Venue: Virtual meeting viewable by weblink
Contact: Kevin Jacob, Future Oxfordshire Partnership Senior Democratic Services Officer Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies for absence, substitutes; declarations of interest, Chair's announcements
Apologies were submitted from Councillor Nathan Boyd, Vale of White Horse District Council; Councillor Sandy Dallimore, Cherwell District Council, Councillor Charlie Maynard, West Oxfordshire District Council, Councillor Richard Langridge, West Oxfordshire District Council, Councillor Liam Walker, Oxfordshire County Council; and Councillor Richard Webber, Oxfordshire County Council.
There were no declarations of interest or Chair’s announcements.
It was noted that the meeting was being livestreamed and that a recording of the meeting would be available here for a period of 12 months.
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 20 September 2022.
The minutes of the meeting held on 20 September 2022 were agreed subject to the following amendments:
· Minute 12: clarification that Councillor John Broad had declared a non-pecuniary interest relating to the public speaking item on the grounds he was a member of the Transport Group of the Oxford Civic Society, one of the registered speakers, but not the Oxford Civic Society itself.
· Minute 15: correction of listed public speaker to Councillor Lawrence Fouweather.
To consider a report to the Future Oxfordshire Partnership providing an update on the progress of the Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership, highlighting areas of focus for the Partnership moving forward and setting out points for the development of the Local Nature Recovery Strategy.
The Panel considered a report to the Future Oxfordshire Partnership providing an update on the progress of the Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership (ONLP). This not only included information on the ONLP’s areas of focus, but also set out details relating to the process for the development of a Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS). Matt Whitney, Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership Manager, gave a presentation (details of which can be found here) highlighting some of the key areas of focus within the report.
In discussion, the Panel noted that there appeared to be a deficit of national legislation and guidance relating to natural capital investment. Members expressed the view that the ONLP should be working with other local authorities and nature partnerships to ensure a consistent, evidence-based approach was being taken across the country. (Particular attention was drawn to the issue of carbon credits, where a lack of effective oversight and measurement had created several problems). The importance of cross boundary working was also emphasised in relation to the issue of nature routing arising from development.
Officers confirmed to the Panel that the ONLP were in regular contact with other local nature partnerships – in particular as part of the Southeast Nature Partnership group. They also stressed that Oxfordshire was well-placed in comparison to many other areas as it already had biodiversity net gain policies in place in advance of national requirements. In addition, it was mentioned that work is currently underway to develop a shared evidence base of data to support progress in relation to the issue of nature routing arising from development. While the national issues around carbon credits were also acknowledged by officers, they highlighted that there were good examples of best practice carbon credit schemes within Oxfordshire – including on the Blenheim Estate.
The Panel expressed concerns around the matrices and formulas used to assess biodiversity net gain. Members suggested that in some cases the independence of consultants commissioned by developers to provide site assessments were questionable and that, therefore, such evaluations should be engaged and undertaken by independent third parties. Officers accepted that the biodiversity net gain metrics were imperfect but emphasised that in Oxfordshire there was access to independent consultants.
The Panel was also informed that the national guidance made it clear that individual council local plans should both feed into and influence the drafting of Local Nature Recovery Strategies (and vice-versa).
Anxieties were expressed by some members of the Panel that the level of funding committed to the ONLP was not sufficient to support its ambitions. Officers made clear that, while additional resourcing would always be welcome, the primary role of the ONLP was to facilitate, enable, champion and coordinate action in relation to nature-based activities – it was never intended to directly deliver projects.
In conclusion, the Scrutiny Panel welcomed the update and supported the recommendations set out in the report.
Members of the public may submit an address or question in writing to the Scrutiny Panel, where full notice of the question or address is given to the secretariat no later than 17:00 on Wednesday 16 November 2022. Questions and addresses submitted should be no longer than one side of A4 paper in Arial 12 font. The address or question will be circulated to the Panel and public speakers will be invited to speak at the virtual meeting. Written submissions may also be read out by the Chair or Democratic Services Officer where requested or if the person making the request for public speaking is not able to attend the meeting. A response may be given at the meeting or a written answer supplied. Questions and notice of addresses must be submitted to email@example.com
Note: This meeting may be recorded for live broadcast via the Future Oxfordshire Partnership’s YouTube Channel - at the start of the meeting the Chair will confirm the meeting is being filmed. By registering to speak you are consenting to being recorded and to the use of those video and audio recordings for webcasting.
It was noted that on this occasion no requests for public speaking had been received.
To consider a paper to the Future Oxfordshire Partnership setting out an update on the progress of the Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership, (OIEP) and the development and launch of the OIEP Charter and associated pledges on 24 January 2023.
