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Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Council Chamber, Council Offices, Woodgreen, Witney, Oxfordshire OX28 1NB. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services 

Items
No. Item

CL.124

Apologies for Absence

To receive any Apologies for Absence from Members of the Council.

Minutes:

Apologies for Absence were received from the following Members:

Councillors Andrew Coles, Mark Johnson and David Melvin.

 

Councillor Ed James arrived late to the meeting at 2.06pm.

CL.125

Declarations of Interest

To receive any Declarations of Interest from Members of the Council on any items to be considered at the meeting.

Minutes:

Councillor Dingwall made a declaration in relation to the Council Tax Support Scheme 2024 – 2025 during consideration of that item (see minute CL132).

CL.126

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 70 KB

To approve the minutes of the previous meeting, held on Wednesday 29 November 2023.

Minutes:

Councillor Andy Graham, Leader of the Council, proposed that the minutes of the previous meeting, held on Wednesday 29 November 2023, be agreed by Council as a true and accurate record, and signed by the Chair.

This was seconded by Councillor Duncan Enright and was put to a vote. There were 43 votes for, 0 votes against and 3 abstentions. The vote was carried.

Council Resolved to:

1.    Agree the minutes of the previous meeting, held on Wednesday 29 November 2023, as a true and accurate record.

CL.127

Receipt of Announcements

To receive any announcements from the Chair, Leader of the Council, Members of the Executive, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Governance.

Minutes:

Councillor Elizabeth Poskitt, Vice-Chair of the Council, stated that they had attended a number of events in the absence of the Chair of the Council, which were enjoyable experiences. The Vice-Chair stated that the ‘Oxfordshire Together’ event was of significant personal enjoyment.

 

Councillor Andy Graham, Leader of the Council, rose to thank the Agile Working Project Team, including Carl Jones (Corporate Project Manager), Phil Martin (Assistant Director for Business Services), and Paul Webb (Facilities Manager) for their hard work and commitment to providing the Council with a fully refurbished Council Chamber and also modern technology and working practises, allowing Council to be more engaging with the public and the wider community.

 

The Leader also paid tribute to the work of the Council’s Senior Democratic Services Officer, Max Thompson, for his hard work and commitment in ensuring that the new webcasting technology was fully operational and in working order ahead of the meeting. The Leader also stated his continued thanks to the wider Democratic Services team for their continued efforts in the round.

 

The Leader also advised Members and Officers of the appointments that had been made in relation to the Publica Transition. Frank Wilson had recently taken up the position of Interim Managing Director, and Dr. Christine Gore had taken up post as Chair of the Publica Board. The Leader also welcomed Andrew Pollard to his role at Programme Director, overseeing the Publica Review process.

 

The Leader also updated Council regarding the closure of Welch Way in Witney, owing to structural building damage caused by recent inclement weather. The Leader stated that the Council’s Town Centre ‘Shop’ in the centre of Witney had closed as a result of the damage, with staff relocated to the Council’s Woodgreen Offices until it was deemed safe for the offices to re-open.

The Leader made reference to the inconvenience this had caused to the wider community. The Council had worked closely with other local authorities in the area, and the emergency services. The Leader ensured that work would continue to ensure the safe opening of the road and area as soon as possible.


CL.128

Committee Appointments Made under Delegated Authority pdf icon PDF 68 KB

Purpose:

For Council to ratify and note the appointments made to committees under delegated authority following the Council meeting on 27 September 2023 where Council reviewed the political proportionalities on committees and agreed to change the structure of overview and scrutiny committees.

 

Recommendations:

That Council Resolves to:

  1. Ratify and note the appointments to committees made by the Monitoring Officer in accordance with the wishes of political groups.
  2. Appoint one Liberal Democrat member to the Constitution Working Group, increasing the size of the working group to 7 members (nominated member to be confirmed at the meeting).
  3. Note that there is currently one vacant Liberal Democrat seat on the Miscellaneous Licensing Sub-Committee (for appointment by the Licensing Committee) but that all other vacancies on Committees and Sub-Committees have been filled.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Andy Graham, Leader of the Council, introduced the report, which allowed Council to ratify and note the appointments made to committees under delegated authority, following the a recent meeting of Council on 27 September 2023, where political proportionalities on committees were reviewed, and where changes to the structure of overview and scrutiny committees were agreed.

 

The Leader stated the following changes from the Liberal Democrats group:

  • Councillor David Melvin had been nominated to the Constitution Working Group;
  • Councillor Julian Cooper had been nominated to the Miscellaneous Licensing Sub-Committee.

 

Councillor Michele Mead, Leader of the Opposition, advised Council that Councillor Thomas Ashby had been appointed to replace Councillor Dean Temple on the Council’s Constitution Working Group.

