful too.

“Efficient use of natural resources and land” was a phrase  capable of  interpretation, some of which might not be entirely positive and would benefit from clarification.

The importance of inclusion and diversity were such that they should be woven into the substance of the document and not dealt with as stand alone elements as a reflection of the City’s commitment to these matters. Notwithstanding the evident importance of this view it would have to be recognised that the final version would have to reflect the wider view of the Board.

The Leader said she would be pleased to take forward the Committee’s recommendations to the Growth Board and, in particular, that the document should take proper account of the diversity within the City. That the City was significantly different from the County’s other districts would continue to present a challenge when trying to agree a text acceptable to all members of the Board.

The Committee agreed that the following recommendations should be made to Cabinet.

That the Council seeks in its discussions at the Oxfordshire Growth Board to have the following suggestions included within future drafts of the draft Strategic Vision for Oxfordshire:

-       The recommendations of the Growth Board Scrutiny Panel made on 21st October 2020

-       Reference within the Inclusive Economy section to the promotion of the Living Wage, either the national standard or the local standard

-       To create a section dedicated to the improvement of mental wellbeing

-       To increase the emphasis throughout the document on economic inequality

-       To recognise the priority of increasing active transport across Oxfordshire

-       For issues of inequality, particularly with regards to race, to be embedded throughout the document rather than being treated in isolation under equality, diversity and inclusion.  



Supporting documents: