Category Archives: Budget proposals

Budget 2017/18 speech to council

On 15 Feb here’s what I had to say about the Tories’ proposed budget:

This council is constrained by central Government’s continued cuts in funding to local government. We expect no complaints from the ruling administration about that; it’s their party running the show.

This budget is supported by a c tax increase for residents. I heard the leader of County Council said yesterday, ‘Who in their right mind would vote for a c tax increase?’ Does the Leader of this council agree with that sentiment?

In this past year, we’ve adopted a Corporate Plan, which lists councils priorities for five years. Tonight’s budget is for year two of the five. Since the details of the Corporate Plan are delayed a little, we don’t yet have sight of what this administration plans to do to achieve our objectives. So it’s not easy for council members to see how the proposed budget supports this councils’ priorities.

The Corporate Plan explicitly prioritises keeping our position as a top performer on waste collection and recycling. This budget shows reduced income and higher costs for waste and recycling. How much more yearly expense is it worth to keep our position as a top performer? What IS a top performer, exactly?

We have a Corporate Plan priority of ‘Supporting community events through our grants scheme.’ But this budget eliminates community festival grants. Really?

The Corporate plan says right up front that ‘housing is our greatest challenge’. Which of these budget growth items will provide more housing at affordable prices, to rent or to buy, for residents of Vale?

In keeping our Corporate Plan’s promise to keep communities clean and attractive, what sort of budget support is there for litter picking along our A roads? How about intractable problems such as the Fly Tip Mountain in Redbridge that made the news just this week?

It appears this year’s budget decisions were driven by something other than our adopted Corporate Plan, but I don’t know what that was, because the process is not yet open to public scrutiny. Hopefully our Scrutiny Committee can improve that.

We are in year one of the Five Councils partnership for outsourcing. From the essential  growth bid we see a £1.5million hit in savings forecast over the next two years. I’m surprised this council didn’t get some financial benefit for being the first to go live, considering the extra risk on our shoulders for going first and letting our partners benefit from our learning. Was this the intention?

In order to make some limited revenue savings, this budget sells our planning officers’ time to other councils for training and service. I question whether this a good idea. Do our planning officers actually have extra time on their hands that we can sell to other authorities? I’d like to see a net financial statement for this please.

For six years  my colleagues and I in the northeast area of the Vale have persisted in arguing for a fair provision of leisure facilities for people who live in Botley, Cumnor and surrounding communities. This budget sees a 2-days-a-week Vale officer to help the Botley community plan for the leisure facilities they need and want. Then when the money is received from the sale of West Way, some of it is to be prioritised for the provision of leisure facilities for the people in the Botley area. I’ve been told off the record that this is the intention. Will the leader confirm publicly that these things are a priority for council to provide for the people in Botley and the northeast area of the Vale?

Budget setting processes take place behind closed doors. We used to hold public consultations on the budget, but that has shut down in recent years. I’d like to see council be more transparent in how it determines what growth bids are included and wish care rejected.  After all, it’s public money and the public should have a view into and a say on how it’s all managed.

In times of austerity (even when that austerity is imposed arbitrarily from central government) we owe it to our residents to make our budget decisions based on our agreed corporate objectives, ensure our agreed expenditures are systematically managed and overseen, and that our performance is assessed at year end against our objectives. I don’t think council is doing its best in this, and I’d like to see improvement.

Children’s Centres Grants speech to council

On 15 Feb here’s what I said about the Children’s Centre grants amendment motion:

I think we all agree the Children’s Centres provide vital community resource for early intervention for children under 5 and their families. It’s the main programme I’m aware of that improves children’s social mobility and therefore their life chances.

I heard this Government tout grammar schools as a way to give every child a chance at achieving their potential. But studies show unequivocally that children’s life outcomes are largely determined by the time they are 5 years old. Their life achievements are more predicted by the demographics of their families than any other thing. So it makes sense that programmes designed for early intervention have the best chance for success.

I’ve heard the argument that children’s centres are not district business, they are county. Clearly  county can’t afford to support the children’s centres any longer. Towns and parishes are doing what they can to help their local children’s centres, because it’s the right thing to do. We aren’t proposing taking on the management of children’s centres; they are actively working toward managing themselves. We propose a grants pot to help those organisations through their first year.

