Agenda item

Agenda item

Questions on Notice from Members of Council

Questions on notice under Council Procedure Rule 11.10(b) may be asked of the Lord Mayor, a Member of the City Executive Board or the Chair of a Committee.


Questions on notice must, by the Constitution, be notified to the Head of Law and Governance by no later that 9.30am on Friday 7th October 2011.


Full details of any questions for which the required notice has been given will be circulated to Members of Council before the meeting.


(a)       Questions notified in time for replies to be provided before this Council meeting.


1.         Question to the Board Member, City Development (Councillor Colin Cook) from Councillor David Williams


Councillor Nuala Young declared a personal interest as she was part of various campaigns that may use Bonn Square.


            Bookings for Bonn Square


Could the portfolio holder give an explanation as to why, amongst other groups, the Teachers Pension Rally on the 30th of June and the  March of the Invisible Disabled People on the 23 of July to stage rallies on Bonn Square were turned down?


Would the portfolio holder agree that Bonn Square’s primary function to this local authority and the people of Oxford is as a public speaker’s space and that it has a long tradition of used as a meeting and rally point for campaigns and events such as the May Day rally and public demonstrations.


Could he explain why he denied the use of the Square to the protestors and agree that although he may not agree with the protestors, their peaceful methods and message that is not a sufficient basis for refusal.


Answer: The Teachers' Pension Rally on the 30th June was turned down because we had another pre-existing charity event booking for the site.  In the case of the March of the Invisible People the organiser did not give us the necessary details of what was proposed for us to assess whether they met the necessary Health and Safety standards.

I would not agree that the primary function of this space is as a public speaker’s space.  The Bonn Square protocol was prepared and introduced in 2009 following the major refurbishment of the area, which created a substantial new City Square where the public, both local residents and visitors, can meet up, sit and relax in new modern and attractive surroundings.

The square is part owned by Oxford City Council and part owned by the New Road Baptist Church.  In partnership with the Church we have agreed that events held at the site should be beneficial to the community and help promote the City through the creative use of the public space. We are particularly keen to encourage events that are in one of three categories - arts & cultural, historic, or charitable.   We have welcomed peaceful demonstrations and protests at the Square and we consider all applications for use of the Square on their merits. However we have to ensure that the event organiser has consulted the appropriate stakeholders and will comply with relevant health and safety standards.  We are unable to permit events to take place on the site if the organiser is unwilling to fill in the appropriate paperwork and take part in consultation with our stakeholders.


Councillor Williams in a supplementary question asked if the Board Member would agree that most people in Oxford considered Bonn Square as a place to express their feelings and would he not also agree that it gave a rather bad impression that the City Council did not support organisations.


In response Councillor Cook said that Bonn Square was once a venue for anti-social behaviour, however this had now changed to a square that could be enjoyed by the public.  He did not have a problem with groups etc. using the square, but sometimes there were conflicts due to the higher usage of the area and that is why a booking protocol was established.  He added that this Administration did not share Councillor Williams’ attitude towards health and safety.


2.         Question to the Board Member, City Development (Councillor Colin Cook) from Councillor David Williams


            Assessment of Exemptions to Council Tax


Would the Portfolio Holder comment on the schemes launched by Sheffield City Council asking landlords to identify the educational institution attended by students claiming Council tax exemptions.  Would he agree that such a scheme seems to be more accurate in assessing exemptions than the present system operated by Oxford City Council?


Answer: Students in Sheffield apply for student council tax exemptions in the usual way and like in Oxford the Council checks their eligibility for these exemptions with the authority which issued the student certificate.  Sheffield City Council have confirmed that the review form which a Landlord completes, applies only to houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).  In January the council writes to, or emails, these HMO Landlords and asks them to complete a review form for their student tenants.  Landlords are asked to provide the names of all student occupiers, the name of the university they are attending, and the date of the end of their tenancy.

Oxford verifies each student application in the same way apart from asking the Landlord to complete a form.

Sheffield City Council process student applications in the same way as Oxford, if it is a direct tenancy.