The Panel considered a report to the Future Oxfordshire Partnership updating them on the progress of the Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership (OIEP). This included the development and launch of the OIEP Charter and associated pledges on 24 January 2023.
Emma Coles, OIEP Manager, and Jeremy Long OIEP Co-Chair gave a short introductory presentation (available here) and answered questions from members. The Panel was informed that although Oxfordshire was perceived to be generally affluent with many successful businesses, real inequalities did exist. The mission of the OIEP was, therefore, to create a more equal and sustainable county that provided opportunities and benefits for all. To help achieve this aspiration, the OIEP was working towards tackling some of Oxfordshire’s biggest problems and, thereby, allow everybody to contribute and share in the county’s success. The launch of the OIEP Charter represented a significant introductory step in its development. The Charter’s purpose was to:
· Mobilise support for Oxfordshire inclusive economy and raise awareness of it.
· Publicly share commitments to inclusivity by individuals, businesses and organisations.
· Set and raise standards around inclusive economy.
· Encourage residents and businesses to work together to help protect Oxfordshire’s economy with the aim to prevent money leaving the county.
In discussion, members of the Panel welcomed the aspirations of the OIEP and the launch of the Charter. They, nevertheless, highlighted some areas of concern and also made suggestions for the OIEP’s consideration. Members also mentioned the need to ensure representation across all ages – in particular, from young people.
One member suggested that OIEP may be underestimating itself and what could be achieved in creating a more equitable and sustainable Oxfordshire. The view was expressed that ambitions of the OIEP (and the Charter pledges) were at quite a low level and relied primarily on voluntary actions. This meant that there was the possibility that an organisation or individual could benefit from the kudos of securing Charter pledge status without actually committing themselves to taking clear and definitive action. It was, therefore, suggested that the proposals should include greater detail on what the measurable output of the pledges could be. It was also proposed that there needed to be a greater focus on ownership structures – including both cooperative and community-owned models. Members of the Panel also referred to the link between inclusivity, sustainability and the procurement practices of local authorities and the broader public and private sectors.
The Panel was informed that the OIEP acknowledged many of these points/arguments and that it was their intention to grow and expand the Charter and its pledges after its credibility had been established. In relation to social procurement, the OIEP would welcome local authorities and other major procurers looking at their work as part of their social impact assessments. One of the aims of the OIEP’s proposals was to highlight and build upon the momentum of the good inclusivity practices that many organisations and companies already had in place. It also hoped to shine a light on the valuable work being delivered ... view the full minutes text for item 27.
To consider a report to the Future Oxfordshire Partnership setting out an update on work underway to map out activity aligned to the agreed outcomes of the Oxfordshire Strategic Vision; opportunity for discussion and input.
The Panel considered a paper to the Future Oxfordshire Partnership updating them on the progress made to identify new opportunities for joint working and outlining next steps. Beth Wilks, Future Oxfordshire Partnership Manager, gave a presentation (available here) highlighting the main areas of the report, including the general alignment between the Strategic Vision outcomes and the priorities outlined in the corporate plans of Oxfordshire’s local authorities and the Local Enterprise Partnership. Plans for stakeholder engagement on proposed areas for joint working – including with the Scrutiny Panel – were also outlined.
Members thanked officers for both the report and the opportunity for further engagement with the Panel as part of the proposed next steps. They, nevertheless, suggested in relation to the closeness of the alignment of the Strategic Vision outcomes with the corporate plans, that while there may be an apparent commonality of language this may be hiding differences of understanding of what actual terms mean. It was, therefore, felt that given the different characteristics and circumstances between the visions and priorities of Oxfordshire’s local authorities, that more divergence might have been expected. Consequently, members expressed the importance of being transparent as possible about any discrepancies and areas of difference – they suggested that more specific deliverable targets could help in achieving this.
In response, Andrew Down, Future Oxfordshire Partnership Director, and Beth Wilks commented that all of Oxfordshire’s local authorities had endorsed the Strategic Vision and, therefore, it was logical that their individual corporate plans did not conflict with it. Nevertheless, and notwithstanding these synergies, it was acknowledged that there were some differences. In terms of the detail, a large amount of work had been undertaken that supported the summary in the report – this would be shared in due course (the quantitative and qualitative data on performance in meeting the outcomes of the Vision would also be shared with the Partnership).
Members of the Panel commented that the report very clearly showed the cross-connections between various pieces of work being progressed across Oxfordshire. It also, however, showed that there were areas where there was additional scope for further joint working.
