Want the Council to scrutinise any of its service areas? Now’s your chance

Last week, over 38,000 Oxford residents turned out to elect 24 councillors onto the City Council, which is responsible for delivering a variety of services for the area. Now, the Council’s Scrutiny Committee, which reviews and challenges many of the Council’s decisions and policies, wants to hear from you.

Each year, the Scrutiny Committee forms an annual work plan of issues affecting the city and its residents, and the Committee is welcoming public input into the longlist of items. Issues already featured on the longlist include Air Quality, the impact of the Westgate Shopping Centre and Tourism Management.

The Committee’s role is to prioritise key issues of public interest for review. It carries out a ‘check and balance’ and ‘critical friend’ function to the City Executive Board, which makes the majority of the Council’s key decisions. It can also look at issues outside of the Council’s remit, but it has no powers to investigate external organisations.

The scrutiny function operates to provide public assurance that the Board is carrying out its business effectively, providing value for money and taking the best decisions it can to improve public services and the quality of life for residents. To provide this assurance, the Committee carries out research, reviews and hears from the public, making recommendations for service improvement where necessary.

Councillor Andrew Gant, Chair of the Scrutiny Committee for 2017/18, said: “Suggesting items for the scrutiny work plan is a great way to influence the direction of the Council, both in terms of identifying issues for review and improvement, and providing valuable feedback about the delivery of council services.”

The Committee meets in public at least 10 times each year and is comprised of 12 cross-party councillors who reflect the political make-up of the Council. The membership of the Committee will be formally agreed at a meeting of Full Council on 15 May 2018.

Members of the public can submit an issue for consideration online here. As a guide, issues should be of significant public interest, under the influence of the City Council, and not related to a personal grievance. The long-list of items will be reviewed before publication and considered by the Scrutiny Committee at a public meeting on 5 June 2018.

More information on the work of the Scrutiny Committee can be found here, and the Council’s Scrutiny Officer, Stefan Robinson, can be contacted at mailto:srobinson@oxford.gov.uk

Timing for boundary review of Oxford City wards

In 2020 the City will have a new set of ward boundaries and work has been underway on this at the Town Hall. Boundaries need to be re-drawn as the population pattern changes and new housing developments are built.

Here is the latest information received. Each phase has been delayed slightly so the “New” column is the one to note.

  Old New
Warding patterns consultation ends 19 March 2018 2 April 2018
Draft recs consultation starts 8 May 2018 5 June 2018
Draft recs consultation ends 16 July 2018 13 August 2018
Final recs published 4 September 2018 2 October 2018
Implementation May 2020 May 2020

Report from officers to Cabinet Member re Windmill Rd 20 MPH limit

Here is a copy of the report which is going to the Cabinet Member at a meeting on Thursday. County Cllr Roz Smith will be attending.

Two things stand out from this report:

  1. The police have opposed the extension of the speed limit
  2. The money for it is being taken out of the Access to Headington budget




Report by Director for Infrastructure Delivery Introduction

  1. This report presents responses received in the course of a statutory consultation to extend a 20mph speed limit on the B4495 Windmill Road, Oxford, southwards to include the full length of the road to its junction with Old Road.


  2. The request for the extension of the 20mph speed limit on the B4495 Windmill Road southward to include its full length was made in the course of the wider consultations on the Access to Headington. At the Cabinet Member for Environment decisions meeting on 9 June 2016, it was resolved that officers carry out a formal consultation on this proposal. A plan showing the proposed extent of the 20mph speed limit is shown at Annex 1.


  3. Formal consultation was carried out between 13 July and 11 August 2017. A public notice was placed in the Oxford Times newspaper, and sent to statutory consultees, including Thames Valley Police, the Fire & Rescue Service, Ambulance service, Oxford City Council and the local County Councillor.
  4. Thirty four responses were received as summarised at Annex 2. Copies of the full responses are available for inspection in the Members’ Resource Centre.
  5. Responses comprised objections from Thames Valley Police and two members of the public with expressions of support from the local County Councillor, Oxford City Council, the Windmill Road Residents Action Group, Windmill Primary School and Cyclox (a cyclist action and support group within Oxford) and twenty six members of the public, primarily residents of Windmill Road and adjacent roads.
  6. Thames Valley Police’s objection was on the grounds that while average speeds were within the threshold of 24mph as recommended in the Department of Transport guidance on 20mph speed limits without supporting traffic calming measures, the speed surveys also showed that a significant number of vehicles were travelling appreciably faster than this, and consequently it was unrealistic to expect good levels of compliance with the proposed 20mph limit. This could not only potentially lead to a more general disrespect of speed limits but also result in demands for police enforcement which cannot be accommodated within present resources.
  1. Objections from members of the public were on the grounds that the proposal was unnecessary and could lead to driver frustration and increased delays, with one respondent suggesting that a shorter extension of the 20mph speed limit to its junction with Margaret Road, south of which the road widens, might be more acceptable.
  2. Expressions of support primarily cited improved safety for all road users and in particular children, pedestrians and cyclists. However, several of these responses also stated the importance of enforcement of the lower speed limit should it be approved and that without this its benefits would be much reduced.