 

Councillor Andy Graham proposed that Council agree the recommendations as listed on the report, with the nominations and Member appointments noted. This was seconded by Councillor Alaric Smith, was put to a vote, and was unanimously agreed by Council.

 

Council Resolved to:

1.    Ratify and note the appointments to committees made by the Monitoring Officer in accordance with the wishes of political groups.

2.    Appoint one Liberal Democrat member (Councillor David Melvin) to the Constitution Working Group, increasing the size of the working group to 7 members;

3.    Note that Councillor Julian Cooper was nominated to the vacant seat on the Miscellaneous Licensing Sub-Committee (for later appointment by the Licensing Committee).


CL.129

Participation of the Public

There were no submissions for public participation received by Democratic Services before the deadline of 12.00pm on Monday 22 January 2024.

Minutes:

There was no public participation at the meeting.

CL.130

Questions by Members pdf icon PDF 65 KB

The following questions have been submitted by Members of Council to Members of the Executive, in accordance with the Council Procedure Rules (Constitution Part 5A, Rule 12).

Oral responses will be provided at the meeting. Following receipt of the answer to their question, Members are entitled to ask one supplementary question at the meeting.

The Questions and Answers will be detailed in the minutes of the meeting.

--

Q1. Councillor Thomas Ashby to Councillor Lidia Arciszewska, Executive Member for Environment:

Can the Executive Member for the Environment, let us know how many Garden Waste Licences were sold in the following years: 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 & 2023?

Q2. Councillor Harry St. John to Councillor Andy Graham, Leader of the Council:

In the light of the possible changes to Publica, and employment of staff directly by WODC recently circulated, can the cost implications in relation to Pension contributions be highlighted at an early stage if such employees (new or existing) will become members of the LGA /OCC pension scheme?

This is so that Members can compare the current position with the new scenario. There is a mention of £1m pa extra contributions made in a recent report – How much might it cost WODC?

Q3. Councillor Harry St. John to Councillor Andy Graham, Leader of the Council:

I notice the Executive approved the process of Trade Union recognition of WODC staff – Has any Union previously been recognised by WODC?

Are there any cost implications for WODC and how many Members, if any, of the Executive are themselves Union members, particularly members of GMB or Unison, which are likely to be the main Unions involved?

Q4. Councillor Harry St. John to Councillor Andy Graham, Leader of the Council:

Last year, at the March Council, you replied to a member of the public's question regarding the Blenheim Solar Power Station, and I quote: -

"We wish to make a fully informed judgement as to whether the harms of the proposal outweigh the benefits.

“We will carry out any assessment as considered necessary to inform our response to the Planning Inspectorate."

Our Planning Officers are about to report to the Development Control Committee being held on Monday 5 February 2024.

Can you confirm why, despite being Leader of this Council, and County Councillor for Woodstock, which Division includes a number of parishes that are currently blighted by the scheme, and in light of our Council organising a bus tour of the whole site (to better inform every member of what is involved) plus a number of walkabouts at key view points within the site, you decided not to join the 11 members (on a 40 seater bus hired, one assumes at some public expense) who did come on the tour; neither did you encourage your Executive colleagues (or indeed all Members) to all come along too.

Given the sheer scale of this proposal - roughly 2500 acres stretching over 7 miles long in our District and Cherwell, let alone more in the Vale of  ...  view the full agenda text for item CL.130

Minutes:

Questions by Members, as listed on the agenda, and the responses to those questions, which were circulated in advance, were taken as read.

The Chair invited the questioners to ask a supplementary question if they wished and then invited the relevant Executive Members to respond.

The Written Questions, Written Answers, Verbal Supplementary Questions and Verbal Supplementary Answers are detailed in a separate document appended to the Minutes of the Meeting.

CL.131

Recommendations from the Executive pdf icon PDF 62 KB

Purpose:

To agree recommendations made to Council by the Executive, from its meetings since 29 November 2023.

 

Recommendations:

The Executive Recommends that Council Resolves to:

  1. Approve the Council Tax Base shown in Annex F of the original Executive report, calculated as £47,841.03 for the year 2024/25;
  2. Authorise the Director of Finance to submit the National Non-Domestic Rates Return 1 (NNDR1) to Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities by the submission date of 31 January 2024.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Alaric Smith, Executive Member for Finance, introduced the report, which sought to agree recommendations made to Council by the Executive, from its meetings since 29 November 2023, and approve of the Council Tax Base for 2024/2025, as recommended by the Executive on 17 January 2024.


The Executive Member advised Council of an anomaly within the recommendations listed on the report, where there was a £ sign in front of the number 47,851.