I am sceptical that the scheme operated by Sheffield would improve the accuracy of the assessment of exemptions in Oxford.


Councillor Williams in a supplementary comment said that there were differences between the approach of Sheffield City Council and this Council and that Councillor Cook should read the detail.


In response Councillor Cook said that he had looked at the form used by Sheffield City Council.  He found that the process was time consuming and laborious and felt that this was not the route for Oxford City council.


3.         Question to the Board Member, City Development (Councillor Colin Cook) from Councillor Matt Morton


            Green Space Strategy


As the Green Spaces Strategy runs out in 2011 could the Portfolio holder give an indication as to when the new strategy will be adopted?


Under the present strategy could the Portfolio holder list which goals have been achieved and which have not and if not why not?


Answer: The Green Spaces Strategy was adopted in April 2006 and runs for five years. A new strategy is currently being developed by a cross Council working group, supported by Greenspace who are a leading advocate of the value of parks and open spaces. Councillors from the three main political parties were invited to the scoping session to agree the objectives on the 18th of May 2011 and Councillors Lygo, Timbs and Jones attended. An early draft is now emerging and we will start wider consultation in the coming months.  After the consultation the strategy will then be presented for adoption in the New Year.

Improving green spaces must take a long term view, but even so over the five years of the strategy many building blocks have been put in place. While time does not allow for a full report against the action plan a fair summary is that the vast majority of actions have been completed, or have progressed. A 2007 summary of progress detailed the 24 tasks that had been completed (available upon request). An update on further headline achievements made is listed below;

·         Four Green Flag Awards and ISO9001.     

·         There are now 14 Friends Groups and 450 volunteers supporting the work we undertake in our parks and open spaces.    

·         To date 53 play areas have been modernised, with a further 16 being developed by early next year.  With the developer contributions and external funding this will have seen £3.5 million invested into play.

·         A specification for all works on our green spaces is in place, with a summary displayed on our website and all of our parks have been mapped using Geographic Information System.

·         Regular health walks take place across our green spaces and numerous sport, health and community events.   

·          The service has a 2012 Olympics plan (also displayed on the website).

·         Wildlife beds and cutting regimes have been put in place to encourage biodiversity.

·         A tree policy is in place (also on the website).

·         Work is progressing to find a solution to our lack of burial space.
·         Muslim burial services have been reviewed and improved (procedure on the website and in the mosques).

·         Kiosks operate from our main parks.

·         Significant clearing works have been undertaken across our 65 hectares of allotments.

·         Our consultation and assessments show that our sport pitches are a very good standard. 

·           All sports provision has been reviewed which is enabling the Pitch Strategy to be also brought up to date. Costs have been reduced alongside making these improvements.

The previous strategy was very ambitious for us in relation to the volume of change and the timescales. The external economic climate has changed considerably over the strategy period.  The new strategy will learn from this and cover a longer period and be reviewed on an annual basis.  An area we recognise has not moved on as hoped is some of the infrastructure issues we have. While Barton Pavilion has now opened and Court Place Farm opens in the next few months, there remains a lot of work that needs to take place to modernise our poor quality sports pavilions.  Some of our Parks toilets, signage and paths are also not of the desired quality. We are currently working hard to try to find a way forward with these issues.


Councillor Morton in a supplementary question asked if the City Council was operating without a strategy.


In response Tim Sadler, Director, City Services said that the current strategy would continue.

4.         Question to the Board Member, City Development (Councillor Colin Cook) from Councillor David Williams


            Mobile Phone Mast on Iffley Road


Could the Portfolio Holder confirm that the recently erected phone mast outside the Peugeot Garage on Iffley Road has been erected on Council land?


            Could he say if this was made clear in the recent planning approval?


Could he also clarify the situation as to if the Council is paid a fee from O2 or the operators for the placement or any other function related to the mobile phone company’s activities and operation of the mast. 


Answer: No, the phone mast is not on City Council land, but on the highway and falls under the jurisdiction of the County Council”


Councillor Williams in a supplementary question asked who drew the fees.