I’ve heard the argument that it’s not a statutory responsibility. We do lots of things we aren’t required to do. Did you know we have no statutory responsibility to supply leisure centres? But we spend millions on them.

Children’s Centres are exactly the sort of not-for-profit organisation our grants schemes are intended to support. Once we have transformed our local government into a unitary authority, this sort of service provision will be very much in our remit. In the meantime, we are able to help, and we should.

Vale Budget 2017/18

Well, we tried to get some support for the beleaguered Children’s Centres. Tories voted us down, even those councillors from communities where the parishes or towns wanted to help their local children’s centers. It’s like they’ll help their own, not those in other areas of Vale.

The Liberal Democrats submitted a bid to set up a grants pot for the Vale’s Children’s Centres. We think the children’s centres provide vital community resource for early intervention for children under 5 and their families. So we re-submitted it as a motion to amend the budget to include £100,000 to help children’s centres who are working toward becoming self-sufficient. Please read more about it here (there are a couple of articles):  http://cllrdebbyhallett.com/category/grants/

Tories voted against our amendment. It’s sadly predictable. They are all for spending money on economic growth that no one wants, but have no time to spend on the people already living here who might need more support.

The budget includes a £5 per year council tax increase, or 4.3%. As far as I can tell, this is to make the budget balance, which councils are required to do.

To double check my assumption, I asked the Cabinet member for Finance, Cllr Robert Sharp, how he would answer the question of why he raised council tax. His reply, ‘To safeguard and maintain the excellent services provided for residents.’

As far as I’m concerned, it’s questionable whether we can really afford to spend £18.8m on a new leisure Centre in Wantage in these times of government austerity.  Yes, you read that correctly: eighteen point 8 million pounds on a leisure centre for Wantage and Grove.

Here’s what I said about the children’s centres budget amendment at full council meeting: http://cllrdebbyhallett.com/2017/02/20/childrens-centres-grants-speech-to-council/

Here’s what I had to say about the overall budget: http://cllrdebbyhallett.com/2017/02/20/budget-201718-speech-to-council/

Cllr Emily Smith, on children’s centres

Last night Vale considered a Liberal Democrat amendment to the 2017/18 budget. We proposed to set up a modest grants scheme to help the Vale’s Children’s Centres that are working toward self-sufficiency through this challenging first year.  

— The Tory councillors all voted against, even those who sit on town and parish councils who are actually supporting their Children’s Centers. So the amendment failed. 

Here’s what Cllr Emily Smith had to say as she seconded the amendment motion.

Children’s Centres improve children’s life chances and strengthen their resilience. They intervene in problems early on before these problems become too difficult to reverse. Across the Vale, these Centres support parents with employment, housing and parenting. They also give under 5s a safe place to play and socialise, helping to ensure that all children are ready when they start school. 

The centres provide a focal point for local families where they can access health services, information and form supportive relationships with other parents that continue as their children grow. The centres we have are well used and fulfil a number of the aims set out in the Vale’s Corporate Plan – particularly in relation to community safety, supporting community groups and encouraging volunteering.

There is a wealth of evidence that investing in early intervention is the best way to reduce inequality and give all children the chance to fulfil their potential.   

As funding for Children’s Centres is withdrawn, the County Council focuses more on the families in greatest need. This means that the universal provision that so many of our residents rely on is disappearing. This is of great concern to me. 

Post-natal depression, domestic abuse, illness, disability, unemployment, bereavement or social isolation can happen to anyone – not just people living in deprived communities. Children’s Centres provide support with a huge range of issues quickly, before they escalate, reducing demand on Social Care and Health services.   

Also, without services that are open to all families, how will know who needs the most support? We risk leaving families struggling until they reach a crisis point.  

Children’s Centres are highly valued by service users and the communities they are based in. This is evidenced by the fact that so many local people are willing to contribute their time, knowledge and expertise to form community groups to keep these services going. But these groups need our help. 

Creating a grant pot, to top-up the Transition funding available from the County Council, will help ensure these not-for-profit groups are able to afford the set up costs for this initial year. It really could mean the difference between these new community groups succeeding or not.  

