Agenda item

Agenda item

Public addresses and questions that do not relate to matters for decision at this Council meeting

Public addresses and questions received in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 11.10 and 11.11.  The full text of any address or question must be received by 5.00pm on Tuesday 8th July 2014.


Full details of the addresses and questions submitted by the deadline will be provided separately prior to the meeting.




(1)          Park Pitt – Wildflower wipeout – The text of the address is appended to these minutes.


Councillor Mark Lygo, responded to the address and said that the City Council was currently writing a pollinator management plan to ensure that we embed where possible sensitive habitat management for our pollinator’s.  this will involve the creation of new wild flower meadows, pollinator friendly bedding plants in our formal gardens, planting tree which have early pollen and the creation of pollinator homes near suitable food sources.  The City Council has joined up with Oxford’s Friends of the Earth, Local Bee Keepers Association, leading ecologists to create a work group to help advise the City Council on what can be done.  Both Parks and Streetscene Operation Managers are heavily involved to ensure that we can deliver what we say we are going to do.  Currently we are looking at our existing assets across the Council to see what our teams are already doing.  We have wild flowers in our church yards and we are looking to put a green roof on our Parks Office.  There will be a joint event held at the end of September where we will create at least four new flower meadows across the City.


(2)          Nigel Gibson – Oxford City council must engage with the East Oxford Community – Text of the address appended to these minutes.


Councillor Mike Rowley responded to the address and said that Nigel Gibson asks the Council to ensure that Officers provide him with a long list of detailed operational information on the Temple Cowley Pool as quickly as possible.  This information, which largely comes from Fusion, has been sought and collated by Officer as a matter of urgency and is already being supplied to Mr Gibson.


(3)          Sarah Lasenby – Temple Cowley Pools Campaign – Text of the address appended to these minutes.


Sarah Lasenby did not attend to give her address and Councillor Mike Rowley said that he would provide a written response, now detailed below:


I would fundamentally disagree with the speaker's contention that the new pool in Blackbird Leys will not represent an entirely adequate, indeed superior, replacement facility for Temple Cowley.  The Council has undertaken this project on the clear basis that by building the new pool, residents are obtaining an improved facility, that will last much longer, at less cost to the public purse.
Our aim is to put a top quality, affordable, accessible, publicly provided leisure service for all the people of Oxford that is financially and environmentally sustainable into the long-term future.  The replacement of the old pool is a vital part of this Council's highly successful leisure strategy.


(4)          Jane Alexander - £108 million for Oxford – Text of the address appended to these minutes.


Councillor Mike Rowley responded to the address and said Jane Alexander asks why various funds received from central government cannot be spent on supporting her community group’s bid to purchase the Temple Cowley site.  Quite apart from the fact that government funding is usually allocated to very specific uses, and that state funding given to an external company could well constitute unlawful state aid, this address makes a number of statements that are not accurate.    The Save Temple Cowley Pool Campaign does not have community asset status, the pool does.  The council awarded this status in order to give any locally based organisation an extra six months to put together a bid.  All bids will be judged impartially and based on best value for the people of Oxford who pay for the pool through their taxes.  I have no role in the assessment of the bids as the valuation process is non-political.  This Council does not “give” away public assets.  The Council is under an obligation under s123 of the LGA 1972 to secure best value and best consideration for any asset that we dispose of.  The Council has no preferred bidder.  The speaker quite rightly objects to the idea of a preferred bidder being identified before the evaluation process has been completed.  I don’t blame anyone from seeking funding wherever they can but I’m sure members would appreciate why the Council advancing funds to an external company to purchase a private property would be viewed by our auditors with distain and could constitute unlawful state aid with Central Government money.  The Council is indeed “talking” to the Save Temple Cowley Pool Company and communications with this group have recently taken up large amounts of officer time.  The Council has not contacted it regarding the outcome of any bid and will not do so until the impartial officer evaluation is complete.


(5)          Alasdair De Voil – Oxford Visitor Information Centre – Text of the address appended to these minutes.


Councillor Bob Price responded to the address and said Experience Oxfordshire is a membership organisation and a company limited by guarantee.  It receives grant aid from the City and County Councils on a gradually reducing basis as agreed when the company was established and took over the operation of the Tourist Information Centre.

EOL will act as a booking agent for all walking tour guides who are members of EOL and who agree to comply with EOL's Tour Operators Quality Charter. EOL provide Blue and Green Badge guides an enhanced booking agency service for walking tours, for which a 40per cent commission on ticket sales is charged. These tours are branded as the 'official' walking tours because the guides are independently quality assessed for tour guiding. All participating operators are listed on the website and at the TIC.


Councillor Colin Cook who had been mentioned in the address by Alasdair De Voil said that Mr De Voil claimed that he had said that the Council was not legally responsible for the Visitor Centre.  Councillor Colin Cook asked that it be recorded that he has said no such thing and his response to Mr De Voil’s question on 3rd February was in the minutes.


(6)          Helen Marshall – Housing in Oxfordshire – Text of the address appended to these minutes.


