Agenda item

Business adjourned from the last Council meeting held on 16 July 2020

At its meeting held on 16 July 2020, Council resolved to adjourn the debate on motion D until the next scheduled Council meeting in October. Council further agreed to adjourn the meeting, with motions E and F set out on the agenda to be included on the agenda for the next scheduled Council meeting in October.

 

For ease of reference the position on the debate on motion D prior to the adjournment debate motion is set out below. In light of this issue being the subject of an officer report at agenda item 14, Council will be invited to defer consideration of the motion until after that item.

 

 

Motion D: With the consent of Council, Councillor Ian White moved and ,in the absence of Councillor Jane Murphy, Councillor Caroline Newton seconded the following motion which omitted reference to the ward councillor call-in issue which had been dealt with at agenda item 9 (words shown by a strikethrough).

 

Changes to the Council’s Constitution have been made by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) under Section 78 of the Coronavirus Act 2020, as documented in the CEO’s Decision Notice of the 18 May 2020.

 

These include the removal of the automatic referral of planning applications to the Planning Committee where Parish or Town Councils views are at odds with officer recommendations. This is an unnecessary removal of transparency, an affront to the natural democratic process, is disproportionate and inappropriate.

Additionally, a requirement has been introduced that where a Ward Councillor refers an application to the Planning Committee it has to be subject to the agreement of two other Councillors, being the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Planning Committee. This effectively creates a ‘right of Veto’ over a fellow Councillor, thus establishing an arbitrary two-tier system of Councillors where one Councillor effectively holds power over another, with no mechanism for appeal. Again, this is undemocratic and inappropriate.

For these reasons, this Council instructs that the changes referred to should be rescinded immediately, thereby restoring democratic control.

Council therefore agrees to reinstate the automatic referral of such planning applications to the Planning Committee.

 

Amendment

Councillor Anne-Marie Simpson moved, and Councillor Leigh Rawlins seconded the following amendment with deleted words shown by a strikethrough and additional words shown in bold.

 

“Changes to the Council’s Constitution have been made by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) under Section 78 of the Coronavirus Act 2020, as documented in the CEO’s Decision Notice of the 18 May 2020. under his emergency powers within the council’s constitution, which permit him to take any action considered necessary in an emergency in consultation with Group Leaders.  The views of all group leaders were sought by Democratic Services on 15 May 2020 and occurred after the views of the Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning had been informally sought.

These changes include the temporary removal of the automatic referral to the Planning Committee of minor planning applications (eg 1-9 new houses) where the officer’s recommendation for approval/consent is in direct conflict with the clear and unambiguous views of the parish/town council or parish meeting.  However, for all major applications (e.g. 10 houses plus) there has been no change and if there is a Town or Parish Council objection on an application where the officer recommends approval the application continues to go to the planning committee. to the Planning Committee where Parish or Town Councils views are at odds with officer recommendations. This is an unnecessary removal of transparency, an affront to the natural democratic process, is disproportionate and inappropriate.

Council therefore agrees to reinstate the automatic referral of such planning applications to the Planning Committee.

Council notes that these changes were intended to be reviewed after six months, as they were made in recognition of the additional work pressures on officers due to COVD19 and following an unsuccessful request to the Secretary of State for a temporary relaxation of statutory targets and the 5 year land supply requirement to avoid a return to speculative development across the district.

Council confirms that it supports the approach whereby this change is reviewed, as was expressly committed to in the Chief Executive’s decision and asks that the views of all Town and Parish Councils are actively sought as part of this review.  Council further confirms that it wishes the recommendations from this review to be brought before Council in October 2020”.

 

E.   Motion to be proposed by Councillor Jane Murphy, seconded Caroline Newton

This Council recognises the excellent work of all local government staff across Oxfordshire during the COVID-19 crisis. Councils have worked together in difficult times, showing that organisational barriers to joint working can be overcome.

All Councils have gone the extra mile in delivering services to our residents that prioritise the most vulnerable. This has inevitably incurred additional costs – c. £90 million across all tiers.  All Councils acknowledge the additional Government funding to date, but we have a duty to respond to the national financial challenge ahead and to be open with residents.

All Councils across Oxfordshire are now considering how they can balance budgets and protect frontline services. No Councillor nor party wants to see drastic cuts to vital Council services. We, as a group of democratically elected leaders, should take the opportunity provided by the devolution white paper to ensure that we provide the best possible public services for our residents.

Further to the motion passed at the December 2019 Council meeting, and reflecting that much has changed since, that Council calls on the Leader to write to the Secretary of State requesting that we re-open and actively pursue consideration of a Unitary Authority for Oxfordshire and re-start a wide-ranging conversation with our local authority partners, residents and stakeholders to explore all options for a new future for Oxfordshire.  Our aims are clear: safeguard public services in the future, support a vibrant local democracy and ensure a strong economy.

 

 

F.    Motion proposed by Councillor Jo Robb, seconded by Councillor Andrea Powell.

 

Council notes the growing popularity of wild swimming, paddling, kayaking and paddle boarding in the River Thames and its tributaries and, more importantly, the intrinsic value of clean water and healthy, biodiverse rivers.

 

The UK’s water companies are permitted to release raw sewage into waterways in specific circumstances, under licence from the Environment Agency. Regulators rely on self-reporting on the part of the water companies and there is no way for river users to know in real time when these Controlled Sewage Overflows (CSOs) happen. 

 

Hundreds of beaches around the UK have Bathing Quality Water status – this ensures the Environment Agency monitors and reports on water quality throughout the bathing season.

 

Only a handful of inland lakes in the UK – and no rivers – have Bathing Quality Water status. 

 

Recognising the intrinsic importance of the River Thames as a natural asset of national significance and its value to our communities, this Council:

 

1.    Asks officers to work with appropriate partners such as the Environment Agency, The Rivers Trust and Surfers Against Sewage to begin the process of applying for Bathing Quality Water status for the River Thames in South Oxfordshire;

2.    Calls on Thames Water to draft and implement an action plan for the elimination of Controlled Sewage Overflows (CSOs) across its sewage treatment network;

3.    Calls on Thames Water to provide accurate, real-time and publicly available information about Controlled Sewage Overflows into the Thames and its tributaries;

4.    Asks the Leader of the Council to write to the leaders of neighbouring Councils along the river inviting them to appoint Thames Champions to work together to enhance the safety, cleanliness and biodiversity of the river and make the River Thames “Safe for All.”