Agenda item

Agenda item

Scrutiny reports

Scrutiny Committee met on 2 and 7 March 2022. Any recommendations to Cabinet from that meeting will be published as a supplement.

The following items are expected to be included:

·       Procurement Update

·       Oxfordshire 2050

·       Housing Assistance and Disababled Adaptations Policy

·       Allocation of Preventing Homelessness Grant 2022/23

·       Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy

·       Oxford City Council Corporate Business Plan 2022

·       Oxfordshire Recovery and Renewal Framework

·       Climate Emergency Review Group


Councillor Liz Wade, Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, introduced the reports which had been considered by scrutiny at its meetings on 2 and 7 March.  The scrutiny recommendations relating to the Procurement Update and the Oxfordshire 2050 report would be brought to the April Cabinet meeting.  Scrutiny was expected to consider the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 at its June meeting, when further information would be available.

Councillor Wade also provided an update to Cabinet that the Future Oxfordshire Partnership had recently recommended a further Regulation 18 consultation on housing numbers be undertaken.

Climate Emergency Review Group Update

Four recommendations had been made, of which three were fully agreed and one was partially agreed.  The partially agreed recommendation had been to incorporate disability thinking into work on climate action from the outset, and the response had referenced the legal duties of Oxfordshire County Council in relation to delivery of transport initiatives.  It was noted that the split of responsibilities with the County Council remained a significant factor in what was able to be delivered. 

Responding to the recommendations later in the meeting, the Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford reported that of the four recommendations, two were ones which the Council had control over, and two were ones which the Council had influence over.  The recommendation to evidence the allocated resources which were expected to move the Council towards each goal was agreed where this was possible.  The recommendation to provide a clear definition of ‘net zero’ was also accepted, and in future reference would be made to the Cabinet report of December 2021 which had set out the definition.  The remaining two recommendations relating to transport were reliant on partnership working with the County Council as the highways authority. 

In relation to HGVs in the city centre, the Cabinet Member highlighted the benefit of partnership working.  The Council was working with the County Council, the University of Oxford and other partners as part of Zero Carbon Oxford on greening last mile delivery and quiet delivery exploration.  The next steps were to recruit expert and additional workforce which could look into plans for full freight consolidation and a small scale pilot.  Whilst the Council did not have complete control to take measures against heavy freight, it was using its influence alongside its partners to improve road safety for cyclists.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

Five recommendations had been made, of which four were fully agreed and one was partially agreed.  The partially agreed recommendation had related to the provision of community wi-fi in all of the Council’s leisure and community centres which would be free to users.  In response, the point had been made that the current ‘free’ wi-fi service from BT would expire shortly and a new business case would need to be made for its continuation. 

There had been general agreement for scrutiny to review the progress of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy on an annual basis, to include taking evidence on how the strategy was working both from the Councillors point of view and that of the community and stakeholders.

Allocation of Preventing Homelessness Grant 2022/23

Two recommendations had been made, of which both had been agreed.  One recommendation had been to monitor the grant of £25,000 per year to Greater Change, due to its nature as a crowd-funding platform.  The other recommendation had been to include details in future allocations reports of the subsidy provided to Crisis and Arts and the Old Firestation through the provision of the Old Fire Station building.

Housing Assistance and Disabled Adaptations Policy

One recommendation had been made, which related to increasing the support for tenants in private rented accommodation who required adaptations.  The recommendation had been agreed, although it was noted that it would require the approval of a Selective Licensing framework.

Annual Update of the Council’s Business Plan

Eight recommendations had been made, of which the majority were agreed.  Two recommendations relating to transport policy were not agreed on the basis that Oxfordshire County Council was the highways authority.  However, assurance had been given that both councils were working with Oxford University and others to look at the ‘last mile’ delivery into the city.  This should reduce HGV access and, hopefully, road traffic accidents.  A recommendation for a Youth Council had been made but not agreed on the basis that there was already a very active Children & Young People’s Partnership which was considered to meet the aim of engaging young people in the decision making process.

Recovery and Renewal Framework

Three recommendations had been made, which were all accepted.  Two had related to ongoing monitoring (with a report requested in a year’s time) and an update on how the framework was impacting the city’s own strategy.  The third recommendation had been to seek an amendment to clarify that the framework did not replace county wide strategies or override city / district level policies or strategies.

The Leader commented that whilst the scrutiny recommendations were very helpful, the column detailing a binary response as to whether a recommendation was agreed or not could be problematic given the complex nature of some recommendations.  For example, the Council might strongly support the aims of a scrutiny recommendation whilst being unable to meet it if it was outside its remit or powers.  Councillor Wade undertook to consider the presentation of recommendation responses with the scrutiny committee.

With the agreement of the Scrutiny Committee Chair, it was noted that Cabinet Members would address the scrutiny findings during consideration of each agenda item.

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