    Response to Objections and Concerns

  3. The concerns of Thames Valley Police on the likely high levels of abuse of the speed limit are noted and it is accepted that police resources for speed enforcement – including by the use of speed cameras – are already under severe pressure and that it would, therefore, be unrealistic to expect significant enforcement of the proposed 20mph speed limit.
  4. The objections from the members of the public on the grounds of need are similarly noted. However, the accident record of the part of the road where the reduced limit is being proposed (one serious and seven slight accidents have been reported in the latest 5-year period available, to 31 July 2017) does point to there being valid safety concerns, even when allowing for the fact that the circumstances of some of these incidents were low speed collisions.
  5. The significant number of responses in support of the proposal – notwithstanding that some of these were qualified by concerns over its benefits in in the likely absence of any appreciable enforcement activity given the severe pressures on police resources – is noted and it would, therefore, appear that the proposal has significant local support, together with that of Cyclox, representing wider cyclist interests in the city.

    How the Project supports LTP4 Objectives

  6. The proposals would help facilitate the safe movement of traffic.

    Financial and Staff Implications (including Revenue)

  7. The costs of the 20mph speed limit would be met from the budget allocated to the Access to Headington project.



14. The Cabinet Member for Environment is RECOMMENDED to approve the proposals as advertised

Full Council meetings – getting your issues raised

One of the ways councillors get action on issues concerning Oxford residents is to ask questions of Board members, speak on agenda items, and submit motions for debate at Full Council meetings.

At next Thursday’s Council meeting, Ruth will be speaking to the following items as well as contributing to wider debate. Altaf will be speaking on tower block safety, hate crime and lease agreements with community groups.

If you would like your councillors to ask a specific question at Council or submit a motion on any specific issue, please get in touch.

Questions on notice

Cllr Wilkinson to Cllr Brown

Please can the Lead Member provide dates, times and duration in minutes of all instances when any part of the Council’s internet service has been down, including access to the Planning Portal, both on and off site, between 1/1/17 and 30/6/17 on

  • weekdays
  • out of hours

Cllr Wilkinson to Cllr Hayes

The 101 non-emergency service is used by both the public and by neighbourhood police team officers, and residents tell us they have waited for 30 minutes and over for a human reply to calls on that number. Is the Lead Member able to advise what progress has been made by TVP on identifying a more efficient Contact Management Platform and what priority is being given to this?

Cllr Wilkinson to Cllr Hayes

During the temporary pedestrianisation of Queen Street and the completion of the Westgate development, bus stops have been relocated to High Street outside the Covered Market. Queues for buses (particularly the 3 route to Rose Hill), pedestrians, and long lines of visitors including language school students are crowding pavements to such an extent that people are finding it necessary to walk on the carriageway. Residents tell me they are worried about safety both of pedestrians and cyclists. Can the Board Member please tell us what advice is being given by Oxford City Council to tour guides and language school co-ordinators on using alternative walking routes through Oxford if their destination is not a bus stop in the High?

Cllr Wilkinson to Cllr Hollingsworth

What are the arrangements for access, for members of the public and for academics, to historical planning records which pre-date the material available via the City Council website please?

Cllr Wilkinson to Cllr Hollingsworth

Can the Board member please confirm what air quality standards were imposed on the new underground car park at the Westgate Centre by the city during the planning process?

Cllr Wilkinson to Cllr Smith

Over the past month, an increasing number of white goods and other items have been dumped in the car park at Shotover. This started with five fridges which were there for a week after the Council was notified, and more fridges started to accumulate. Additional waste was dumped there on 13 July. Residents are calling for CCTV cameras to be installed. What further action is planned to address this, please?

