December 2017

Welcome to our latest newsletter

We hope you enjoyed reading last month’s edition of Oxfordshire Matters, the county council’s newsletter for our stakeholders.

In this edition:

  • New County Library opens on Monday
  • Views wanted on county council 2018/19 budget proposals
  • Keeping Oxfordshire on the move `whatever the weather`
  • 95% Superfast Broadband target reached
  • Nominations open for High Sherrif’s awards
  • County council’s Christmas opening arrangements
  • Major transport projects latest
A walk through of the new County Library at Westgate Oxford – filmed just under a fortnight before its opening on 18 December.

New County Library opens on Monday

County council staff are currently putting the finishing touches to the new County Library which opens to the public on Monday (18 December) at Westgate Oxford, close to the Bonn Square entrance.

More than 100,000 items will have been transported, catalogued and arranged by the time of Monday’s opening at 9am – the library had been temporarily housed at Oxford Castle following its transfer from the old Westgate shopping centre when it was known as the Central Library.

New features include ‘Makerspace’ and a children’s library. ‘Makerspace’ is an informal area for groups to carry out digital, art and craft activities, where people can learn new skills and make new connections. With a slightly space-age feel, it is a flexible space that has dozens of power points, a 3-D printer and ‘maker’ tables.

While an enlarged children’s library will be a key attraction for families with young children. With soft furnishings, ‘book nooks’ and safe Internet access, it is ideal for school visits, book talks and fun activities.

Investment and commitment

The main library areas have been opened up, with curved shelving to make browsing easier, and plenty of spots to settle down for a comfy read. The layout, fixtures and fittings are all new, with 70 public computers, information screens and areas for reading, working and learning new skills.

It is all part of a vision for the County Library to serve as a ‘front door’ to access county council services online, and for visitors to get the support they may need to do this – with staff on hand to assist.

The council’s Cabinet Member for Property and Cultural Services, Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, said: “Unlike other parts of the country, all 43 of Oxfordshire’s branch libraries have remained open and we’re underlining our commitment to libraries by putting them right at the heart of the communities they serve – the new County Library is for the Oxfordshire community as a whole.”

Before the old Central Library closed it was ranked as the third busiest council-run library in the country.

Opening events

A week of special opening activities and events is planned at the library from Monday. Full details can be found here

In 2017/18 Oxfordshire County Council is expected to spend £791m, of which £238m is destined for schools.

Views wanted on county council 2018/19 budget proposals

The county council has begun consultation on its proposed budget for 2018/19 and planning for the years up to 2022, with the message “the council’s finances are in a resilient position.”

At the heart of its proposals and planning is the newly agreed vision `Thriving communities for everyone in Oxfordshire` and the priorities of supporting `thriving people`, a `thriving economy` and `thriving communities`.

Although the proposed budget changes for the next financial year are not as extensive as in many previous years since 2010, like any organisation the council still has rising financial pressures that need to be matched by new savings, so that a balanced budget can be proposed.

The county council has therefore identified £21m of new financial pressures. These are detailed through a list of improvements, pressures and savings described in a news release issued last week and found here

In January the county council’s Cabinet will formally recommend a budget to the annual budget-setting meeting of full council which will be on 13 February.

The Local Government Settlement Day is due this month when the council will hear about its levels of grant funding from Government for the coming year and indications for future years. When published, officers may need to revise the forecasts used to inform the budget proposals in time for the January Cabinet discussions.

Council tax

On Council Tax the county council has already agreed, as part of its Medium Term Financial Plan, that there will be a 4.99% Council Tax rise in 2018/19.  Three per cent of this represents the “adult social care precept”.

Take part in the consultation

Meantime, consultation on the budget proposals has started and will conclude on 8 JanuaryHere is the link to have your say

The county council’s Emergency Planning team was hard at work putting its 4×4’s to good use – including bringing in critical paediatric staff to the John Radcliffe hospital on Tuesday.

Keeping Oxfordshire on the move `whatever the weather`

That was the challenge for the county council during the recent snow and freezing conditions which forced many of Oxfordshire’s schools to close and planned events to be cancelled or postponed.

For such `trying` conditions, the county council provides a range of services as the highways authority to help keep the county on the move. For example:

  • From 3am last Sunday to 3am on Monday gritting vehicles went out five times with snowploughs attached and covered 6,000 miles in that 24 hour period alone, deploying 1,200 tonnes of grit.
  • They had already been out on Saturday in preparation and went out twice more on Monday evening – all in addition to those five trips.
  • The county council covers all A-roads, B-roads and C-roads on one run which is 1,200 miles – the equivalent of going from London to Iceland (Highways England is responsible for the A34, A43 and M40).
  • As reported in the national media, a gritter lorry with a snow plough was also sent to clear a road so a grandmother could make it to her husband’s funeral. The council also sent a 4×4 car to allow Becky Aries, 71, to make it to the service in nearby North Leigh after her cul-de-sac was covered in up to eight inches of snow.

