Receipt of Announcements
To receive any announcements from the Chair, Leader of the Council, Members of the Executive or the Chief Executive Officer.
Councillor Andrew Coles, Chair of the Council, welcomed all Members and Members of the Public to the meeting and stated that he hoped all attendees had had a refreshing summer break. The Chair also advised Council of a change to the order in which business would be considered, and that Agenda Item 9 would be considered ahead of Item 8.
The Chair advised Council of the passing of Colin James, a former Member and Chair of West Oxfordshire District Council. Councillor James was first elected to the Council in 1993 and was Chair for the municipal year of 1997-1998. The Chair stated that he had written to Councillor James’ family, attended his funeral and expressed the condolences of the whole Council at a difficult time for his family.
Councillors Julian Cooper and Alaa Al-Yousuf also rose to pay tribute to Councillor James before Council was invited to observe a moment of reflection in memory of Councillor James.
The Chair welcomed Hannah Lee to the meeting. Hannah Lee undertook a period of work experience with the Council’s Democratic Services team in July 2023, and was in attendance at the meeting in the public gallery.
The Chair also welcomed and introduced James Howse & Madhu Richards to the meeting. James Howse had recently been appointed as the Council’s Interim Director of Finance, and Madhu Richards had been appointed as the Council’s new, permanent Director of Finance, taking up her role in October 2023.
The Chair thanked those in attendance who had supported the Afternoon Tea fundraiser held in August 2023, and was delighted to announce that the event had raised £1151 for charities associated with the Chair. The Chair also thanked the Vice-Chair of the Council, Councillor Elizabeth Poskitt, and Councillor Julian Cooper, for their support on the day of the event, as well as the assistance of Council Officers from the Executive Support team.
The Chair also advised Council that a fundraising quiz night was also being planned for a time in the future.
The Chair highlighted the official civic engagements that he had undertaken during the summer months. These included the Royal Air Force’s Service of Commemoration for the Battle of Britain, and Carterton’ Annual Civic Service.
The Chair also paid tribute to the Vice-Chair for work she had undertaken during the same period of time.
The Chair advised Council of the arrangements made by Democratic Services for the next meeting of Council, which would take place on Wednesday 29 November 2023. Owing to planned refurbishment works at Woodgreen as part of the Council’s Agile Working Project, it had been arranged for the next meeting of Council to take place at Carterton Community Centre. It was also highlighted that owing to the availability of the external location, the next meeting would start at 1.00pm, rather than the usual time of 2.00pm. The Chair asked Members and Officers of the Council to note this in their diaries.
Councillor Andy Graham, Leader of the Council, rose to congratulate the Chair on his fundraising activities, and highlighted the impressive total that had been raised.
The Leader also advised Council of changes in Membership of the Executive, which would take place the day after the meeting of the Council.
Councillor Dan Levy would step down from the Executive with effect from the following day, and the Leader thanked Councillor Levy for his dedication, hard work and support during his time as a member of the Executive.
Councillor Alaric Smith would replace Councillor Levy as Executive Member for Finance, and Councillor Tim Sumner would join the Executive as Member for Leisure and Major Projects.
The Leader also took the opportunity to reassure Council that there was no overall change to the West Oxfordshire ‘Alliance’, given publicity and news that had arisen from Oxfordshire County Council prior to the meeting.
The Leader advised Council of the arrangements that had been made for the upcoming meeting of the Executive. Owing to the aforementioned refurbishment works, the Executive would once again hold an ‘On Tour’ meeting. The Leader advised that the next meeting of the Executive would be held at The New Warwick Hall in Burford on Wednesday 11 October 2023.
The Leader also advised that the meeting would be ‘an evening trial meeting’ commencing at 6.00pm. It was further highlighted that by having an evening meeting, public participation and engagement would be heightened, and would allow more residents and Members of the Public to engage with the Executive.
The Leader also advised that the December 2023 meeting of the Executive was anticipated to take place in Minster Lovell, and that arrangements would be confirmed in due course as appropriate.
Councillor Duncan Enright, Deputy Leader of the Council and Executive Member for Economic Development, rose to congratulate Sports Direct for opening a new store of their franchise in Marriott’s Walk in Witney. The Deputy Leader highlighted the importance of an internationally renowned retailer being part of Witney and its District, making it the only sports retailer available in the area.
The Deputy Leader also advised Council on further plans that were in the offing at Marriot’s Walk, such as a fundraising abseil, Christmas Markets and a new attraction that would replace the Umbrellas.
The Leader also highlighted the importance of the Town Centres in the District, and the ongoing regeneration work that has been undertaken by Council Officers. The Deputy Leader paid tribute to the work of officers Will Barton and Emma Phillips, and said that Town Partnership Meetings would soon get underway across the district to help energise the regeneration projects, using funds made available by the Rural England Prosperity Fund.
Councillor Carl Rylett, Executive Member for Planning and Sustainable Development, rose to advise Council of the ‘Your Voice’ Local Plan consultation that would run until 25 October 2023. The Executive Member highlighted the importance of resident participation in the consultation, explaining that input would help protect the West Oxfordshire District and secure the plan up to the year 2041.
The Executive Member also advised that there would be Town and Parish Council events, such as workshops and drop-in sessions, which would feed into the consultation period, and the Executive Member further encouraged all residents to participate in the consultation.
Councillor Lidia Arciszewska, Executive Member for the Environment, advised Council that 23 November 2023 would be ‘Waterways Day’, taking place at The Corn Exchange in Witney. There would be an extensive list of speakers at the event, such as the Environment Agency and Oxfordshire County Council, and the Executive Member expressed a desire for maximum participation at the event.
Councillor Dan Levy, Executive Member for Finance, rose to advise Council of the upcoming Council Tax Support Scheme consultation, forming the initial stage of the Budget consultation for the next financial year, was open and would run until 22 October 2023.