Councils await news of funds invested in troubled Icelandic banks

Councils across Oxfordshire are amongst at least 40 local authorities across the country that have been caught up in the current Icelandic banking crisis and are waiting to hear when their investments in three Icelandic banks will be re-paid.
The councils, which between them have budgets in excess of £1.3bn, have at any one time, cash flow balances which are invested within the banking sector.
In common with all councils, this investment is regulated to seek cash security and uses national bank ratings to ensure credit worthiness. Councils also ensure that risk is spread by limiting the maximum exposure to any one institution – this applies in financially stable times as well as in the current turbulent times.
The Icelandic banks have been highly rated.

The Oxfordshire councils have £28.5m invested with the Icelandic banks, which is repayable at different dates over the year. The situation with the Icelandic Banks remains unclear and has changed several times over the last 24 hours – the council’s are pushing the government for a clear statement on the position of these funds.
How is each council affected?
The breakdown of the funds invested across the council is: £m
Cherwell District Council 6.5
Oxfordshire County Council 5.0
Oxford City Council 4.5
South Oxfordshire District Council 2.5
Vale of White Horse District Council 1.0
West Oxfordshire District Council 9.0

For more details, please see the Oxford City Council website 

Safety of cyclists in Headington


We know there is a lot of concern from residents about cycling in Headington.  Pedestrians tell us that they experience near misses or are bumped into by cyclists on pavements. Cyclists say they experience near misses or are forced off road by buses. Car drivers tell us that cyclists swerve in front of them without using arm signals. 

The neighbourhood police have been stopping cyclists who ride on the pavements and ask them why they are doing it, and the answer is frequently “because I don’t feel safe cycling on the road”.  Many of these cyclists are adults, not children.  We need to come up with some good ideas about how to improve all this, before there are any more accidents.  At a recent Neighbourhood Action Group meeting some suggestions included:

  • impose on the spot fines for people who cycle on pavements

  • stop those cycling on pavements and give them a warning first time round, if they are stopped again, send them on a compulsory cycling proficiency training course

  • enforce the law that cycle lanes should be used only by cyclists and not by cars – this would make cyclists feel safer

  • devise cycle routes that take cyclists off the main roads and give a map of these routes and a warning to those who cycle on pavements

  • put up signs instructing cyclists to dismount where traffic junctions are particularly dangerous

We have asked for this topic to be raised at a forthcoming North East Area Committee meeting.  There are two questions that must be asked of the County:

  1. Why isn’t there a Cycling Officer for Oxfordshire?

  2. Why isn’t there an up to date County strategy on cycling?

If you have any ideas or suggestions, we would welcome them!

Pubs in Old Headington

The latest update as exciting things are happening at both The Black Boy and The White Hart.

As many of you know, The Black Boy is now in new hands, as I mentioned previously.  Ruth has already spent a convivial evening there, with members of the Headington & Marston e-Forum, ably facilitated by Stephanie Jenkins (the Forum that is — I can’t speak for the evening as I couldn’t be there). The pub is now closed for the final stages of refurbishment, and re-opens on Tuesday, 7th October, with its full menu then available. Good luck to Abi and to Chris who are running it!

The White Hart is also seeing a change of landlord. I’ve not yet had chance to meet the new people but both Ruth and I wish them the very best for their time in the wonderful village of Old Headington.

Bus shelters – timetable for replacement

You may be interested in the 3 year schedule for replacing bus shelters in Headington. All will have seats, and there is a timetable as follows:

Year 1

Headington Road opp Brookes

Headington Rd outside 192/194

Headington Rd outside 214

Headington Rd outside Girls’ School

London Rd opp No. 25 Dial House

Year 2

Headington Rd opp South Park

London Rd outside outside 133/135 Allen and Harris

London Rd outside 137 Connell’s

London Rd outside 23/25

Windmill Rd adjacent Rock Edge (no existing shelter)

Year 3

London Rd outside 108/110 Marie Curie

London Rd outside 236 Drinks Cabin

The staggering thing I’ve learned about bus-related issues this week is that the County Council pays for the bus stop poles and the timetables, and the City Council pays for the bus shelters. So even though there is information space for the timetables (County) built into the new bus shelters (City), the timetables are still being affixed to the posts (County). Another piece of evidence to support the case for unitary authorities?

Do it yourself drop kerbs

Just a quick note to say please do not be tempted to cement in a DIY drop kerb outside your house and hope that nobody notices! Our attention has been drawn to a couple of these within the last month.

Council planners do become involved when consent is required for crossings
to commercial premises or properties fronting to classified roads. Applications are dealt with by the County Council from their Kidlington Office.

If a cemented in drop kerb results in clear ‘interference with the Highway’ then it is a criminal offence, and will be investigated promptly.

Headington Farmers’ Market: Happy First Birthday!