Debate on agenda papers

Statement in support of the adoption of the  Headington Neighbourhood Plan

Motion on Notice

19f Fair employment: voluntary charter “Dying to Work”

Proposed by Councillor Wilkinson

Liberal Democrat member motion

This Council seeks to provide support and guidance to all its employees. In its Fair Employment Statement published in October 2016, the Rights and Responsibilities section makes it clear that:

“Every employee and potential employee has the right to be treated with dignity and respect and not to be discriminated against, victimised, bullied or harassed or to be treated less favourably than any other on any basis of any protected characteristic.”

It is acknowledged that unforeseen events can affect the lives of council workers, and that it is important that the Council does all that it can to maintain the dignity of staff who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Council notes that the TUC’s Dying to Work campaign includes a voluntary charter for employers to sign which sets out an agreed way in which their employees will be supported, protected and guided through their employment, following a terminal diagnosis.

The charter states the following:

·         We recognise that terminal illness requires support and understanding and not additional and avoidable stress and worry.

·         Terminally ill workers will be secure in the knowledge that we will support them following their diagnosis and we recognise that, safe and reasonable work can help maintain dignity, offer a valuable distraction and can be therapeutic in itself.

·         We will provide our employees with the security of work, peace of mind and the right to choose the best course of action for themselves and their families which helps them through this challenging period with dignity and without undue financial loss.

Council notes that a significant number of other city councils have signed up to this charter including Birmingham, Leicester, Liverpool and Sheffield.

This Council supports the TUC’s Dying to Work campaign so that all employees battling terminal illness have adequate employment protection and have their death in service benefits protected for the loved ones they leave behind.

Council therefore asks that Oxford City Council signs the Dying to Work voluntary charter to show its on-going commitment to supporting rights and responsibilities towards its staff and to bring back to Council any consequential changes to policy.

It further requests that the City Council informs Oxfordshire County Council and the other district councils in Oxfordshire of its actions so that they may consider whether to follow its example.

Counter-proposals on governance structure in Oxfordshire

Three district councils have published their alternative proposals on restructuring in Oxfordshire – West Oxfordshire District Council, Cherwell District Council and Oxford City Council.

You can download this 56 page document at https://www.oxford.gov.uk/downloads/file/3706/opportunity_growth_and_reform_an_alternative_to_proposals_for_structural_reorganisation_in_oxfordshire

Statement re tower block safety in Oxford

Here is a statement from Oxford City Council regarding tower block safety.

The City Council is in the middle of a major refurbishment of our 5 tower blocks namely Windrush and Evenlode on Blackbird Leys, Hockmore at Temple Cowley, Foresters in Wood Farm and Plowman in Northway. The project includes improvements to the fire safety of the buildings.

In light of the tragic fire that occurred today in Kensington and Chelsea and that Grenfell Tower has also undergone a major refurbishment an urgent review of our project has been undertaken. Whilst it will be some considerable time for the investigation to complete and report we have tried to cover issues that have emerged from the media reports so far.

The key points are that

  • The design of the fire safety elements of the project was carried out in full consultation with Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue service ( OFRS ) and the Council’s Building Control service and the works when finally complete will be formally signed off by those services.

  • We are installing sprinkler systems to all dwellings. These are already operational in Windrush, Evenlode and Hockmore and are scheduled to complete in Plowman and Foresters by December 2017.These are not required by law but we decided to include them following discussions with OFRS and reviewing the recommendations from previous investigation reports into other tower block fires ( Eg Lakanhal in Southwark in 2009 )

  • We are installing a fully automated fire detection system both in individual flats as well as communal areas; that is connected directly to the fire service. Again this is already complete for Windrush, Evenlode and Hockmore.

  • The external cladding system fitted complies with all current legislation, the insulation is fire retardant and there are fire barriers at each floor level. We do not believe it is the same cladding system but we are double checking.

  • Dry risers are checked regularly to ensure they are working. These are the internal pipes with outlets at each floor that allow the fire engines to pump up high pressure water from the ground floor to each upper floor to enable them to fight the fire from the inside which is the standard practice for towers. The fire service has limitations on the equipment available to fight fire from the outside on very tall buildings.

  • Fire doors are in place to both communal areas and front entrance doors and these are being checked and upgraded where necessary as part of the works. Where residents have replaced their own front doors we are checking to ensure compliance. This may require enforcement if tenants or leaseholders refuse. We are also double checking that residents have also not installed doors for security reasons that would hamper the fire service from forcing entry to fight a fire.

  • Smoke extraction vents to stairwells are being installed which will disperse smoke from the means of escape.

