Agenda item

Agenda item

Scrutiny reports

Scrutiny Committee will meet on 1 February 2023.  The following reports are expected and will be published as a supplement, together with any other recommendations from that meeting:

·       Oxford Local Plan 2040 Focused Consultation on Housing Need

·       Implementing the Covered Market Masterplan

·       Scrutiny Budget Review

·       Disciplinary Policy


Councillor James Fry, Chair of the Budget Review Group, presented the report of the Group and summarised its recommendations, some of which had already been incorporated into the revised budget proposals.  

The Group’s recommendations had included that the Council should provide an up-to-date, confidential explanation for Members of the options available to achieve the savings that would arise from ODS depot consolidation.

The Covered Market was a substantial capital budget item; the Group had therefore recommended that the Council should update its estimates during the period of the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) to take account of slippage in plans to fill the empty units and to start evening openings with music.

The Group had discussed use of the windfall gains arising from the deferral of the Fairer Funding Review, and proposed that the Council should not commit these for spending which would be recurring.  The Group had also recommended that the Council should mitigate the pressure on residents arising from the current financial and economic circumstances, and provide additional information on funding schemes available to help.

The Group had recommended that the Council should re-assess the assumptions being made about bad debt provision relating to commercial property; and considered that it should diversify its investment portfolio away from commercial property towards the regeneration of Council-owned properties which are eligible for Public Works Loan Board funding, and consider other types of investments and assets.

Finally, it was recommended that the Council should re-evaluate its assumptions around reduction in the use of the park and rides as a result of changes in charges, and that a sensitivity analysis of the net revenues to the Council from the operation of the current Zero Emission Zone and its proposed expansion during the period of the MTFP should be provided, in order to justify current assumptions.

Councillor Ed Turner, Cabinet Member for Finance and Asset Management, thanked the Review Group for its work and the timely production of its recommendations.  Responding to some of the points raised, Councillor Turner reported that he intended to progress the recommendation relating to the ODS depot consolidation briefing through the Shareholder and Joint Venture Group, facilitating the involvement of scrutiny colleagues in that process.  A newly-appointed officer was currently looking at commercial property income, and the tracking and pursuit of arrears.  All of the recommendations of the Group were accepted, either in full or in part.

Councillor Chris Smowton, Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, presented the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee arising from its meeting on 1 February.

One recommendation had been made in relation to Implementing the Covered Market Masterplan.  This related to considering the provision of gender neutral lavatories, and had been accepted. 

Scrutiny Committee had also considered the disciplinary policy.  A recommendation had been made, and accepted, which related to improving clarity around the role of elected Members in appeals by officers against dismissal.  The amendment recommended by scrutiny had been incorporated into the policy prior to its consideration and agreement by Council on 30 January.

Finally, Scrutiny Committee had also considered the Oxford Local Plan 2040 Focused Consultation on Housing Need.  No formal recommendations had been made, but an informative and interesting discussion had taken place.

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