In discussion, an individual suggested that, while the sovereignty of local planning authorities was recognised, there had been a proliferation of planning applications related to solar farms and, therefore, this could be an area where there might be value in additional strategic joint working. Officers confirmed to the Panel that the issue of solar panel was something that was being carefully considered across the county, with the potential for it to be discussed at the Infrastructure Advisory Group.
After further debate, the Scrutiny Panel supported the recommendations set out in the report – in particular, the plans for further engagement session around identifying opportunities for joint working aligned to the outcomes of the Oxfordshire Strategic Vision.
RESOLVED: The Panel recommended to the Future Oxfordshire Partnership that it:
1. Remain cognitive of the need for commonly agreed and understood definitions of the desired outcomes of the Strategic Vision ... view the full minutes text for item 28.
To consider a report to the Future Oxfordshire Partnership setting out a financial summary for Quarter 2, Year 5 for the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal.
A question was raised by Councillor Julian Cooper as to whether the Barnard Gate A40 road scheme formed part of the Housing from Infrastructure (HfI) programme schemes shown within Appendix 1 of the report. Officers undertook to provide a written answer.
It was confirmed by officers that discussions were continuing with HM Government in relation to the release of the final £30m HfI programme payment and that this was reason to be cautiously optimistic – it, however, should be noted that further changes to the HfI programme could not be ruled out. If there were any further updates, these could be presented to the Panel.
Councillor John Broad spoke regarding the Northwest Bicester A4095 Howes Lane realignment scheme and commented that there were now around six proposed developments in the vicinity of the road. It was explained that the £1.3m shown in the table against the scheme was not the total cost but rather was the amount that had been allocated from the HfI budget for design and feasibility work. Officers undertook to provide further written clarification.
Councillor Andy Cooke expressed serious reservations about the delay in the provision of the Milton Heights pedestrian bridge scheme. Homes had occupied on nearby developments, and he was concerned for the safety of children using the existing junction when travelling to and from school. Officers stated that there had been no material change to the scheme since the previous update. It was still regarded as a worthwhile project and sources of alternative funding outside of the HfI programme continued to be urgently explored.
The Chair asked officers to provide an update on the exploration of alternative funding sources for the Milton Heights scheme. She also referred back to a point raised at the Panel’s previous meeting regarding the lack of funding for active travel projects where infrastructure had been delivered.
RESOLVED: That the Panel noted the report.
To consider the Future Oxfordshire Partnership’s response to the recommendations from the Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 20 September 2022.
RESOLVED: That the response be noted.
To discuss the draft work programme for the Panel and status of actions from the previous meeting.
The Panel considered its work programme and log of outstanding actions as set out in the Agenda.
RESOLVED: The Panel notes its work programme and updated action log.
Advisory Group Updates
To receive the summary notes from the Infrastructure Advisory Group meetings held on 5 September 2022 and 15 September 2022.
The Chair referred to the co-option of an external representative of the Oxfordshire Strategic Transport Forum onto the advisory group and suggested that, in light of the Panel’s previous discussions around the importance of active travel (and its links to infrastructure), there should also be a co-opted Active Travel member (potentially from Active Travel England). Officers indicated that this could be investigated.
1. That the update be noted.
2. That the Panel recommends to the Future Oxfordshire Partnership that it requests that the Infrastructure Advisory Group co-opts a representative from Active Travel England or a delegated nominee to the advisory group in order to provide active travel expertise to the group.
Housing Advisory Group update
To receive an update from the Housing Advisory Group meeting on 1 November 2022.
It was noted the Housing Advisory Group update would be provided to the next meeting of the Panel.
To receive the summary notes of the meeting of the Environment Advisory Group held on 20 September 2022.
The Panel noted the update as set out in the Agenda.
A query was raised in relation to a recent conference hosted by England’s Economic Heartland (EEH) where reference had been made to the possibility of a new road between Milton Keynes and Oxford. Officers responded that EEH were currently undertaking a connectivity study of the Milton Keynes to Oxford corridor and that when this analysis was completed it should be expected that more formal options would then be presented. However, it was important to bear in mind that EEH was neither a funding nor a delivery body and, therefore, it was not within its remit to make any substantive decisions.
RESOLVED: The Panel noted the update as set out in the Agenda.
Dates of next meetings
The dates of confirmed future Scrutiny Panel meetings are below. Please refer to https://futureoxfordshirepartnership.org/meetings/ for the most up to date information on times and locations.
· Wednesday 18 January 2023
· Monday 13 March 2023
· Tuesday 6 June 2023
· Tuesday 18 July 2023
The dates of future meetings were noted.