 

Councillor Alaric Smith proposed that Council agree to the recommendations as listed on the report. This was seconded by Councillor Andy Graham, was put to a vote and was unanimously agreed by Council.

 

Council Resolved to:

  1. Approve the Council Tax Base shown in Annex F of the original Executive report, calculated as 47,841 for the year 2024/25;
  2. Authorise the Director of Finance to submit the National Non-Domestic Rates Return 1 (NNDR1) to Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities by the submission date of 31 January 2024.

CL.132

Council Tax Support Scheme 2024-2025 pdf icon PDF 104 KB

Purpose:

To present the results of the public consultation on proposals for revising the current Council Tax Support scheme with effect from 1 April 2024.

 

Recommendations:

That Council Resolves to:

  1. Agree to increase Council Tax Support, as detailed in paragraph 2.5 from 1 April 2024;
  2. Agree that any surplus in the Support Fund is transferred over to 2024/2025 for reasons detailed in paragraphs 2.7 and 2.8;
  3. Approve the amendment to the Council Tax Support Policy as recommended in paragraph 2.9.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Alaric Smith, Executive Member for Finance, introduced the report, which presented the results of the public consultation on proposals for revising the current Council Tax Support scheme, with effect from 1 April 2024.

 

The Chair advised Council of some clerical errors contained within the recommendations listed on the report, and clarified that the agreed resolutions would reflect the correct paragraph numbers referenced in the report.

 

In debate, Members queried the meaning of ‘Income Bands’ which related to information contained within the report. The Executive Member stated that the information related to weekly income per household. Members also suggested that information relating to uptakes in Hardship Funding be made more accessible by organisations aiding the most vulnerable.

 

Councillor Colin Dingwall made a declaration of interest relating to this agenda item, stating that he would abstain from the vote.

 

Councillor Alaric Smith proposed that Council agree to the recommendations as listed on the report. This was seconded by Councillor Andy Graham and was put to the vote. There were 45 votes in favour, 0 votes against and 1 abstention (Councillor Colin Dingwall).

 

Council Resolved to:

  1. Agree to increase Council Tax Support, as detailed in paragraph 2.5 from 1 April 2024;
  2. Agree that any surplus in the Support Fund is transferred over to 2024/2025 for reasons detailed in paragraphs 2.7 and 2.8;
  3. Approve the amendment to the Council Tax Support Policy as recommended in paragraph 2.9.

CL.133

Recommendations from the Constitution Working Group pdf icon PDF 64 KB

Purpose:

To present a recommendation to Council, from the Constitution Working Group, relating to the adoption of a Communications Protocol into the Council’s constitution.

 

Recommendation:

That Council Resolves to:

1.      Approve the adoption of a Communications Protocol into the Council’s Constitution.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Michele Mead, Vice-Chair of the Constitution Working Group, introduced the report, which presented a recommendation to Council, from the Constitution Working Group, which related to the adoption of a Communications Protocol into the Council’s constitution.

 

In debate, it was clarified that if Members had any questions or comments they wished to raise regarding future Council communications, best practise was to contact the Business Manager for Communications and Marketing, who would be in the best position to provide clarity on such matters.

 

Councillor Michele Mead proposed that Council agree the recommendation as listed on the report. This was seconded by Councillor Joy Aitman, was put to a vote, and was unanimously agreed by Council.

 

Council Resolved to:

1.      Approve the adoption of a Communications Protocol into the Council’s Constitution.

CL.134

West Oxfordshire District Council Programme of Meetings 2024 – 2025 pdf icon PDF 86 KB

Purpose:

To approve a programme of Council and Committee meetings for the municipal year 2024–2025.

 

Recommendations:

That Council Resolves to:

  1. Approve the Programme of Meetings for June 2024 to May 2025, as detailed at Annex A and Annex B;
  2. Delegate authority to the Director of Governance, in consultation with Group Leaders, to make changes to the programme of meetings, in the event that there is any future decision of the Council to change the committee structure, frequencies of committees or sub-committees, or committee remits that impacts the programme of meetings;
  3. Delegate authority to the Democratic Services Business Manager to set meeting dates for committees and sub-committees that meet on an ad-hoc basis (Performance and Appointments Committee, Development Control Committee, Licensing Committee, Licensing Panel, Miscellaneous Licensing Sub-Committee, Standards Sub-Committee), member training, member briefing sessions, and any further working groups established by the Council.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Andy Graham, Leader of the Council, introduced the report, which sought to approve a programme of Council and Committee meetings for the municipal year 2024–2025.

A revised report had come to Council, as a report previously considered by Council in November 2023 contained clerical errors.