  • Evacuation procedures have been reviewed with OFRS and notices of the revised arrangements have already been installed for those blocks that have already got the new detection system. We do not have a stay put policy in Hockmore and have a partial stay put to the other blocks i.e. if a fire is detected to a floor then the alarm sounds on that floor and to the floors above and below with instructions to evacuate. We may need to review this with OFRS colleagues in due course but their advice as of today remains the same

  • Access for engines have been checked to ensure there are no obstructions during our works

Street lighting upgrade for Headington: schedule of works

LED street light

Oxfordshire County Council has secured funding to upgrade street lights across the county. Some of these in streets north of London Road have already been replaced, but we now have a schedule for the rest.

Initially the lights will appear brighter but they will save energy consumption.

A site survey will be carried out first to note any likely problems, and the lamps will be installed one unit at a time. There will be one van and 8 operatives on site and some parking areas may need to be suspended for short periods while the lamps are upgraded.

Balfour Beatty and the County Council street lighting team will send out letters to residents in affected roads nearer the time


Week commencing 10th July

  • Bickerton Road
  • Gardiner Street
  • Latimer Grange
  • Norton Close
  • Piper Street
  • Stapleton Road
  • Wilberforce Street
  • Windsor Street

Week beginning 17th July

  • Bateman Street
  • Kennett Road
  • Langley Close

Week beginning 24th July

  • Perrin Street
  • St Anne’s Road
  • Stephen Road

Week beginning 31st July

  • All Saints Road
  • Latimer Road
  • Lime Walk
  • New High Street

Week beginning 7th August

  • York Road

Should Oxford impose a tourism levy?

Ruth’s Lib Dem motion for Oxford City Council to lobby nationally for the power to impose a tourism tax was carried unanimously with cross-party support at Full Council on Monday.

The issues around tourist taxes are quite complex. Here is the text of Ruth’s speech.

In his 2007 inquiry into local government, Lyons recommended that the Government should consider legislating to allow some authorities to introduce a tourism-related tax where appropriate.

In January, the London Finance Commission reported on options for a tourist levy. It sets out international comparisons and estimated revenues.

Here are some broader economic arguments that have been made about tourist tax.

  • Tourists impose costs on the host society that are not paid for by the tourist. Residents should be compensated.
  • Tourists consume un-priced natural amenities and public goods
  • The tourism sector should bear the costs of promotion
  • Tourist taxes are common in many European cities
  • Hotel taxes may lead to a decrease in demand
  • The tourism sector is already heavily taxed in terms of ticket taxes, airport taxes and VAT
  • Tourist taxes shouldn’t only be levied on hotel accommodation
  • The admin burden would fall on businesses

How could a tourism-related levy work?

  • Flat rate per night’s stay e.g. in Lisbon
  • Percentage per hotel stay cost e.g. Berlin and Amsterdam
  • Flat rates set in bands e.g. according to star rating like in Paris and Rome

AirBnB has agreed with Amsterdam authorities to simplify the payment of the tourist tax by collecting and remitting those taxes on behalf of hosts.

There are alternative voluntary schemes too but audit would need to be transparent.

In Hackney, a £1 per night voluntary donation is added to guests’ hotel bills for:

  • hospitality training schemes supported by council programmes
  • Support for cultural events
  • Improvements to public spaces

The Heart of the Lakes accommodation company in the Lake District automatically adds £2 to every invoice it raises – guests can opt out (but don’t)

There are Tourism Business Improvement Districts in Loch Ness and Torbay, and consultation is underway on another one in Birmingham.

Westminster, Birmingham, Brighton, Bath, Edinburgh and Cornwall have all considered a tourist tax in recent years but none have gone ahead because the power to impose this has not been devolved by national government.

Camden Council wants to charge a tourist levy of £1 per person per night to use for extra street cleaning in popular areas like Camden Lock.

The figures for average hotel stay in Oxford are different from those in London where the average stay is much longer at 5.83 days. Inbound tourism is set to increase with the Westgate retail offer but how much of this will translate into increased hotel occupancy?

The devolution of power to local authorities to impose tourist taxes may be well worth fighting for, at a time of post-Brexit uncertainty and public spending cuts. I look forward to a wider debate.

Here is the text of the motion that was agreed.

Power to impose a tourist tax in Oxford

Council notes that a number of local authorities are currently lobbying for the power to impose tourist bed taxes or “hotel levies”. These include Camden, Westminster, Bath, Birmingham, Brighton, Edinburgh and Cornwall.