In response Councillor Cook said that the landowner would be paid if they chose to charge rent. However he agreed to investigate if there was a fee payable on the public highway.


5.         Question to the Board Member, City Development (Councillor Colin Cook) from Councillor David Rundle


            St. Clement’s car park


Given the recent rejection of the application to build on St. Clements car-park and recognising that the plan to build on Old High Street car-park in Headington is at least as problematic and certainly equally controversial, what is holding the administration back from announcing now, once and for all, that the plans are off the table, and concentrating instead on more appropriate sites for much needed housing?


Answer: The future redevelopment of St Clements car park remains unresolved. The applicant has the opportunity to appeal the recent Council decision to reject the planning application or to re-submit a revised scheme addressing the reasons for refusal. The applicant has advised that they intend to appeal the decision, and in addition they are considering seeking an award of costs.
It is premature to seek to draw conclusions from the St Clement’s scheme. The Council will assess individual schemes on their merits and not pre-judge any potential application on the Old High Street car park site.  The Sites and Housing Development Plan Document is currently out for consultation and it will be for Council to make the decision on the planning policy for this site in the light of that consultation. 


Councillor Rundle in a supplementary question asked as the consultation had finished, what guarantee would the Board Member give that the consultation would not be like that of the County Council which consulted and ignored.


In response Councillor Cook said that technically the Preferred Option Document was not "out to consultation" but "between consultations". The Preferred Options Document and draft sustainability appraisal were out to consultation in June / July.  He said that we would be taking the proposed submission document and final sustainability appraisal to Council in December with a view to publishing them for consultation in January.  The documents would only come back to Council if there were significant changes proposed after the January consultation."


6.         Question to the Board Member, Leisure Services (Councillor Van Coulter) from Councillor Nuala Young


Councillor Nuala Young declared a personal interest as her husband now used Temple Cowley Pool.


            Temple Cowley Pool Insurance


Could the Portfolio holder confirm that Temple Cowley Pool was in 2009-2010 insured for a rebuild cost of £1.3million but last year suddenly had to be insured for £12.9 million.  Could the Portfolio holder indicate why there was this massive jump compared with the modest increase in all the other pools (Barton for example increased from £3.3 million to £3.4 million).


Could the portfolio holder confirm that this had nothing to do with reality but was yet another device to discredit Temple Cowley Pool and increase its apparent costs, in the same way that Temple Cowley was deliberately left out of the eco improvement programme at other pools?


Does the portfolio holder also find it strange that insurance companies accept the rebuild cost of pools such as Barton at £3.4 million but he is proposing building a swimming pool at Blackbird Leys that is 5 yards longer at over  £9.2million almost three times the cost.


Would he agree that City Council is wasting millions of pounds of ratepayer’s money on building a pool at Blackbird Leys when the refurbishment of Temple Cowley and the existing Blackbird Leys pool could be completed for £3 million?


Answer: The insurance values to which Councillor Young refers have recently been updated and are as follows:


Ferry -                                                             £10,210,000

Barton -                                                          £5,410,000

Blackbird Leys -                                            £9,580,000

Temple Cowley -                                           £13,106,400


Barton Pool and the new pool at Blackbird Leys are very different facilities. Barton pool is a small four lane swimming pool with a maximum depth of 1.5 metres.  Whilst the new pool is an eight lane pool, with a moveable depth floor and is of a standard that can hold competitive swimming galas. Unlike Barton the new pool also includes a teaching pool and toddler splash pool.


The case has been clearly made that the council is not wasting ratepayers money by building a pool at Blackbird Leys. The £3million of refurbishment costs at Temple Cowley to which Councillor Young refers would give only a limited life to the building and would not address some of the structural issues at the site. The building of the competition standard swimming pool will provide a high quality, sustainable city wide facility.


Councillor Young in a supplementary question asked why there was such a large increase in the valuation.


In response Councillor Coulter said that he would write to Councillor Young explaining the difference in the figures.


