For information: To receive reports from other partnerships supporting the delivery of the Oxfordshire Strategic Vision.
Councillor Liz Leffman reported back from meetings of England’s Economic Heartland, (EEH). A key topic of discussion had been the management of bus networks in the future and it had been decided to convene a workshop of the various authorities across the EEH region.
Councillor Leffman expressed the observation that significant resources were being allocated to metropolitan areas within combined authorities with elected Mayors in order for those authorities to manage their own bus services and although perhaps unfair, it was felt that this was intended to act as an incentive for elected mayors. Whilst such a route might not be considered acceptable or beneficial within Oxfordshire it was felt that there was a common desire to have a greater degree of control over bus networks within the county and working with partners across the EEH was one potential way of achieving this.
A discussion had also been held regarding Mobility hubs and the EEH was working with East West Rail around this which locally the Partnership could learn from, for instance around provision of secure bike storage.
With the regard to the progression of the East West Rail project, some concerns had been expressed at the eastern end of the line near Cambridge around the impact of the project on local communities and a public engagement process was to be put in place in response. In terms of the Oxfordshire stretch of the line, the Bicester to Oxford part of the project was dependent on the completion of the upgrade of Oxford station which was intended to be completed by the end of 2024. Discussions had also taken place around eventual electrification of the line and train battery technology.
Councillor Leffman next commented on the redevelopment of Oxford station, bridge replacement works on Botley Road and track upgrades. It was noted that the Botley Road would be closed in April for an initial six month period after which there would be a six month gap followed by a further closure in March 2024 to October 2024. Whist the new facilities when completed would be a significant improvement, it was fully recognised that it was necessary to go through a period of significant disruption whilst Botley Road was closed. Members of the Partnership were referred to an extensive press release regarding the works which had recently been released and everything possible was being done to reduce disruption. Discussions were also taking place with local train operators around providing additional free parking at local stations to seek to make it easier not to travel into Oxford City by car.
Councillor Susan Brown commented that the works were significant for the City of Oxford and Oxford City Council was working closely with both Network Rail and Oxfordshire County Council. An example of this was the enablement by city officers of a visit of the site by groups representing people with various disabilities so that they could understand what was being proposed and so they could feedback on potential improvements to help those they represented. Councllor Brown also echoed the recognition that the works would be disruptive and it was intended to put in place as many mitigation measures as possible to seek to keep traffic flowing whilst encouraging travel to and within the City by other means.
Matt Whitney, Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership, (LNP) Manager provided a verbal update on the activities of the LNP prior to the consideration of written impact report later in the year. The LNP which was jointly funded by all the local authorities in Oxfordshire had the remit to radically enhance nature, its positive impact on the climate and the priority of making Oxfordshire a place where people and nature thrived. The work of the LNP covered three workstreams – nature recovery, natural capital investment and people and nature.
In addition, work was underway to develop a land based carbon sequestration offset model and funding and resource to support it was being investigated. This was felt to be an innovative area with opportunities deliver multiple outputs from single interventions.
A number of points raised by various speakers in the meeting relating to destination management and the comments of the Scrutiny Panel were welcomed. The LNP was also engaging with OxLEP regarding the development of the Strategic Economic Plan. Finally, an offer was made to attend the meetings of individual council climate action committees if this felt to be helpful to the understand of the LNP role and work.
Emma Coles, Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership Manger and Jeremy Long, Co-Chair gave a verbal update on the work of the Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership, (OIEP). The OIEP which was also funded by all the Oxfordshire local councils was a county wide organisation that aimed to bring together the business community, community groups and local authorities to share knowledge, expertise, and resources to create a more equal, inclusive, and sustainable region. The Partnership had four action focussed working groups, educational attainment, inclusive employment, social value and procurement, and place shaping.
Project proposals for action to across Oxfordshire to deliver the OIEP’s vision in all these areas had been agreed at the OIEP’s steering group meeting in December 2022 and the partnership would be supporting these projects whilst establishing a repository of case studies and best practice. A delivery plan was being developed setting out how the OIEP would be operating over the next year and a strategy was also being considered as it was recognised that delivery of its goals would require a longer term focus. Funding would be required and a strategy to seek this was being developed.
The OIEP had established a Charter which was a way for employers to demonstrate their support for and commitment to improving all aspects of social mobility and increasing prosperity in order to make Oxfordshire a fairer and more inclusive county. This required action from the organisation via sign up pledges. The Charter had been successfully launched on 25 January 2023 with a number of key speakers. Jeremy Long emphasised that there had been very good uptake for the Charter and pledged and requested that everyone through their own networks do all they could to encourage organisations they had links with to consider signing up to the Charter.
Following the conclusion of the item, the Chair paid tribute on behalf of the Future Oxfordshire Partnership to Jeremy Long for his service and contribution to as Chair of OxLEP until earlier that month.