District Councillors Report - Annual Parish Meeting, April 2019
Report to the 2019 Annual Parish Meeting on SODC matters
As you will know, I have only been back on South Oxfordshire District Council since the byelection last year. When sitting down to write this report I looked at the last such report I did in 2011 and was surprised how little editing would be needed! Apart from the Local Plan 2034 which has at last gone to the inspector, there isn’t a great deal new to report this year as most things at District level are run by officers of the Council or Cabinet members who work on a minimalist principle. Other councillors have very little say in what happens. They can scrutinise the workings of the Council but this seldom results in much change.
Council Tax & finance
The District Council portion of Council Tax at SODC has increased by £5 for a band D home this year. This is the maximum allowed by the government. SODC has kept the District part of the Council tax low for the past few years by using the reserves (which won’t last forever) and the New Homes bonuses which look like ending or reducing in the near future. The amount available for grants is much less this year as interest rates were low and grant money comes from interest on the Council funds but this money is also being used to prop up the revenue expenditure as government grants were reduced and have now stopped for SODC.
The Local Plan, which should be the foundation of the future planning strategy for our area, has at last been submitted to the Secretary of State for approval. Much of it is similar to our present planning policy. But I am afraid I do not agree with the proposed strategy for providing the enormous number of houses suggested for South Oxfordshire, nor do I agree with the proposed locations in a few very large housing estates either in the Oxford Green Belt or at Chalgrove Airfield (which isn’t available anyway as Martin Baker want to stay there and it is a very unsustainable area with no railways or cycle routes and very poor road connections ) I believe that new housing could be accommodated much more sustainably by integrating smaller groups of houses closer to shops, services and jobs but we shall have to see what the Planning inspector says. There were over 2500 representations after the plan was made public in December. These have been summarised by the Planning Policy team into 990 pages and sent to the inspector.
Benson & Warborough, along with several other South Oxfordshire villages have had their Neighbourhood Plans “made” recently. Hopefully Ewelme’s won’t be too long in getting there. We shall need to watch and make sure they are adhered to when planning decisions are being taken.
Affordable housing is still much in demand and slow to come on stream in areas other than Didcot as it is dependent on the market housing alongside selling. We really need other ways of getting more affordable housing in locations where people need it, close to jobs, facilities, family and friends.
SODC’s Leisure Centres are run by GLL (Greenwich Leisure Limited), a charitable social enterprise, under the brand name Better.
The District Council website www.southoxon.gov.uk is a good place to look for SODC info. It is due to be re-vamped later this year. If you, or the person needing the information, doesn’t have internet access, someone you know will do or you can try the library while we still have one.
Waste Management & Recycling
We have a good system here which generally works well with high rates of recycling – well done everyone and please keep up the good work. I hope you are finding useful the recycling wheels which I arranged to go out with the recent Benson Bulletin (thanks to all the deliverers) Now we need to do more work on waste reduction.
This is a brief run through – Please contact me (01491 835631) with any questions or if you want more detail.