7.         Question to the Board Member, Housing Needs) Councillor Joe McManners) from Councillor David Williams


            Decrease in Housing


Could the Portfolio Holder give some clarification as to why in the 2009/10 accounts there were 58,306 dwellings listed as the total number of dwellings on the Council's valuation (prior to exemptions and discounts etc), yet in the draft accounts for 2010/11, there only appears to be 58,207 (i.e. 99 less properties)!
Does this mean that the Annual Monitoring Report for     2010/11 when published will show a NET DECREASE in housing development of 99? The evidence of our eyes would seem to suggest the exact opposite.


Would he agree that given the housing crisis that Oxford faces a decrease in the housing stock is a move in exactly the wrong direction?


Answer: The figures to which Councillor Williams refers come from the council’s tax base calculations which are a combination of actual numbers of dwellings at 30th November each year as per the Valuation Officers List, and estimates of new builds for the next 15 months. 


In 2009/10 and 2010/11 the following figures were used:


            2009/10 – Agreed by Council in January 2009


            Actual dwelling numbers per VO as at 30/11/08     57,532                


Estimate of new builds remainder of 2008/09               257


            Estimate of new builds 2009/10                                        517


            Overall total                                                              58,306


            2010/11 – Agreed by Council January 2010


            Actual dwelling numbers per VO as at 30/11/09     57,815


            Estimate of new builds remainder of 2009/10               127


            Estimate of new builds 2010/11                                   265


            Overall total                                                              58,207


Whilst there has been some minimal growth in new built occupied properties between years of 0.49% there is a reduction in the estimated numbers of properties to be built and occupied which can be accounted for from an over-estimation of the number of dwellings that would be constructed and occupied during the year. This would also co-incide with the recession, which particularly hit house building.


It may be helpful to look at more up to date actual figures, which are as follows:

            As at:


            Nov 30th 2010      58,175 (0.6% increase from Nov 2009)

            Oct 3rd 2011     58,675 (0.86% increase from Nov 2010). 


Clearly, given that the number of homes in Oxford is probably several thousand short of demand the increase is nothing like enough. This should be remembered when we are considering our planning and strategic development objectives, particularly when looking at land south of Grenoble Road and in the north-east of the City. 


Councillor Williams in a supplementary question asked if the Board Member would agree that this was a problematic situation and would he also agree that this was a comment on the Labour Administration which had failed.


In response Councillor McManners said that there was a slight increase and stood by the answer he had submitted and that Oxford had not been served well by having such a tight green belt and this needed looking at again.


8.         Question to the Board Member, Housing Needs (Councillor Joe McManners) from Councillor Stuart Craft


            Homeless housing


Is it true that Oxford City Council pays The Holiday Inn, Grenoble Road, to house the homeless and if so how much money has Holiday Inn received to date?


Answer: It is true that the Council’s Housing Needs Team are having to resort to using hotel accommodation for short periods, in cases where immediate accommodation is required for households to whom there is a duty to accommodate while investigations into their housing situation are carried out.  Generally, the team sources the cheapest such accommodation available, but on one occasion were forced to use the Holiday Inn when no other accommodation was been available.  The placement was for 2 nights in June and cost £310.


There are a number of reasons why this course of action has proved necessary.  Firstly, although there has been no significant increase in the number of households presenting to the Council as homeless or threatened with homelessness, the nature of those households has changed over the past six months, and officers are seeing a greater proportion of young people, often single parents or young couples who have been excluded from their family home.  Such cases made up the majority of those households accepted as being statutorily homeless in the first quarter of this financial year.


This increase is directly attributable to changes in the level of Local Housing Allowance, brought about by government policy.  One of the first changes introduced under this policy was the increase in non-dependent deductions, which had been held steady since 2001.  These deductions are made from a tenants’ Housing Allowance where their household includes an individual who is not classed as being dependent on the householder – for example a son or daughter who has left school, and for whom the parent no longer receives Child Benefit.  Whilst the amount of those deductions remained at the previous rate, many parents felt able to subsidise their children remaining in the family home, a necessity given the low rates of benefit payable to young people.  Now that those deductions have increased by significant amounts (and will rise again in each of the next two financial years), it seems likely that more and more parents will feel the necessity of asking their children to leave the family home, and it is certain that many of those asked to leave will present to the Council as being at risk of homelessness.


