Improvements to Oxford’s play areas massively overdue

Cllr Alan Armitage, Chair of North Area Committee, by the recently improved play area at Aristotle Recreation Ground  (photography: Alan Armitage)

 

The Labour administration on Oxford City Council has announced significant new budget for improving and maintaining Oxford’s play areas, but the Lib Dems are asking who will lose out.

Said David Rundle, Lib Dem leader on the City Council: It’s all too true that refurbishing Oxford’s play areas is massively overdue. Under previous Labour administrations, they were left to rot. It was the Lib Dems in 2006 who highlighted the problem and started a programme of refurbishment.

He added: “What Labour has announced may sound good, but it would be wise to ask a few questions. It is claimed that more money will be spent but who will pay for it? Even on the most optimistic forecasts, there’s going to be at least £500,000 to be found. We know that Mr Brown has put the thumbscrews on local council and there’s no money to spare, so what’s going to be cut to make up the shortfall?

Lib Dems want to know how the communities are going to be involved in the decisions. Labour say they will consult – but, as the Conservatives have shown repeatedly at County Hall, consulting is not the same as listening. Much better than consulting is actually making the decision in the local communities which are affected.

Latimer Road surgery

Many thanks to those who attended our street surgery this evening, we enjoyed meeting you and are taking up the issues you raised. Over 25 people attended and the event was very worth while. We shall be repeating our street surgeries in areas across the ward. Please watch out for details of our next surgery by clicking the box in the left hand margin

Some of the issues you raised included:  the future of the Dorset House site, uneven footpaths, the site of the old tree stump, the drains in Latimer Road, the delivery lorry at 4 am to St Luke’s Hospital, parking problems, rubbish problems at a site in Beech Road, RPZs for disabled constituents and their carers, green waste, replacement tree planting, cycling on pavements, affordable housing, and health and safety incidents involving buses in Osler Road

We are on the case!

Have your say on neighbourhood nuisance!

I am about to join a review panel on antisocial behaviour which will have a remit for scrutinising facts and figures on how “antisocial behaviour” or neighbourhood nuisance is tackled by the City officers and the agencies with they work in partnership.

The scope of this panel is being drawn up currently – if you have any ideas about what this should be, or if you have any comments about the way in which antisocial behaviour is tackled across the City, please let me know soon – by Thursday 7 August, or at the street surgery in Latimer Road on Thursday night from 6.00 pm-7.30 pm. I would welcome your comments on this.

Bus tickets and fare stages

Oxford City Council Concessionary Travel Scheme  Concessionary bus passengers are often concerned that zero-value concessionary tickets issued to them by bus drivers appear to mis-state the actual destination of the passenger. Passengers may be worried that the Council will be “over-charged” for the journey made, and have regularly raised this concern with elected members and Council staff.  The fact is that with the Council’s present arrangements for reimbursing bus operators, there is not a direct relationship between the length of a passenger’s journey and the payment that the bus operator receives for carrying that passenger. So it makes no difference to the operator – or to the Council – if drivers accurately record concessionary passenger destinations, or do not. The key thing is to ensure that drivers accurately records all concessionary zero fare journeys as such, and that no fare paying passengers are recorded as making a concessionary journey. 

Accurate estimation of the fare revenue that the operator would receive from concessionary passengers if there was no concessionary scheme is a very complex and controversial topic, in which practical considerations are as important as theoretical accuracy. Estimates of the fare that would be paid for concessionary journeys is only one aspect of this. The method used by the City Council uses the average cash fare actually paid by non-concessionary passengers as a proxy for the average fare that would be paid by concessionary passengers in the absence of the scheme. This avoids the practical problems of having to accurately record the actual destinations of all concessionary passengers. It means that errors in recording concessionary passengers have no impact on the amount of reimbursement received by operators.  Other concessionary travel schemes do use the destinations stated by passengers to estimate the fare, but the accuracy of this method relies upon both passengers precisely identifying where they are alighting, and accurate recording of this by the driver. It should be noted that it will often be the case that the alighting stage recorded by the driver will not be the same as the destination stated by the passengers. This does not necessarily imply an error on the part of the driver. The reason is that fares may not vary between alternative alighting stops – indeed, in

Oxford, there are very few distinct fares, so that the same fare is charged for a very large number of specific bus stop to bus stop journeys. So there is no need for drivers to record the precise destination – and if the driver was require do so, this would significantly slow down bus operations and make all passengers’ journeys slower. The conclusion is that concessionary passengers should not be concerned if their zero-fare ticket shows a different alighting point to that stated to the driver. It does not imply that the Council will get charged more for the concessionary journey, and in any case is quite likely not to reflect any error on the part of the driver.

Amendment about bus services

I have proposed the following amendment to the core strategy for discussion at full Council tomorrow, and thought I should explain a little about why I’ve done it. The amendment is:

I would like to propose that the following paragraph is inserted into the document just above Policy CS16

“Some existing residential areas currently have poor or infrequent public transport accessibility to key local services (such as a District centre), relative to other parts of Oxford. The City Council will work with its partners to improve bus services to such areas, particularly where this will support regeneration or social inclusion.”

There is already some mention of improving bus links between the proposed district centres, and this will strengthen our case for improving bus links between Headington and Summertown. However, having served on the North East Area Committee and having canvassed across the North East of the city, I recognise that areas like Risinghurst get a poor deal when it comes to bus services in the evenings and at weekends.

Another reason for proposing this amendment is to make sure that areas like Iffley, with a high percentage of elderly residents, stand a chance of getting a regular bus service out of the village. It will also help estates like Rose Hill get a regular bus service to its local primary district centre Templars Square – the new district centres will offer employment, amenities and shops so it’s important that residents in outlying estates with high levels of socio-economic deprivation have public transport to these key local services.

Public toilets

There has recently been lots of email traffic between councillors about the times at which public toilets are closed, and in my experience this sometimes happens (at Bury Knowle Park) before the shops finish trading, which seems to me to be rather a disincintive for people to continue shopping in the late afternoon. I have received the following instruction from a Works Manager which may be of interest to Headington residents and users of the Bury Knowle toilets who come to Headington to work, shop or study.

All public conveniences should be open between 08.00 and 17.00 daily and the supervisory team at City Works have been instructed to ensure that this is complied with.

Gloucester Green conveniences are opened at 07.30 by the car parks security team and are closed by this team at 23.00

There are also 24 hour facilities at Gloucester Green, Westgate Car Park, Magdalen Street East (Ladies) and Market Street

I would be grateful if you would pass on our apologies to anyone that may have been inconvenienced by some early closures.

It seems to me that when Headington is enshrined as a district centre in the new core strategy, one of the minimum service level agreements should be that there is one 24 hour public toilet facility in each district centre. Do let me have your views on this!

Oxford 2026

There will be a meeting of Full Council next Tuesday 5 August to discuss “Oxford 2026: the Oxford core strategy”. This is a very important document as it outlines the planning vision for Oxford over the next 18 years, and discusses, among other things, the proposed development of Headington and its infrastructure. If you would like to see this document, please click on the website link and select the section you want to view under item 4.1.

The document will be formally published on 5 September 2008 and there is still time to contact either Cllr David Rundle or myself if you want us to raise any associated issue at full Council. Any planning policy changes in the future are likely to refer back to this document, so we need to make sure it reflects the views of our Group and our residents. Please let us know if you have concerns about anything in this document.