Today is the first anniversary of the establishment of Headington’s Farmers’ Market. I visited it this morning and it was, once again, a bustling occasion, with a range of excellent stalls in the autumn sun, and many local residents enjoying the event. It’s having an excellent first birthday party.

I am delighted it’s working so well: it is some time ago now that I mooted the idea of a Farmers’ Market to the good people of Headington Action. There was real support for the idea but it would have remained a twinkling in our eyes if it hadn’t been for the dedication of one man: Charles Young. He’s liaised with the various farmers and other stall-holders and turned a thought into a reality. We owe all of Headington Action a debt of gratitude, but in particular to Charles.

Birthdays are also a time to look ahead so here are some wishes I have for the second successful year of this venture:

  1. That the stall-holders stop offering plastic bags to customers (it happened to me twice today).
  2. That we can add some community activities to the day — in particular, having a ‘bike doctor’ there, or a recycling point. These are ideas close to the hearts of those involved in Low-Carbon Headington.
  3. That the Market continues to get in profile and, with it, help convince investors that Headington is a district centre they need to be, so that we can have a range of shops of which we all can be proud.

I’ll be off later to gut the fish I bought, and to look forward to the succulent venison steaks that were on sale. What a great initiative: thank you, Headington Action, and thank you, Charles Young. And: happy birthday, Headington Farmers’ Market!

Bus services in Headington

David and I had a meeting with Martin Sutton from Stagecoach yesterday evening where we aired the issues you wanted to raise  relating to bus services in Headington. Here’s our report back to you.

  • Buses from Headington to Summertown

Many of you have raised the issue of there not being a direct bus to and from Summertown. We have raised this, in particular suggesting a direct route, without going through the city centre, which would also have the advantaged of helping the residents on the top half of Headley Way to have a bus service again. Martin Sutton told us they have looked into this before and gave a guarantee that Stagecoach would look at this again.

In discussing this and other issues, he clarified some of the economics as Stagecoach see them. They calculate that each bus on the road costs c£180K a year to run, this equates to c£38 per hour, though clearly different types of buses incur different costs. They take as the key indicator for performance is the “average operating speed” of the bus – the higher this is, the higher the cost of the service. The average operating speed of the bus should ideally be between 12 and 18 mph. The average operating speed of the no. 10 has been recorded as low as 8 mph but its usage has improved since the service became more frequent.

  • No 10 bus route

On this, it’s fair to say, there was not a meeting of minds. We explained our long-held concerns about buses going down Osler Rd, causing problems for residents and cyclists, while Headley Way, where residents need a bus, goes unserved. Martin said that previous figures had suggested very few people got on a bus on Headley Way, while taking the bus into the JR by Osler Rd was seen as essential to that service (even though, in our experience, very few people actually use that particular stretch). We’ve heard all that before but what we did get was an agreement that we will be provided with the passenger statistics for this (and other) routes. We have asked for ‘before and after’ figures with reference to the introduction of the National Bus Pass scheme. Residents have also told us that weekend U10 buses on the section from Headley Way to the JR are underused.

  • London buses through Headington

This is a contentious issue locally: some residents have expressed the view that London buses should be re-routed so that they do not run through Headington; others are equally adamant that this bus service is one of the reasons to live in the area. We asked for information about the importance to Stagecoach of having a Headington stop. The latest figures suggest that nearly a quarter of passengers get on the London-bound Oxford Tube between St Clements and London Road  (60% of  passengers have boarded by the time buses reach the Plain, and 83% of passengers have boarded by the time buses reach the London Road roundabout). Clearly, the bus companies would be very reluctant to re-route their buses away from Headington.  What we need to focus on is making sure that they don’t block up the roads, as they sometimes do with the present road layout and some selfish parking by van-drivers.

  • Bays on London Road

Our residents in Windmill Road had asked if the designated bus and taxi parking lanes could be swapped over to make it easier for buses to pull in next to Iceland without having to overtake vehicles. Martin is going to consult his staff about this. This was a helpful meeting for all of us, and we hope to meet again for further discussion.

  • Other useful information

The bus company currently appealing the sum reimbursed to it by the City Council for passengers who are travelling with concessionary passes as part of the National Bus Pass scheme. If the rate of reimbursement is low, there is little incentive for bus companies to extend services in areas where there is a higher percentage of older passengers who use this scheme.

It is possible for bus companies to change routes and times of services providing they give 56 days’ notice to the County Council. It is possible for the County Council to write a condition into a contract for a subsidised route that can enforce two bus companies to tender fares in such a way that a joint ticket scheme can be administered, but problems can arise if the contracts for each of the two companies have separate expiry dates or if the ticket machines on the buses are not of a similar type.

In conclusion, the meeting provided a useful discussion and some helpful information. More importantly, it is part of an on-going dialogue where Stagecoach is left in no doubt of local feeling. We will work to make sure this achieves improvements for local residents over the longer term.