The Housing Needs Team  have, until recent months, been very successful in assisting such households to find homes in the private rented sector, by the provision of rent deposits through the Home Choice scheme.  This removes the need to place the household in temporary accommodation, and the number of temporary accommodation units to which the team have access has therefore been reduced.  Unfortunately, other changes to the Local Housing Allowance levels payable to private tenants have severely limited the team’s ability to assist people in this way.  From April 2011, the maximum level at which new Local Housing Allowance claims have been payable has been determined by reference to the lowest 30% of rents charged within the Broad Rental Market Area (which is, essentially, Oxfordshire).  This is very bad news for the residents of Oxford, as the vast majority of rented properties in that category are outside of the city boundaries, in areas such as Banbury, Bicester, and Didcot.  This means that very few properties in the city are affordable for tenants on benefit, without some form of additional subsidy.   When introducing this policy, government ministers stated that they expected the changes to benefit levels to bring down rents in the private sector, and that benefit claimants would be expected to move to cheaper areas.   In Oxford, the availability of other markets, be that student lets, transient academics and medical professionals, or simply young professional households, has meant that there has been no noticeable reduction in rents in the city.  The limited nature of the rental market in other parts of the county, where properties are scarce and where tenants tend to remain for longer periods, means that there is nowhere for those on low incomes to move to, even should they wish to do so.  Most, of course, want to remain in the city where their families, friends, schools, GPs and other support networks are in place, and where there remains the best chance of finding employment.


The changes to Local Housing Allowance are set to continue over the next two years, as claims made before April this year come up for yearly review.  Some transitional protection is in place, allowing payment at the old rate for nine months beyond the renewal date, but this is merely delaying the inevitable, as those tenants will eventually find themselves unable to meet their rental obligations and landlords will seek to terminate their tenancies.  This will mean a continuous and growing pressure on the Council’s housing services.  Larger households are particularly at risk, as the new regulations further restrict the maximum payment that may be made to the cost of a four bedroom property – families in larger private rented homes will therefore see a much greater shortfall

The government have provided an additional £20,000 in funding for Discretionary Housing Payments, making a total of £105,000 of grant available to assist tenants.  The Council has topped this up to the maximum allowed, a total fund of £263,800.  This is a significant sum, but seen in the context of a reduction in the total housing benefits payable in the city of around £2M per year.


Councillor Craft in a supplementary question asked how many hotels were used and how many nights were paid for and were the June figures correct.


In response Councillor McManners stated that this situation had started during this financial year.  He did not have the information requested and would go back to Officers for this information.


9.         Question to the Board Member, Regeneration (Councillor Val Smith) from Councillor Jean Fooks


            Calls to the City Council


How many calls to the Council were not answered within the target time? How many were dropped? What is the average length of time callers had to wait to be connected to the service they requested? Will the City Executive Board publish the figures by service area?


Answer: In September, the Contact Centre answered 83% of the 15553 calls offered.   This is an improvement compared to August’s performance of 79%. 


We are currently carrying out multi-skilling training to continue to improve this figure and performance has already increased as a result of this.


The average length of time callers waited in September was 1 minute 6 seconds.  This has improved compared to August’s average wait time which was 2 minutes 6 seconds.


The figures published will be of overall performance for the Contact Centre for abandoned calls and calls answered within target but not for specific service areas.


Councillor Fooks in a supplementary question asked why the figures could not be presented by service area.


In response Councillor Smith said that the Call Centres had recently moved to one location.  A training programme was underway and with this and other work taking place, the improvements would continue.


10.       Question to the Board Member, Cleaner, Greener Oxford (Councillor John Tanner) from Councillor Jean Fooks


            Green waste collection service

How many households have now joined the new green waste collection service? How many have bought paper sacks? And how many have been given paper sacks for free if on benefit?


Answer: As at 5th October 12,051 households have joined the garden waste scheme, 725 households have purchased paper sacks, 20 households on benefit received the sacks for free.