Councillor Bob Price responded to the address. He said that the SHMA was part of the NPPF’s required approach to the identification of housing needs which is then considered in the local plan process. The assessment does not in itself say anything about the requirements in relation to a particular local plan.  As was seen at the Cherwell inquiry the numbers of dwellings identified in the SHMA are considered as part of the land supply and sustainability assessment in developing the local plan.  We are now in a position where there is a background County-wide assessment which will be taken into account in each of the individual local plan inquiries. Personally, I think this is an unsatisfactory system. Unlike the previous systems of either regional plans, sub-regional plans or County structure plans there was at least some capacity to look at the whole of an area at the same time, we now  have disjointed public inquiries undertaking similar analyses.  The same data are considered at each inquiry and in each public consultation, and the SHMA figures provide a common background information base for this process.


The identification of employment sites for the implementation of the County’s economic plan is again subject to the local plan inquiry process.  The development of a science-based employment site cannot be done without it being consistent with the local plan of the particular district where it is located.  Although the SEP is a framework document for economic growth, it has to be delivered though the local planning process.  None of the background policy documents undermine the local authority planning functions.


So far as the City is concerned, we take the view that green belts are important and a vital part of the County’s ability to retain its pleasant rural outlook, but they are not inviolate. The current Oxford green belt is very extensive and unnecessarily constraining for Oxfordshire in the 21st century.  The assessment document that we have put forward as background discussion on the possible sites for the accommodation of an urban extension to the city would require a less than 2% reduction in the current green belt and could be replaced by additional green belt designations. The urban extensions proposed would provide a proportion of the housing that the city needs as shown by the SHMA. If  more housing is not built, the cost of housing will simply become more and more unaffordable, and rents will continue to soar.  It is the first step in balancing housing and employment needs.  Allegations of a lack of democracy and consultation simply don’t have weight; the SHMA and the SEP are background and framework documents informing the consideration of housing land and employment land allocations at local plan public inquiries.




(1)          Question to the Leader of the Council, Corporate Strategy, Economic Development and Planning (Councillor Bob Price) from Sarah Wild


Sarah Wild did not attend to ask her question.


Planning Consultation


At the Full Council Feb 3 2014 I asked the following question:


One of the recommendations following the investigation into what happened over Roger Dudman Way is that consultation methods between the council and members of the public should be improved.  This would mean that the public had optimal access to planning documents.


So why have the public been denied access to hard copy planning application documents, except for major developments, when the on-line version is unclear?


Following a discussion a decision was taken, and unanimously agreed in Full Council, that this issue would be referred to West Area Planning Committee for investigation.


This decision, agreed by the Full Council, was excluded from the main body of the minutes - and so far no investigation has taken place.


My request is that the Council act on the decision made in February 2014.


Response: This question was submitted and answered at the Council meeting on February 3rd 2014.


Approximately 80% of all planning applications to the City Council are now submitted electronically.  The City Council no longer holds a paper copy of all planning applications in the reception area at St Aldate's Chambers ready to be viewed by the public.  It is Council policy to encourage customers to access Council information via its website as far as possible.
However, the City Council does not deny access to hard copies of planning application documents.  It has been, and remains, willing to make a hard copy of a planning application available on request in reception if a customer makes an appointment to come and view a particular application because the on-line copy is unavailable or unclear.
Furthermore, the City Council will be reviewing its post-application guidance on planning processes in response to one of the recommendations in the Independent Report on Roger Dudman Way.


The mater was referred to the West Area Planning Committee on March 18th 2014, where the committee agreed to add the question of how consultation processes are managed as an action on the planning services improvement plan, and that progress on the action plan should be reported to the two Area Planning Committees quarterly.


This matter of consultation will be included as part of the review of the Council’s planning Statement of Community Involvement, work upon which has just commenced with a view to reporting to committees (both area Planning Committees and City Executive Board) later this year.  


(2)          Question to the Board Member, Leisure Contract and Community Partnership Grants (Councillor Mike Rowley) from Jane Alexander


Jane Alexander attended and asked her question.


Fusion Lifestyle Contract Performance


Paragraph 37 of the Report to Scrutiny Committee entitled “Fusion Lifestyle – Contract Performance 2013/2014” dated 23rd June 2014 shows the customer satisfaction ratings for a number of categories. Can you please tell me whether any payments (bonus, commission, penalty or similar) to Fusion or any member of council staff or a third party organisation depend on the value of these ratings? If so, can you please explain how this works?


Response: Leisure centre usage has grown by 40% over the past five years to nearly 1.3 million visits and we are confident that with the new pool opening that usage will continue to grow.

With this level of usage it is inevitable that on occasions the service standards will fall below our high expectations. In the nature of the partnership, when this happens the council often work with Fusion Lifestyle to ensure that problems are rectified. Service failings do though also results in points which when they accumulate lead to financial penalties.

No bonus or commission has been paid.

(3)          Question to the Leader of the Council, Corporate Strategy, Economic Development and Planning (Councillor Bob Price) from Chaka Artwell


Chaka Artwell did not ask his question.