We have heard some Councillors suggest that Children’s Centres are not the District Council’s responsibility, but the budget being proposed this evening includes spending on both statutory and discretionary items. The discretionary items (that we don’t have to pay for) include leisure centres, the Beacon coffee shop, the outdoor pool at Abbey Meadow and the CCTV Hub. So should we remove these from the budget, because we don’t have to provide them either.  

We all have residents in our wards who rely on Children’s Centres and our communities are stronger because of the services these centres provide. Our finance officers have confirmed the we can easily afford to help these new community groups, so I ask all Councillors here tonight to support this amendment. Not because we have to, but because we can, and it is the right thing to do.

Children’s Centres Grant Scheme – 2017/18 

For full council on 15 Feb 2017 at 19:30.

Liberal Democrat motion to amend the budget: proposed by Cllr Judy Roberts, seconded by Cllr Emily Smith

This council recognises the valuable work carried out the Children’s Centres across the Vale and is deeply concerned about the impact on local families and our communities when the County Council ceases provision of universal children’s services on 1st March 2017. The children’s centres in Botley, Abingdon, Grove & The Hanneys, Faringdon, Southmoor and Wantage provide essential well-being services to children under 5 and their families.

This council also recognises the significant efforts of parents and community groups working to find alternative ways of providing universal services for our families and the financial challenges involved. Their hard work for a good cause underlines how they feel about the value of these services.

This council is in a position to help fund the set-up costs for these projects in the coming year, via our grants scheme. Therefore, the budget for 2017/18 will include a grant fund of £100,000 for groups to apply for and £3,000 to pay for officer time to administer these grants following the same procedure as the New Homes Bonus and Community Capital Funds.

————————–

Background

The Head of Finance has confirmed that these costs are sustainable within the 2017/18 budget.

Vale’s Corporate Plan for 2016 – 2020 outlines council’s aims, which include:

• Supporting community groups and community events through our grant scheme.

• Assisting voluntary and community groups that provide important services to residents, to attract volunteers.

• Working with partners as part of the South and Vale Community Safety Partnership to deliver the annual plan aimed at reducing crime, tackling antisocial behaviour and supporting vulnerable people.

These Vale corporate objectives are met by the successful early intervention services that Children’s Centres provide.

We’ve heard the argument that children’s centres are county’s business, not district’s. Clearly county can’t afford the children’s centres any longer, so many centres are working to find their own ways of being viable and self-sustaining. It’s exactly the sort of not-for-profit organisation our grants schemes support. Once we have transformed our local government into a unitary authority, this sort of service provision will be very much in our remit. In the meantime, we are able to help, and we should.

Recent developments, please note:

• Members of Abingdon Town Council agreed unanimously to raise their precept in order to place £30,000 per year for three years into a reserve fund, to be paid out to South Abingdon Children’s Centre, subject to certain conditions being met.

• Cumnor Parish Council have donated £5000 to their local Children’s Centre.

• Wantage Town Council donated £10,000 per annum for three years to a newly formed group to manage local children’s centre services.

 

 

 

Draft Budget 2017/18 published

Vale Cabinet member for Finance, Cllr Robert Sharp, has published his draft budget for review. Cabinet will consider it on Friday 3 Feb at 9:30. Councillors will be briefed by Finance team on Tuesday 7th Feb, and Scrutiny will review and feedback on Friday 7th at 19:00.  Cabinet and Scrutiny meetings are open to the public, at the council offices in Milton Park. The final version goes to full council on 15 Feb, 19:00 at The Beacon in Wantage.

Previously I posted the growth bid we submitted for leisure provision in Botley:  http://cllrdebbyhallett.com/2016/11/24/botley-leisure-provision/

The draft budget includes £20,000 for a two-days-per-week leisure officer to help Botley plan for what we want up at Louie Memorial fields.

There isn’t yet a commitment to the capital over two years to do the build. But here’s the plan:

“The use of capital receipts in relation to the redevelopment of West Way in Botley will be considered upon receipt. This will include a review of potential projects in the local area as well as investment opportunities to replace the loss of income from West Way. No adjustment to the capital programme is proposed at this stage to take account of either the capital receipt or any relevant expenditure.”

That basically means they don’t commit at this point to building out the pavilion scout hut, skate park and other things we’ve asked for. But if and when the profits from the sale of West Way assets are received, they will consider using some of the money for local projects. Which means our Botley Leisure project that the 2 days a week officer will help organise. !!

The other thing you may have seen (I put it on Facebook): the Leisure studies of community facilities, which are part of the evidence for the Local Plan part 2, came to Scrutiny last week. In them, one of the High Priority projects for 2018/19 and 2019/20 is “replace or refurbish Louie Memorial Pavilion and the scout hut.”

The budget takes effect in May 2017, so let’s be ready to work that officer to the full two days a week!

It’s pretty good news, after all these years of hard work.

Botley leisure provision

(Updated 8 Dec with a revised proposal)

For the 2017/18 budget, the Lib Dems have proposed a growth item to provide for leisure facilities for children and teens in Botley. Since I was first elected in 2011, I’ve been trying to improve the provision of leisure facilities in Botley and the north east area of the Vale. It’s been a saga. Various consultations have overlooked this area, and recent years’ investments in leisure facilities have gone to other areas of Vale. Attempts to jump start this effort by motions to full council have also failed.

This proposal is to fund the collaborative programme between Vale and North Hinksey Parish Council and Louie Memorial Pavilion Trust and the Scouts (and any other interested party) to replace the Louie Memorial Pavilion and Scouts’ hut with a new shared facility, and to provide a replacement skate park and other recreational facilities for older children and teens.

Here’s the proposal we’ve submitted for this budget:

Botley Leisure Provision  – Executive Summary

Version 2: 8 Dec 2016. Modified to create one rev bid for 2017/18 and two capital bids for 2 subsequent years.

Purpose of Report

  1. Provide background information about leisure provision in Botley
  2. Propose solutions to remedy current lack of provision by a revenue bid in 2017/18 for leisure officer resource to lead the planning of the project, and two capital bids in each of 2018/19 and 2019/20 for development of the leisure facilities described in this proposal.

Background

The Vale of White Horse currently provides no  leisure or sport facilities in Botley. In the past, our reliance on provision by Brookes University and Matthew Arnold School may have gone some way to meeting need, but those facilities are no longer freely available for public use.

In Sept 2009 the Botley skate bowl, built in 1991, was destroyed by thieves ramming a stolen car into it and setting it on fire. In Feb 2010 the North Hinksey Parish Council decided it was too expensive to repair or replace and so permanently closed the skate bowl.

In recent years the Louie Memorial Pavilion has undergone transformation from a neglected empty building to a valued community resource used by youth groups, football teams and community groups, and which has money in the bank. But the LM Pavilion requires ongoing expensive maintenance and has reached the end of its useful life. Parish council support has grown to the point where it seems a good time now for a collaborative and positive contribution to local leisure and sport facilities.

Strategy Consultations

  1. In 2007 or thereabouts (we can’t find the report, but only references to it) an assessment report by Sport England declared that Botley was under provided with sport facilities, especially for older children and teens. ‘Deprived’ was the word they used. (Note please this was during the time when the skate bowl was still there.)
  2. In 2009, Vale’s Open Space, Sport and Recreation Provision Strategy found a gap in sport provision in the northeast area of Vale, and noted particularly that teen facilities were poor. (Note please this was during the time when the skate bowl was still there.)
  3. In Dec 2012, Vale’s Leisure & Sports facility public consultation defined 4 main settlement areas in the Vale: Abingdon, Botley, Faringdon, Wantage & Grove. The consultation questionnaire asked questions about every area except for Botley; there were no questions about provision in Botley.
  4. In May 2013, Cllr Debby Hallett’s letter to Cllr Elaine Ware outlined concerns of residents in Botley about the Leisure & Sport Facilities Strategy. The lack of any recent needs assessment in Botley meant there was no negotiating power for s106 obligations from the three main housing developments (Timbmet, Lime Rd and Tilbury Lane), and hence, no money from those developers for leisure or sport needs. The consultation shortcoming meant no new provision in the area for the next generation, and no leverage for negotiating s106 and CIL money for local infrastructure. 

Budgets: Money promised for sport & leisure facility provision

  1. May 2014: approx £2,000,000 announced as part of the new leisure contract for White Horse Leisure Centre in Abingdon for gym expansion, new equipment, energy improvements.
  2. May 2014: approx £1,000,000 announced as part of the new leisure contract for Faringdon for new pitches, squash court, gym equipment and energy improvements.
  3. Feb 2015: Capital growth item £500,000 for sport and leisure improvements in Abbey Meadow in Abingdon.
  4. Feb 2015: Capital growth item £12,000,000 over three years, for a new Wantage Grove Leisure Centre.
  5. April 2016: Vale announced £415,623 to refurbish the swimming pool at White Horse Leisure and Tennis Centre in Abingdon.
  6. 11 Jul 2016: Abingdon outdoor pool to be replaced, the cost to be over and above the original £500,000 (in item 3, above). No precise costs announced.
  7. Oct 2016. Local Vale council members from Botley propose that council include growth bids(s) for leisure facilities for Botley.

Conclusions

  1. One of Vale’s responsibilities is to provide sport and leisure facilities throughout the whole district, including Botley and the north east area.
  2. Botley and the north east area are underprovided with leisure and sport facilities.
  3. Botley and the north east area were left out of the leisure and sports facilities studies, which underpin the emerging Vale Local Plan.
  4. There is nothing about sport and leisure provision in Botley and the north east in the newly adopted Vale Corporate Plan.
  5. Without assessment of need, there is no evidence of need to support CIL or s106 negotiations.
  6. Because of these omissions, there is a likelihood of nothing for Botley and the north east area in the next generation unless extraordinary steps are taken.

Proposals

The time is right for Vale to work with local people and parish councils to create a work plan and sources of funding to provide facilities, especially for older children and young people, such as a skate park, adventure playground, sport pavilion with community meeting space for clubs, scouts, and other leisure and sport uses. An appropriate site is available at Louie Memorial Fields; the Playing Fields Association rep says it’s a big enough site. The scouts’ lease on their scout hut just next to the pavilion is up this year, so they are a partner in this. Some funding is available from North Hinksey Parish Council and we can explore other funding sources.

  1. 2017/18 Revenue growth bid £20,000 for officer to help local bodies with project and facilities plans, consultations, tendering, and all the things that go with a leisure facilities development project. Leisure officers know how to do this; local people usually do not. Cost is based on one officer (£35,000pa) for two days a week, plus some money for events and travel).
  2. 2018/19 medium term financial plan. Capital bid for skate park or wheeled sports facility, some sort of adventure playground, walking/running track, other sport or fitness equipment, and landscaping to bring it all together: £150,000
  3. 2019/20 medium term financial plan: Capital bid to replace pavilion and scout hut, with new facility to include showers, changing rooms, pubic toilets, secure storage, flexible meeting and activity space, kitchen: £600,000

Cllr Debby Hallett

Children’s centres grants

For the 2017/18 budget, the Lib Dems have proposed a growth item to provide some help to the Vale’s Children’s Centres, which are at risk of losing most or all of their county council funding. Some centres are actively working toward self-management, where they will ensure their own long-term viability, and Lib Dems thought of a way Vale could help.

Here’s the proposal we’ve submitted for this budget:

Children’s Centre Grant Proposal

Proposal

To create a grant fund available to community groups whose aim is to keep their Children’s Centres viable so they can continue to provide open access children and family services formerly funded by Oxfordshire County Council.

Background

Children’s Centres provide a variety of advice and support for children under 5, their parents and carers. Chirldren’s Center services are available to families from pregnancy right through to when children go into reception class at primary school.

There are a core set of services they must provide:

  • Child and family health services, ranging from child health clinics to breastfeeding support
  • Some  centres offer high quality childcare and early learning – those that don’t can help advise on local childcare options
  • Advice on parenting, local childcare options and access to specialist services for families like speech therapy, healthy eating advice or help with managing money
  • Help for you to find work, training or volunteering opportunities, using links to local Jobcentre Plus offices and training providers

Some centres may also offer a dentist, dietician or physiotherapist, or help people visit the stop smoking clinic, get faster access to expert advice, support and short-term breaks if a  child has learning difficulties or disabilities, talk to Citizens’ Advice, take parenting classes and ‘improve your English if it is not your first language’.

Most of these centres were funded through government initiatives such as Sure Start; over the past few years these grants have been discontinued.

From April 2017, Oxfordshire County Council is reorganising these services by replacing 44 Children’s Centres and 7 Early Intervention Hubs with 8 intervention hubs in the most socially disadvantaged areas of the county.  The County Council has made available a £1.2million Transition Fund as one-off start-up help for Community Groups interested in taking on these services. The money is subject to a bidding process and groups are expected to prepare a business plan, demonstrating financial sustainability within a short period.

There are 9 Children’s Centres in the Vale district:

  • Elms Road, North Hinksey
  • North Abingdon
  • Northeast Abingdon
  • South Abingdon
  • Faringdon
  • Grove & the Hanneys
  • Southmoor
  • Wantage
  • Wootton

Eight of the nine centres have some form of community group that recognises the well-documented benefits of these early help resources, knows how highly valued they are by the families who use them, and is working to retain these services for future generations in their area. (Northeast Abingdon does not have such a group currently.)

The Vale’s Corporate Plan for 2016 – 2020 outlines council’s aims including:

  • Supporting community groups and community events through our grant scheme.
  • Assisting voluntary and community groups that provide important services to residents, to attract volunteers.
  • Working with partners as part of the South and Vale Community Safety Partnership to deliver the annual plan aimed at reducing crime, tackling antisocial behaviour and supporting vulnerable people.

All these objectives are met by the successful early help services that Children’s Centres provide.

The Need for Funding

Examples of the sort of applications this grant would be able to fund are:

  • £5,000 capital that is required to be able to register with Companies House. This is necessary if they wish to become a charity which would enable them to apply for Gift Aid and other grant funding
  • Revenue costs for staff. Within the Vale’s grants programme, most of the funding available is for capital costs. There are hardly any grants available for revenue costs. The current staff in the Children Centres are highly qualified with specialised skills for working with Early Years children and struggling families; many may well become unemployed. This fund would enable the community groups to offer future employment without losing valued staff to the employment market.
  • The government Childcare funding for 2-year olds from low income households doesn’t cover all the costs of providing that childcare because of the expense of qualified staff needed and the required ratio of staff to children. These grants could bridge that gap so that the community groups could still offer this service to low income households and also offer paid childcare places to enable them to become financially sustainable.

Funding Process

  • These grants would be administered using the same IT systems and similar processes used for the New Homes Bonus and Community Capital grants.
  • There would be a cost associated with staff resource to evaluate the grants and prepare reports for either the Joint Area Committees or Cabinet. These costs could be minimised if only one or two dates were offered as application deadlines to encourage the eight community groups to apply at the same time. The grant department estimate these costs at £3,000 to operate the system which would cover one round only and include the following:
  1. Approval of a grant policy by the council
  2. Create a new online grant scheme
  3. Invite applications from children’s centres
  4. Advise applicants about how to apply
  5. Evaluate applications and prepare reports
  6. Decision process (cabinet or area committee)
  7. Prepare grant agreements
  8. Organise grant payments
  9. Grant monitoring
  • A grant pot of £100,000, for the various community groups to apply to for funds would equate to approximately £12,500 each. This fund would operate alongside OCC’s Transition Fund to help these community groups become viable in the short-term and giving them the opportunity to sustain these services in the long-term.

Cllr Judy Roberts

Cllr Emily Smith

 

 

Air quality measurement improvement

For the 2017/18 budget, the Lib Dems have proposed a growth item to improve the way we measure air quality. The Tory administration will determine if they want to include this in the budget they bring to full council in Feb 2017.

I previously posted about Air Quality in the Vale here.

Here’s the proposal we’ve submitted for this budget:

A proposal to monitor air quality in the Vale

Purpose of the report

  1. Provide background information on air quality and air quality monitoring in the Vale.
  2. Propose means to improve the same and to put in place links and processes whereby by co-operating with the Oxford City and Oxfordshire County Councils remedial action might ultimately be achieved. A link to the Vale’s corporate objectives is provided.
  3. Propose a capital growth bid of £25,000 for air quality monitoring equipment and systems, and a £12,500 revenue growth bid for managing it.