Council also notes the recent support by the Mayor of London for the introduction of such a levy following the publication for the London Finance Commission by the GLA of Working Paper 83 entitled Options for a tourism levy for London. This report gives details of tourist taxes levied across the world in cities that have a high proportion of tourists.

Council recognizes that the British Hospitality Association is strongly opposed to any imposition of a bed tax, and that the VAT rates in the UK on hotel accommodation are much higher than in other EU countries.

Oxford is the seventh most visited city in the UK by international visitors and is the tourism gateway to the rest of Oxfordshire. The opening of the new Westgate retail offer is expected to generate increased visits to Oxford. Council welcomes tourism in Oxford as this brings many benefits to the City, however this does bring with it an extra demand for infrastructure and environmental improvements, and cost to the Council of increased workload in some departments, for example Streetscene and Parks.

Council notes that there are uncertainties ahead post-Brexit with respect to Oxford’s economy, and that it may be wise to join other authorities in lobbying for the power to introduce and retain a tourism levy.

Council therefore asks the Chief Executive and the Leader of the Council to work with other local authorities representing cities with high rates of tourism to lobby jointly for the devolution of the above power. It further requests that Council writes to Oxford’s two MPs to inform them of this Council’s motion and ask for their support.

Useful references:





Great news – Roz Smith re-standing in May elections

Roz Smith – brings energy and enthusiasm to the Headington Lib Dem team.

Altaf and Ruth are delighted that our close colleague Roz Smith is re-standing in the local elections in May.

We know that Roz feels privileged to have represented you as county councillor for the past four years, and has received a lot of support from people in the area.

She lives locally and is involved in many of our community organisations as school governor, fund-raiser and committee member, so unlike other candidates she has first-hand knowledge of what goes on in the area, and what Headington people are most concerned about. She champions Headington issues at County Hall

Roz knows how important it is to keep people informed. As part of the Headington Lib Dem team, she attends monthly Ward Focus Group meetings and street surgeries, listens carefully to comments from residents, and takes action to champion their concerns.

Together, Roz, Altaf and Ruth work hard throughout the year to represent your views.

With your help, Roz and the team have achieved positive results for Headington – just two examples are getting the London Road re-built rather than just re-surfaced, and working hard to get positive changes to the Access to Headington scheme so that as many trees and as much on-street parking is saved.

When Roz meets people at community events or on their doorstep, residents tell her they are worried about cuts to local vital services, neglected potholes and air pollution due to the amount of traffic movements we suffer in our area. If re-elected, we know Roz is determined to work hard on your behalf to tackle these issues and any other concerns to the best of her ability and her track record is one to be proud of.

If you wish to contact Roz, she would be pleased to hear from you. Her telephone number is 07584 257156. We hope you, like us, will give her your full support.

Beech House construction traffic – response from Planning Enforcement

As promised, here is the response from the City Council regarding the requests from us and from Highfield Residents’ Association for enforcement action regarding the change of access route for construction vehicles to/from the Beech House site in Latimer Road via Highfield residential roads.

I have reviewed the original planning permission, the Construction Traffic Management Plan and the information sent in by yourself and the local residents.

Whilst the Construction Traffic Management Plan does limit the access to the development from London Road, on to Latimer Road and into the site, having discussed the matter with a number of council officers and under the circumstances, it is the council’s decision that is not expedient to take any enforcement action against the breach of planning control in this instance.

The National Planning Policy Framework advises that “local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control”. In this instance, the developers are not wilfully choosing to breach their planning conditions under normal circumstances but have been forced into a temporary deviation due to other unrelated works that affect access into their site. It would not be reasonable to prevent deliveries from accessing the site or stop the site from developing whilst the Hospital’s energy pipework is installed.

Even if the council did decide that enforcement action was expedient and proportionate, the amount of time it would take to prepare, serve a breach of condition notice and the time for compliance allowed to the developers would likely exceed the time the London Road/Latimer Road junction is temporarily closed for. Any prosecution the council tried to bring against the developers would likely be dismissed as the developers would have a more than reasonable argument as to why they couldn’t temporarily comply with the condition.

The council is working with the county Highway team and the developers to try to make the situation as manageable as possible during the road closure and ensure residents are impacted as little as possible.

During the temporary closure of the London Road/Latimer Road junction, issues of highway safety should be referred to the Highway team at the county council or to the local police force who have the jurisdiction to deal with such matters.

I appreciate that this is not a welcome decision for you or the affected residents but I hope you can appreciate the reasoning why the council have arrived at the decision we have.