Councillor Fooks in a supplementary question asked if the Council’s website had been changed to detail the free sacks available.


In response Councillor Tanner confirmed that the website had been updated.


11.       Question to the Board Member, Cleaner, Greener Oxford (Councillor John Tanner) from Councillor Jean Fooks


            Recycling rates


What is the latest recycling rate for the city, separately please, for dry recycling and compostable, i.e. green waste and food waste?


Answer: The cumulative recycling rate for Oxford City Council is currently 44.73%. The attached table provides details of the breakdown of recyclate. This is broken down as follows:-


Dry Recyclate            26.19%

Food Waste               2.78%

            Garden Waste           15.76%



Refuse (Tonnes)

Rate 1

Dry Recycling (Tonnes

Rate 2

Food (Tonnes)

Rate 3

Garden / Green Waste (Tonnes)

Rate 4

Total Waste (Tonnes)

Overall Recycling Rate 5














































































Rate 1

Refuse Waste percentage of OCC's Total Waste generated.





Rate 2

Dry Recycling percentage of OCC's Total Waste generated.





Rate 3

Food Waste percentage of OCC's Total Waste generated.





Rate 4

Garden / Green Waste percentage of OCC's Total Waste generated.





Rate 5

OCC's Overall Recycling Rate which includes Dry Recycling, Food Waste and Garden / Green Waste. 













Councillor Fooks in a supplementary question asked why the rates had fallen so much.


In response Councillor Tanner said that since 2008, the rates had not fallen substantially and this was due to not enough residents recycling and that he had doubled his efforts to encourage more recycling.  However Oxford had the best results per head of population on the amount recycled.


12.       Question to the Leader of the Council (Councillor Bob Price) from Councillor Matt Morton


            Westhill Farm


Could the Leader of Council give a clear indication of what the Council proposes with regard to the Westfield Farm site?


Could he confirm if the insurance claim from the fire damage has been paid?


Answer: Corporate Assets continue to liaise with our Insurers Loss Adjusters in this matter.


The property is subject to a restrictive covenant which, if interpreted literally, would severely restrict the value and use of the property if it were to be reinstated (which is the reason why it was empty for an extended period).  Council officers are currently appraising options to maximise value to the Council, which may or may not involve the re-building of the property.


Councillor Morton in a supplementary question asked if the Board Member could spell out the details of the covenant which protected the building and why was such a unique property not being made available.


In response Councillor Price said that the covenant was designed to prevent the building from being used for commercial purposes.  Officers were investigating if the covenant could be relaxed in a way that would satisfy those responsible for the covenant.


13.       Question to the Leader of the Council(Councillor Bob Price) from Councillor David Williams


            Silencing the Opposition


Could the Leader of Council admit that over the last few years of Labour control we have seen a series of changes that are in essence designed to silence the opposition?


Would he not agree that moves such as reducing the number of Full Councils per year, reducing the number of Scrutiny Committees, having a CEB made up of only Labour councillors , introducing a 90 minute rule for all questions and motions, introducing guillotines on debates, abolishing the vocal Area Committees and abandoning the open committee system in favour of single member (Labour councillor) decision making have been done with the express purpose of denying the opposition a voice.


Would he also agree that the latest moves to extend the date deadline for the submission of motions and questions well away from the actual date of the Council is yet another move that is designed to reduce the potential to hold the Executive to account?


Could the newly created ‘Supreme Leader’ explain why we have had this slow and steady erosion of democracy in Oxford. Is it Labour Party policy or a slavish attempt to outdo the Tories on the County Council?


Answer: The answer to the initial question here is a categorical no. 


The Councillor will be aware that the Local Government Act of 2000 introduced arrangements for decision making which distinguished between Council decisions and executive decisions.  The most important strategic decisions, such as the Budget and the Core Strategy, and all elements of the policy framework remain with the full Council.  Operational decisions taken within that Council determined policy framework are made by the Executive (individually or collectively) or, through an approved framework of delegation, by officers.  All such decisions are subject to pre-scrutiny and to call-in to the Scrutiny Committees, and both the Scrutiny Committees are chaired by opposition members who are free to determine the programmes of work so as to maximise the opportunities for challenge to executive policies.