A future for Oxford people by 2020


It was really heartening to hear Bob Price, as Chair of the Finance Committee meeting recently, talking positively about creating a future for Oxford people by 2020, in which the Council would help provide a vision and Services for this wonderful City of Oxford.


With this aim of providing a vision and services for Oxford people it has been reported in the Oxford Mail of July 7th, that the Council is in discussions to buy the Gladiator Club.  The Gladiator Club is registered as an Asset of Community value.  This is a welcomed visionary act by Bob Price’s Council and his Executives.  Volunteers, for no financial reward, often administer many of our Community organisations.  Occasionally Council assistance may be needed to help these voluntary community organisations.


I also note that a recent City Executive Board agreed a loan of £2.3m at preferential interest rates to Low Carbon Hub, despite the fact that many people of science dispute the theory that Climate Change is manmade. Nevertheless, this is to be welcomed by Oxford people as a visionary act.


Will the Elected Councillors discuss options for similar financial arrangements with Mr Nigel Gibson, as Director of the Community Interest Company (CIC), currently preparing a proposal to take over and operate another Asset of Community Value: Temple Cowley Pools and Gym? 


The people of Cowley have seen their Community Centre destroyed and they do not want to see their Pool and Fitness centre destroyed also.  Please include Temple Cowley Pools and Gym in your vision for the people of Oxford Mr Price and the Elected Councillors. 


Response: The Council's approved Corporate Strategy sets out its vision for Oxford, under the key themes of economic development, housing, leisure, reduction of carbon usage, community development and efficient and effective provision of services. Providing a top class leisure service at an affordable cost to customers and Council Tax payers is one of the key objectives in that Strategy. The decision to replace the old Temple Cowley and Blackbird Leys pools with a new pool linked to, and jointly managed with, the Blackbird Leys Leisure Centre on Pegasus Rd was taken in support of that objective. It will contribute to the reduction in the level of subsidy per visit to indoor leisure facilities to zero, as well as providing a modern, regional competition standard pool that better meets the needs of swimmers.


The Council's financial policies allow investment in externally owned assets that provide a sound commercial rate of return; the examples of the Low Carbon Hub loan to support solar power installations, and the possible purchase of the Gladiators Club are two recent examples. Any future proposals of that type will be assessed against the Council's policy and statutory financial regulations.


(4)          Question to the Leader of the Council, Corporate Strategy, Economic Development and Planning (Councillor Bob Price) from Helen Marshall


Helen Marshall attended and asked her question.


Housing and scrutiny issues


Given that:


-                      The Oxford & Oxfordshire City Deal was passed without any             public consultation,


-                      The Spatial Planning & Infrastructure Partnership, whose     Executive Board meetings are not subject to public scrutiny,        appears to have agreed a vision for Oxfordshire based on             economic growth at all costs,


-                      And that the unelected Local Enterprise Partnership is now responsible for delivering the Oxfordshire Strategic Economic   Plan which, in contrast to previous County Structure Plans, has             not gone through Full Council let alone public consultation,


what is the role of democratically elected Oxford City councillors?’


Response: The Oxford and Oxfordshire City Deal was reported to Council earlier this year and the Strategic Economic Plan will come to Council in the autumn as planned.


The City Council adopted an economic development framework in 2012 in the Oxford Strategic Partnership Economic Growth Strategy. This sets out the city’s economic development needs and plans. The City Deal and the Oxfordshire Strategic Economic Plan both reflect the City Council’s policies, and were consequently endorsed by the Council’s representative on the LEP.


The Spatial Planning and Infrastructure Partnership Board, not the Executive, has been responsible for determining the policies of the Partnership, and the minutes of that Board are published. The SPIP Board was comprised of councillor representatives from all the districts and the county, plus the chair of the LEP, with representatives of Government agencies as observers It was chaired in rotation by one of the Councillors. The functions of the SPIP Board have now been subsumed into the Oxfordshire Growth Board with effect from this month.


The City Council is seeking to ensure that Oxford is a world city class for all its citizens and can realise its potential as a national economic asset. The city contains one of the greatest concentrations of research and knowledge based employment in the world, as well as an outstanding environment. The city is successful in many ways, with a third of all employment in the county, great economic vitality and with a global reputation.


It is also clear from a range of independent studies that for a number of years the city has not been realising its full potential and that there are continuing major issues of low incomes and poor housing. In particular:


·                     the universities, big science facilities and successful business need space to grow and develop, or investment and economic activity will locate elsewhere in the UK or to other countries.


·                     The city is the least affordable location for housing in the country; the impacts of the lack of housing and, particularly, of affordable housing are clear at every level. The universities, hospitals and businesses have difficulties attracting and retaining the staff that they require, the exceptional turnover of teaching staff in schools undermines children’s education and attainment levels, and the pressures of overcrowding and homelessness are increasingly evident.


·                      According to the University’s ‘Innovation Engine ‘ report , the lack of effective strategic planning for the wider city economy and housing to support growth has already cost the local economy over £0.5bn in economic activity, as well as contributing to inequalities and social injustice.

Supporting documents: