Category Archives: Local Council

Emily Smith, Vale candidate on 7 May

Debby says: I was elected in 2011, as one member in a two member ward. Since then, it’s felt like I was the only one working on behalf of this community. The other councillor was a Tory and so pro-Doric that he accompanied them on their radio spots; he had to recuse himself from the planning committee decision for this bias. Awhile back, he moved to the safe Tory seat of Southmoor. I welcome Emily as a candidate who has a track record of working for this community, and she will be great as a colleague! I invited her to provide an introduction.

Emily says: Few people in our ward are unaware of Cllr Debby Hallett’s efforts to defeat Doric and hold the Conservative controlled Vale to account. Debby is pro-active, hardworking and cares deeply about our community. But Botley & Sunningwell is a two member ward, so on 7th May you get two votes in the District Council elections. I have decided to stand alongside Debby to help build on the work she has done so far and to help bring the Vale back into Liberal Democrat control.

A bit about me

EmilyI live in Botley with my husband and two young sons. I grew up in Sunningwell, where my parents still live, and went to school in Abingdon. After studying Sociology at University I worked at Oxfam then for a large project providing volunteer mentors to support vulnerable adults and young people. I am now employed by the County Council, coordinating activities to reduce youth unemployment across Oxfordshire.

I’ve volunteered for North Hinksey Youth Club, West Way Community Concern and I led the popular Campaign for Botley Skate Park. In 2013 I helped run a public meeting about how Neighbourhood Plans can benefit local communities and was elected to North Hinksey Parish Council in a by-election in 2014.

Why I am standing to be a District Councillor

Liberal Democrats have a reputation for making excellent local councillors and constituency MPs. I have been campaigning with fellow Lib Dems against inappropriate planning applications, to protect our Green Belt, and for better recreation facilities for our young people. As a District Councillor I would continue pushing for these things and any other community needs that arise, but I would have more power to make a difference.

I am particularly interested in improving consultation and communication with residents and ensuring the needs of vulnerable groups are considered in decision making. I would continue supporting communities to create Neighbourhood Plans, advocate for socially and environmentally sustainable development, and would explore new ways for the Vale to support youth services and recreation facilities.

And finally, why I support Parliamentary Candidate Layla Moran…

…because she supports our whole community. When Doric and the Tories at the Vale tried to impose the ridiculous West Way development on us, Layla was with us from the very start – going door to door in the pouring rain getting petition signatures 18 months before our Tory MP had said a word on the matter. Layla is a community campaigner and an excellent communicator. Her passion for education and commitment to policy based on scientific evidence, not populist whim, appeals to me as a parent, a public sector worker and a Liberal Democrat.

Team - Sunningwell Village Green (2) smaller

Layla Moran, Emily Smith, Debby Hallett

I have got to know Layla very well over the past two years and know she will be a fantastic MP who will work with District Councillors to push for the flooding defences, sustainable transport, quality apprenticeships and the planning reform that we need here in Botley and Sunningwell.

Please vote SMITH, HALLETT and MORAN on May 7th. You can contact me at or on twitter @emilysmithLD.

Report to North Hinksey Parish Council – 15 Sep 11

Brown bins: The Vale has recently revised the terms and conditions of their garden waste service (brown bins). They want to make it clear that the fee is a contribution to running costs and that collections will be suspended for two weeks over Christmas, to enable Biffa to collect the extra household waste produced at this time of the year, when very little garden waste is created. In the past when they’ve tried to manage the two it has resulted in lengthy delays to collections of rubbish and recycling.

Extra collection: There will be an extra collection of garden waste (brown bins) during a week in spring, which they’ll publicise nearer the time.  Plus, to increase efficiency and effectiveness, new customers will only be able to pay via direct debit, and existing customers will be switched over before their service is next renewed. They hope some customers will switch now but gives all customers up to 12 months notice of this change.

Delayed collection message: You can sign up for a free waste text message to let you know if your collection day has changed due to bank holidays or bad weather. To register send a text message with the word “waste” and your collection day to 07797 870371. For example, “waste Thursday”.

Unvlaed scrapped: The cabinet member for communications has announced: “We decided to stop publishing the council’s residents’ magazine Unvaled in order to save £39,600 a year. Instead, the council will be making better use of other ways of communicating with residents, including via its annual leaflet in March with council tax bills and the tags that are left on all bins in the district to let residents know about revised waste collections over Christmas and Easter. This year the distribution slot that had been booked to deliver Unvaled in late November will instead be used to deliver next year’s waste calendar as the current calendar runs until December. The following year we will include the waste calendar in the booklet we send with council tax bills. We will be reviewing the way we communicate with residents in two years time.”

Yarnells Hill coaches: Residents in Yarnells Hill approached me about the coaches that take children to Matthew Arnold School. They understood coaches were supposed to use the main approach via Cumnor Hill and Arnolds Way, rather than Yarnells Hill and Lime Road. Queries to the school and transport service providers, via the Oxfordshire Highway & Transport steward for our area, Laura Hutchins, found no contracts or agreements regarding the route to be taken by the coach drivers; they can take whatever route they like.

Metal theft: An increase in the cost of scrap metal has meant that thieves have been targeting lead on buildings and vans with catalytic converters.  Thames Valley Police advise businesses and van owners  to take some simple steps to help prevent these kinds of thefts:

  • If you own a van with a catalytic converter, get a catalytic converter marking kit (these are available on line at ).
  • If you have lead on the roof of your business or property, use anti-climb paint to prevent access to the roof and put up signs to say that the paint is being used.

Electoral Review: Local Government Boundary Commission for England has confirmed that it has included a Further Electoral Review (FER) of Vale of White Horse in its work programme. The goal is to reduce the number of councillors from the current 51 to around 34. The FER will commence in March 2012 and should last no more than a year allowing for the implementation of any new electoral arrangements prior to the next district council elections.

Local emergency plans: Oxfordshire County Council encourages all parishes in the Vale to develop community emergency plans. The county intends that these plans would identify key contacts within a parish or town that should be notified by emergency services in the event of an incident, as well as buildings that could be used if residents need to be evacuated. This information will also be shared with the district council. The county is also holding a series of events for parish about emergency response and winter, to which your parish councillors have been invited.

    Thames Water work: The Vale council has welcomed plans from Thames Water to start work improving the drainage problems in Cumnor Hill and Botley. Thames Water has written to the council to outline its plans to carry out work to upgrade the sewerage system in Botley. This work is due to start in January 2012 and should be completed by the end of next year. This also means that planning applications, which have been on hold because of the sewerage problems, can be determined now that the drainage improvement works is due to start. Since October 2007, the council has been unable to permit any planning applications for new housing in the OX2 0, OX2 9 or OX1 5 postcode areas because of a holding objection raised by Thames Water due to the ongoing drainage problems. Thames Water has confirmed that as the planned work will be carried out shortly, it has no objection to the council permitting applications for new housing in the area subject to a condition being imposed on planning permissions stipulating that no new houses can be occupied until the drainage improvement works have been completed.

      Contact Stuart Walker, (01235) 540505,

      Community Payback: Is there a public area in your neighbourhood that could do with being cleared, cleaned or painted? If so, Thames Valley Probation could help. They run the Community Payback scheme, where offenders who have been sentenced to an Unpaid Work Requirement are given jobs that benefit the local community. For example, placements could involve:

        • clearing overgrown public areas
        • removing graffiti (on public rather than private property)
        • conservation work
        • painting and decorating (especially schools and other community/charity facilities)

        This scheme is particularly keen to take on placements where offenders work alongside volunteers from the community. This helps offenders to understand the value of the work they are doing.

        If you know of an area where you think Community Payback could assist with, please email the details to Karen Brown, Community Safety Projects Officer, .

        Town and parish council forum 2011: The Vale has invited town and parish councils to attend a town and parish council forum to be held during the evening of Wednesday 23 November 2011 at Wantage Civic Hall. This is the first of its kind in the Vale. It’s expected to be a well-attended event providing town and parish councils the opportunity to meet with other parish councillors, councillors and officers from the district council and local public sector representatives.

          The evening includes a buffet and networking session, service information stands, an address from the chief executive and an opportunity to discuss current issues and how organisations can work together to tackle them.

          If you’re interested in attending the forum or would like more information contact Anne Hall,  Corporate Strategy, 01491 823311,

          Free parking to increase town business?

          My colleague Councillor Angela Lawrence, today wrote on her blog:

          COUNCILLORS will push ahead with free parking in Abingdon and Wantage despite warnings it is unaffordable.
          The Conservatives promised free short-stay parking in council car parks by Christmas after taking control of Vale of White Horse District Council in May.

          To read the whole post, see her blog: Councillor Angela Lawrence’s blog

          Vale officers warned the cabinet on 8 July 2011 that spending cuts will be needed elsewhere to make up for lost income, forecast to be £250,000 a year.

          In the Herald coverage, Council leader Matthew Barber said the council was committed to the scheme and the expense was something he had planned for. He said the council was likely to use the home bonus cash and make some (unspecified) long-term savings. What he didn’t mention was all the parking fees are going up top help cover this cost! When you pay for parking, you;ll now pay more.

          Richard Webber, the leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group, said the free parking promise was “electoral bribery”. He said: “It’s a promise they frankly should not have made. I’m really anxious about what’s going to have to go to pay for it.”

          The previous, Lib Dem led council, had already given 2 hrs free parking (after 4pm is free instead of after 6pm). Under the new plans, those hours will not be exempt.

          The Abingdon Herald ran some polls (as they do).

          Should the Conservative-controlled Vale council push ahead with plans for free parking despite the view of its chief finance officer?

          20% Yes, 80% No

          They took it down before I could get a picture of it.

          The second question was: “Do you believe providing free parking will increase business for traders in our towns?

          Free Car Parking in Abingdon – the 5 minute decision

          After less than 5 minutes of debate and consideration of the complexities of financing this scheme, the 5 conservative members of the Vale cabinet decided to provide free 2hr car parking for well-off car drivers who want to park in Abingdon town centre.This was despite a strong recommendation from the financial officers that the scheme not be adopted.

          They also decided to raise residents’ parking permit fees, commuters’ permit fees, and fees to park longer than 2 hours.

          But the main source of funding for this £1,000,000 will be the new homes bonus reserves. These are the funds paid to the Vale by large developers to support and enhance the community infrastructure where they are building swathes of new homes.

          So, no new playgounds, no youth centres, no community halls for over-populated neighbourhoods in exchange for the well-off car drivers having 2 hours of free parking while they shop.

          I find this annoying, to say the least.

          It’s too late to convince the Tories not to do it. All we can do is ask the hard questions:

          1. How much is this costing and how is the cost being re-couped?
          2. What metrics are in place to measure the effectiveness of this free car parking on the vitality of the town centre?

          Email, write, or ring them up. Let them know how you feel about this.

          Free Car Parking – I wrote a letter

          I wrote a letter to the Vale of White Horse cabinet, urging them to reconsider their plans for free car parking in Abingdon.

          Here’s what I said:

          Dear Matthew,

          I’m writing to members of the VoWH Cabinet to encourage you to decide against free car parking in Abingdon.

          I represent the people of North Hinksey & Wytham ward. We’re about as remote from Abingdon as can be, and few of us ever venture into Abingdon town centre. As a result, this proposal offers us no benefits, and will probably result in cuts to services that DO affect us, to offset the income lost from car parking charges. For example, discontinuing Unvaled to save some money — that newsletter is delivered to every household in the Vale — it benefits everyone!

          I read the recently published report where the financial officer “strongly recommends against” the proposed free parking, for several reasons. These reasons alone support the fiscally responsible decision to abandon the proposed free parking for Abingdon.

          If there is no evidence that free car parking improves footfall in town centres, and there is no fiscally responsible plan to make up for the lost income (approx £1,000,000 over the term of this council), and it benefits only a few residents (those who drive their cars into Abingdon), I can’t see the case for proceeding with this.

          Taking action that is opposed to the financial officer’s strong recommendation against this proposal is dangerous to our finances, and will damage the reputation of your Conservative legacy in the Vale. It benefits a small group, by small amounts of money, but represents a very large ongoing expense in these times of central cuts to council income streams.

          Please don’t do it. Don’t risk your legacy by taking a first big decision based on mis-guided ideas that benefit a few, cost too much and won’t help in the longer term.

          Cllr Debby Hallett

          01865 435794

          Take a few minutes and send your thoughts to the Vale Cabinet. There emails are in the post linked to in Related Reading, just below.

          Related reading: Free Car Parking – recommend against

          Unvaled – Summer 2011

          You can see the summer 2011 edition of Unvaled here.

          The Tory-led Vale council doesn’t seem to be committed to communications with residents: they are considering discontinuing this community newsletter.

          The new council is also looking at the future of Unvaled, and
          whether it should continue to produce a magazine for
          residents. Please let us know what you think by emailing
 or call 01235 547614

          If you like reading Unvaled, and like hearing how the Vale is putting your money to work, send them your views by email (or phone, but I’m suspicious of anything that doesn’t have an electronic records these days.)

          Get it Sorted Sessions

          County Councillor Janet Godden and I are collaborating to bring a Get It Sorted session to a location near you. We’ll have a session every other month, and hold it at a different venue each time, so that everyone will have a session near where you live. I hope you’ll come along and meet us!

          No matter your local government-related question, you’re likely to find the answer at a Get It Sorted session. District concerns are things like planning applications, rubbish and recycling, housing. County concerns include road repair, education and social care.

          The first Get It Sorted session will be Tuesday, 13 Sept 2011, from 6-7pm. We don’t have a location determined yet (today is 30 Jun 2011) — but as soon as it’s firmed up, I’ll post an update here.

          I hope you’ll come along so we can meet IRL (in real life). I’d like to hear what you think.

          Why have a Councillor’s blog?

          I’m in earnest discussion with some of the Vale Councillors as to the value of having a blog site. They wonder, if I have no real idea whether people come to read what I have to say, is it worth the time spent?

          I usually work a strategy based on first deciding the overall thing I’m trying to achieve, or the longer-term goal. In this context, by  ‘longer-term’ I mean 3-4 years or so. Medium term would be over a year. And Everything less would be ‘short-term’.

          In this case, unashamedly, one of my longer terms goals is to get re-elected. In order to get re-elected, I think it’s important to keep in touch with the people who will vote for me. Newsletters, flyers, knocking on doors, Twitter, and blogging are all good ways to do that. I want to find a way to keep in touch with people who are online, which I think hasn’t been done very well (or at all) in the past. So, that’s why I have a blog.

          Please let me know what sort of communications you value, and what types of things you want to hear about. If I don’t hear from you about what you want, then I can just keep on writing about the things I want. 🙂

          The graphic here is called a Wordle. This one happens to be Obama’s inauguration speech. You can make one of any written doc, through the Wordle website.

          New Vale of White Horse Website Goes Live

          The new look Vale website at launched on Wednesday the 23rd of June 2011.

          As well as including all the best features from our old site, residents will be greeted by a fresh looking, much
          less cluttered homepage, with a brand new navigation structure to help residents reach the service/
          information they are looking for as quickly and easily as possible.

          Please note, if you have the council’s website added to your browser favourites, you will need to add it
          again. You may also find searches in Google take a few days to update.

          For more information or to give us your feedback on the site contact:

          Vic Buckett-Hipgrave
          01491 823108


          Helen Strain
          01491 823931