These arrangements apply to single member as well as Board decisions; and single member decision meetings are public meetings offering the same right of access as full Board meetings. I have adopted as routine procedure the practice of inviting opposition members to speak at City Executive Board meetings on matters that are of particular interest to them. It is also worth pointing out that the City Executive Board meets regularly as a full Board; it has not been 'abandoned'.


The adoption of the 90 minute rule for motions into the Constitution was not opposed and simply reflects a sensible use of the time available on a Council evening; allocating an hour and a half to open debates can hardly be described as 'denying the opposition a voice'. And the proposal to move forward the deadlines for motions and questions was discussed extensively in the Cross Party working Group in order to make it easier for members of the public to follow Council procedures and to simplify the paper work for members at a Council meeting. Changing a deadline does not affect the right to submit motions and questions.


Contrary to the paranoid assertions in this 'question', Oxford remains a local authority which is particularly open to public involvement through questions at the Board and Council, and participation in the Area Forums, through petitions, and through the formal consultation processes in planning and other aspects of our work.  And, of course, the biennial cycle of elections allows full democratic participation in determining the composition of the Council.

Councillor Williams in a supplementary question asked if the Board Member would agree that when people descend to personal insults, the argument is lost.


In response Councillor Price said that he had tried in his earlier response to give a reasoned response and apologies to Councillor Williams for his previous comments.  However he resented the implication that he was silencing democracy.


Councillor Williams accepted the apology from Councillor Price.


14.       Question to the Leader of the Council (Councillor Bob Price) from Councillor Stuart Craft


Councillor Nuala Young declared a personal interest as her husband now used Temple Cowley Pool.


            Temple Cowley Pools


Can you promise that, if plans to sell off the Temple Cowley Swimming Pool are successful, this land will not be sold to Oxford Brookes University?


Answer:If the Temple Cowley Swimming Pool is closed, consequent on the opening of a new pool at Blackbird Leys, it is proposed to market the land in the normal way through a closed tendering process.This aspect of the proposals was covered in the report to the CEB that preceded the approval of the project.


15.       Question to the Leader of the Council (Councillor Bob Price) from Councillor Stuart Craft


            Road closure notification


On 10th September, Kingfisher Green, Greater Leys, was closed to traffic to facilitate a street party.   Unfortunately residents in the adjoining street, Deer Walk, were given no warning of the road closure and were unable to get their cars in or out of their driveways until the party had finished.


Community Support Officers have informed residents that the road closure was ‘Council approved’.   If so, who was responsible for informing residents and why was this not done?


Also can residents be assured that in future they will be given ample warning of any road closures likely to affect them?


Answer: The responsibility for notifying other residents sits with the applicant not with the Council.  This is a standard condition which forms part of the procedure for granting any closure and this is made clear on the application form itself.


In this case the applicant had ticked the appropriate box to confirm this action and submitted a copy of the notification.


The applicant was responsible for posting copies of the notice of closure one week prior to the closure and removing them no later than one day after.


            The locations specified for the Notices to be posted were:


Entrance to Kingfisher Green, from its junction     Coriander Way

Entrance to Kingfisher Green, from its junction with Blacksmiths Meadow

All other entrances to Kingfisher Green, from any other adjoining roads

Lamp posts in Kingfisher Green


Furthermore, the closure actually permitted Kingfisher Green to be closed from its junction with Coriander Way and Blacksmiths Meadow, to  the end of the cul-de-sac.  It did not provide for closure of any part of Deer Walk.


This closure would have left residents in Deer Walk with a clear exit route via Norman Smith Road/Brake Hill.  On this basis it is hard to understand how residents were unable to get their cars in or out of their driveways until the party had finished. 


Councillor Craft in a supplementary question asked if pressure could be put upon event organisers to leaflet every house in the street.


In response Councillor Price said that this could be tried, however there would be additional costs for the organisers.