 

In debate, Members praised the work of officers for bringing a concise report to Council for adoption, thanking them for their consideration in providing a balance for Members against professional commitments. It was also highlighted that by varying meeting start times, public attendance at meetings could also be enhanced.

 

Members also made reference to the upgrade and refurbishment works in the Council Chamber, meaning that meetings were able to be viewed live on the Council’s website, adding greater transparency to the work of the Council.

Hybrid functionality was discussed for public participation, however officers confirmed that bandwidth constraints would be a limiting factor in the successful operation of hybrid meetings.

Members were also assured that the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny process would be embedded within the Executive clearance system.

 

Members were also given assurance that consideration was being given to the use of electronic devices for meeting agendas, minutes and other appropriate documentation.

 

Councillor Andy Graham proposed that Council agree the recommendations as listed on the report. This was seconded by Councillor Duncan Enright, was put to a vote, and was unanimously agreed by Council.

 

Council Resolved to:

  1. Approve the Programme of Meetings for June 2024 to May 2025, as detailed at Annex A and Annex B;
  2. Delegate authority to the Director of Governance, in consultation with Group Leaders, to make changes to the programme of meetings, in the event that there is any future decision of the Council to change the committee structure, frequencies of committees or sub-committees, or committee remits that impacts the programme of meetings;
  3. Delegate authority to the Democratic Services Business Manager to set meeting dates for committees and sub-committees that meet on an ad-hoc basis (Performance and Appointments Committee, Development Control Committee, Licensing Committee, Licensing Panel, Miscellaneous Licensing Sub-Committee, Standards Sub-Committee), member training, member briefing sessions, and any further working groups established by the Council.

CL.135

Motion A: Thames Water Sewage 'Task Force' - Proposed by Councillor Lysette Nicholls, Seconded by Councillor Thomas Ashby. pdf icon PDF 41 KB

Council notes the concerns from members of this Council, and members of public in the continuing of dumping of sewage into our local rivers by Thames Water.

This Council notes the work so far of the administration to hold Thames Water to account.

Given the continued concerns from residents across West Oxfordshire, this Council Resolves to request the Leader to:

  1. Set up a cross party task force to be established to work with campaigners in helping to hold Thames Water to account;
  2. Ensure the new task force meets at least once every quarter;
  3. Ensure the Executive Member for Environment chairs the new group.

Minutes:

Councillor Lysette Nicholls introduced the motion, which sought to highlight concerns from Members of the Council, and Members of Public regarding the continued dumping of sewage into local rivers by Thames Water. The motion also requested that Council set up and establish a cross party task force to work with campaigners in helping to hold Thames Water to account.

Councillor Alaric Smith rose to propose and introduce an amendment to the motion, which had been circulated in advance. The amendment sought to note concerns from Members of the Council, and Members of Public about the continued dumping of sewage into local rivers by Thames Water. The proposed amendment would also note that Council regretted a perceived lack of action by Central Government to ensure proper regulatory oversight and control of the sector.

Councillor Alaric Smith thanked Councillor Nicholls for proposing the original Motion to Council, and for their work in bringing attention to the subject matter. Councillor Alaric Smith further highlighted that the Council supported the work so far of the administration to do what it can to put right this wrong and to hold Thames Water to account.

In the debate of the amended motion, Members highlighted a perceived lack of action by Government in maintaining oversight of ongoing problems related to the dumping of sewage into local rivers. Members said that opportunities to address the matter had, in the round, been missed. Members referred to a Petition presented to Council in 2020, and said that in the ensuing period since the presentation, work to address issues had subsided and the overall problem had become worse.

Members made reference to meetings that had already taken place with Thames Water, and with the “Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP)” action group, which had focused on the treatment of sewage, and the infrastructure in place to deal with the treatment works. Reference was also made to “Waterways Day” events held in the West Oxfordshire District in 2022 and 2023 which highlighted the subject matter, and the Executive Member for the Environment thanked Members who had engaged with the events.

Opposition group members expressed their disappointment regarding the amended motion, stating that it would potentially discourage cross-party efforts to make significant progress in holding Thames Water to account, and sought clarity from the administration as to when tangible progress on reducing the sewage discharge would be recognised.

Members highlighted that work between central government, both previous and current, and the regulators had significantly attributed to the problems that were faced regarding the subject matter, and that the amended motion would seek to strengthen the resolve of efforts to curtail the discharge of sewage into the mainstream water network. Attention was also drawn to problems experienced at local ‘hotspots’ and sewage treatment works, which Members stated drew more attention to the overall subject matter. Members further highlighted that sewage discharge posed significant health and biodiversity risks to the wider population of the district and beyond, and that inaction to tackle the problems in the  ...  view the full minutes text for item CL.135