Background

There are a number of air pollution hot spots where excessive levels of oxides of nitrogen have been identified. These are associated with emissions from vehicles, especially diesels. In all probability other atmospheric pollutants such as carbon monoxide and ozone are very likely also to be at excessive levels. These proposals will quantify any such excesses.

The identified hot spots in the Vale are at Botley (53 microgrammes per cubic metre), Marcham (50mc), and Abingdon on Thames town centre (45mc).  All three are well above the recommended World Health Organisation (WHO) maximum exposure of 40mc.

These levels are known to be variously life-threatening and life-shortening for people with lung conditions such as asthma and obstructive pulmonary disease. The most recent public health report indicates that some 52 people in the Vale die prematurely each year because of air pollution.

Currently people at risk have no means of knowing when it is safe for them to leave their houses. These levels are also known to be harmful to the very young and the very old. All of this has been recognised in the County Councils transport strategy’s latest iteration (LTP4) for the first time.

In December 2015 the Government published a paper “Improving Air Quality in the UK…”  This set out frameworks for local government to introduce clean air zones. This would be achieved by banning various classes of diesel powered vehicles from urban centres starting with pilots in places such as Derby and Leeds. Oxford City could be a future target, because air quality is known to be poor in the City centre.

Currently the City spends about £12,000 annually on monitoring air quality with programmes which link with other DEFRA programmes for monitoring pollutants such as PM 10’s. In the Vale the monitoring of air quality (with the exception of a monitor in Stert Street, Abingdon) is only done using nitrogen dioxide diffusion tubes. This is very old technology and if we are to get the detailed information we need to make progress, then a modern system is required.  No controls over vehicles such as diesel powered HGV’s are possible without detailed and current (and preferably real time information.

Proposals

That in accordance with the “Guide for Local Authorities Purchasing Air Quality Monitoring Equipment” produced by DEFRA the Vale should put in a capital growth bid to the capital programme for the purchase of single gas analyser and a particulate monitor at a cost of up to £25,000 plus a revenue bid of £12,000 for maintenance, data management  etc per annum to manage it.

The subsequent project should probably be based in Abingdon on Thames in the first instance, but subsequently could be based elsewhere in order to fully quantify atmospheric pollutant levels elsewhere. Initially it could provide continuous information on atmospheric pollution levels in hot spot(s) which could be made available on a regular basis on the Vale’s website and through local media. It should link to the work carried out in the City and provide information to back up the work of LTP4. The ultimate aim would be to provide sufficient information to enable Clean Air Zones to be established in the Vale where required.

It links to the Vale’s corporate objectives, especially in respect of Sustainable Communities and Wellbeing and the following bullet point:-

  • “where everyone can feel safe and enjoy life”

Currently as previously stated Vale residents in pollution hot spots with a range of pulmonary conditions have no idea when it is safe to go outside and when they should remain indoors.  The aim is to tackle current levels of atmospheric pollution in the same way that the 1956n Clean Air Act did for the “pea soupers”.

Cllr Bob Johnston 25/10/16

 

Lib Dem 2017/18 budget proposals

For the 2017/18 budget process, the Lib Dems have agreed with the ruling administration to try a new, more collaborative and cooperative approach to having some of our proposals considered for inclusion in the Vale budget.

In the past, the Liberal Democrats created an entire alternative budget. It was a LOT of work, and we were disappointed at the budget council meeting when it was just voted down along party lines.

So we changed our approach and last year submitted amendments to the main budget. We had the same result: all amendments voted down along party lines. But this time it had been a lot less work. I guess you could say we increased our efficiency but not our effectiveness; we still got nothing through.

So I had conversations with the leader of the Vale council, Matthew Barber, and we agreed a new way forward. If the matter is something we really, sincerely think is good for the people of the Vale and we genuinely want to be included in the budget, we will propose it to the ruling administration well in advance for it to be considered in the existing budget process. This year we have submitted three proposals:

  1. Air Quality Measurement improvement 
  2. Children‘s Centres Grants 
  3. Botley Leisure Provision

I’ll put up separate posts with more details about each of these proposals. You can access them via the hyperlinks in the numbered list above