16.       Question to the Leader of the Council (Councillor Bob Price) from Councillor Stuart Craft


            Park and Ride staffing

Is it true that security guards at the City Council run Park and Rides are being laid off and if so, do you think that it makes sense to introduce parking charges while in effect reducing the service?


Answer: Following the transfer of the park and ride sites back to the City Council, the standard consultation processes required by the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations are under way. At this stage, I cannot say what the outcome of the consultation with the individuals and the recognised trade union will be.  The introduction of parking charges has been forced on the Council to meet the costs of running the sites and the service. Without charging, the adopted budget would not have been achievable and reductions in spending that are likely to have involved a loss of jobs would have been required.


17.       Question to the Leader of the Council (Councillor Bob Price) from Councillor Jean Fooks)


            The Forward Plan


The latest version of the Forward Plan still has future meetings without dates attached. Many say ‘not before….’ a date, eg ‘Not before 13 October’ – some just give the month in which the decision should be made. This is completely unsatisfactory; for members and the public alike. Why has this sloppiness been allowed and when will the administration conform with the requirements of the Forward Plan process and commit to definite target dates, so that all concerned members, officers and the public know when a decision will be made?


Answer: Forward Plans are required by law to provide information solely about the timing of 'key decisions': Practice at this Council has for many years been to include all executive decisions in order to provide a more comprehensive picture of the decision-making processes.


The use of the term 'not before' is a consequence of the embedded terminology in the recently installed electronic committee management system. The possible wording to precede a date are: 'before', 'on', 'not before', 'in the month' or 'between'. The officers concerned have used the 'not before' designation for some single member decisions since experience has been that such decisions have often been delayed beyond the originally scheduled date in the recent past, and hence 'not before' is a more accurate designation then 'on'. The alternative is to use 'on' attached to the expected date and to announce a changed date if and when such a delay is required.


So far as the single member decision dates for the Board Member for Housing are concerned, only the month is currently listed as the fixed dates that were selected have turned out to be incompatible with Councillor McManners’ Hippocratic obligations.  Alternative dates are now being agreed and will appear in the next Forward Plan.

Councillor Fooks in a supplementary question asked if the Board Member would agree that this was not a good situation to be in.


In response Councillor Price sympathised with Councillor Fooks, but the Forward Plan attempted to give an indication on when reports would be coming forward.


(b)       Questions notified by the deadline in the Constitution (replies given orally at Council)


18.       Question to the Board Member, City Development (Councillor Colin Cook) from Councillor David Williams


            Oxford Core Strategy and Housing and Sites DPD


Where the local authority has adopted its Core Strategy, but has not completed and adopted the Site Allocations DPD, it now seems to require a five year supply of land as required under the PPS3, however,  the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) could  add 20 % to it for competition and choice (as indicated in the consultative White Paper).


Could the Portfolio holder indicate what are the implications for the Oxford Core Strategy and emerging Housing and Sites DPD of the proposed changes mapped out in the proposed National Planning Policy Framework, (NPPF)?


Answer: The NPPF will submit drafts on the comments and will arrange for the detail to be sent to each Councillor.  We have to work within the constraints of the planning system.  The local framework is better than the local plan as this can be amended on a rolling programme. 


19.       Question to the Board Member, Cleaner, Greener Oxford (Councillor John Tanner) from Councillor Jean Fooks


Food Waste Collections


I see from your letters to the press that you are ‘anxious to extend the food waste collection service to Oxford’s many flats’. I have many flat-dwelling constituents begging to have food waste collections – why will you not allow them to have the service, where they are confident that they can manage the caddies safely and hygienically? Do you not agree that it is particularly important to offer a weekly food waste collection to blocks of flats when you have imposed a fortnightly landfill collection service?


Answer: The grant received by the City Council from the Government has been reduced by a quarter and there is not the funding available.


Councillor Fooks in a supplementary question said that she had been waiting for a scheme that would include flats for some time and suggested that the Board Member write to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, suggesting that some of the recently announced additional funding for refuse collections is allocated to Oxford.