Behind the scenes a lot of work goes into preparing for the winter months which, of course, have only just begun; not least the highways staff who keep the county’s gullies cleaned to avoid delays and keep motorists safe – 57,600 gullies cleaned each year, in all  –  blocked gullies can cause flooding on the road network and considerable disruption to motorists.

Gritty determination
To read more about how the county council deploys its gritting, salting and snow clearing services click here

95% of county now has access to Superfast Broadband

The county council’s Better Broadband for Oxfordshire (BBfO) programme has reached the 95% superfast broadband coverage target set by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport ahead of schedule, in combination with private sector investment by network businesses such as Openreach.

The target date had been set as the end of 2017.

Pictured above (l to r) are four of the latest small businesses to benefit from having superfast broadband: Lucy Collins of Mill View Garden Centre and Coffee Shop at Wheatley, Ann Voss’ soft furnishings business at Cuxham, Helen Scott and Kurtis Crowhurst at the Herb Farm at Sonning Common, and Chris Shallis at The Bell Inn in Adderbury.

Meanwhile, the latest communities to benefit from the BBfO roll-out include Cookley Green, Pyrton, Balscote, Baulking and Waterperry.

Take up above 50%

The November Take-Up report confirms over 50% of connected premises have subscribed to a fibre broadband service, meaning over 37,000 households and businesses (around 100,000 people) are using a service they would not have been able to without the programme.

Read the growing list of case studies  that demonstrate the real difference this has made for both businesses and residents in Oxfordshire.

Nominations open for High Sheriff awards

The award that recognises people in Oxfordshire who have made outstanding contributions to the communities in which they live and work is now open for nominations.

Nominees will usually have had a high impact on the lives of others over a sustained period of time and will be recognised by other people working in the nominee’s area as inspirational and as setting an example for others to follow.

The award will not normally be made to people whose work and commitment has already been recognised by the award of a national honour or by bodies such as the Police, the Fire and Rescue Service, and Oxfordshire Charity and Voluntary Action.

Nominations are welcome for people who have made outstanding contributions to any aspect of community life, but this year nominations in the following area will be particularly welcome:

  • Individuals who are, or have been, involved in crime reduction projects, whether in prevention, rehabilitation or support for the vulnerable
  • Individuals who have helped the homeless into work and/or accommodation
  • Individuals who have helped turn around the lives of addicts

Click here to download a form.

Nominations should arrive with the High Sheriff before Thursday 11 January 2018and sent via email to ella@organisationunlimited.uk or by post to High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, c/o Organisation Unlimited, 25 Littleworth Road, Benson OX10 6LY.

County council’s Christmas opening arrangements

County council offices will be closed for the Christmas and New Year break on Christmas Day (Monday 25 December), Boxing Day (Tuesday 26 December) and New Year’s Day (Monday 1 January). Emergency services including the emergency duty team will be available as usual.

Information on the council, its range of services, and the latest news and social media posts can be found at www.oxfordshire.gov.uk, Twitter @oxfordshirecc, Facebook @OxfordshireCountyCouncil

We wish all our stakeholders a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Oxfordshire County Council consultations

The county council believes it is important to consult its stakeholder groups and residents when planning, managing and delivering its services.

To view all of Oxfordshire County Council’s current consultations, the results of consultations that have closed; consultations by the city and district councils, the clinical commissioning group and central government please visit:https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/public-site/consultation

Work underway at Harwell Link Road (pictured last month).

Major transport projects latest

Access to Headington Phase 3 was pushed to the New Year to account for the Thames Water works in St Clements. The programme is being staggered to manage the traffic impact on the highway network. The works are also being coordinated with third-party projects to minimise the impacts on road users.

Harwell Link Road construction continues to progress well and is currently two months ahead and scheduled to open in January.

Further updates on all road schemes can be found at www.roadworks.org including progress, road closures, diversions and expected completion dates. Just type in the location you are interested in. You can also set up email alerts.

Furthermore, you can sign up for updates to all county council transport projects currently in construction. We have also added the facility to sign up for quartlery updates on specificfuture planned projects.

Thank you for reading. New readers can register here to receive this monthly newsletter.

If you have any comments or suggestions on how we can improve it, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at stakeholders@oxfordshire.gov.uk

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