The first 100 days for the county council administration.
It's 100 days since the new administration was formed at Oxfordshire County Council following the May elections. Coucillor Liz Leffman, the leader of the county council and Councillor Liz Brighouse, the deputy leader discuss their priorities.
By Councillor Liz Leffman and Councillor Liz Brighouse
On 26 August is the 100th day since the formation of the Oxfordshire Fair Deal Alliance as the administration at the county council after the May elections. Over the past three months, we have been moving at lightning pace to put in place and start delivering on a new set of priorities.
It was at the first meeting of all councillors following the 6 May election that the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green groups at the council formed the coalition to lead Oxfordshire in a very different direction to that set by previous administrations.
As the new leader and deputy leader of the council, it has been a whirlwind time for us as we have got our feet under the table and our teeth into delivering the ambitious priorities we have set ourselves. Our focus is on having a positive impact on the lives of everyone who lives in this wonderful county of ours – from the Chilterns to the Cotswolds and from Wallingford to Woodstock.
The approach of our 100th day as a new administration feels like a good time to set out to the public the priorities that we have agreed to guide our period in office. In essence, we want Oxfordshire to be a greener and fairer county.
At the top of our list is our determination to tackle climate change through rapid decarbonisation, proper accounting of carbon emissions and ambitious targets, as well as supporting climate resilience and nature recovery. Our commitment to this issue was recently underlined by our joining the UK100 organisation – a network for locally elected leaders who have pledged to switch to 100 per cent clean energy by 2050.
Alongside this, we want to do all we can to improve access to nature and safe green spaces for our communities and increase biodiversity in both rural and urban environments.
Linked to our carbon net zero commitment is our focus on an integrated and sustainable travel network across the county, which is fit for the 21st century. Our aim is to improve choice – making cycling, walking and public transport easier and more accessible to everyone – and thereby reduce car journeys across the county.
Oxfordshire is generally seen as a wealthy county, but we know there are deep inequalities. We need to focus on these, and together with our partners do all we can to tackle them, providing opportunities for everyone in Oxfordshire to achieve their full potential.
We have also pledged to work with our partners to deliver and support services that make a vital contribution to our residents’ physical and mental wellbeing. This includes recognising the impact the pandemic has had on people’s lives and wellbeing and supporting our brilliant volunteer efforts across the county.
At the national level, there has been a long wait for direction on the future of adult social care, but at a local level we want to push ahead and review and reform the way in which we are delivering social care. We will engage nationally to push for a fair deal for the funding of social care, while locally we will support carers and help those who want to live independently, including staying in their own homes. We will explore new ways to provide services – using co-operatives and the community – and focus on preventative services, helping people to stay active and supported at all stages of their lives.
We know that young people have been through an exceptionally difficult time during the pandemic. We have therefore pledged to support all our children and young people so they can enjoy better health and educational outcomes, and we will improve our provision for children with additional needs. This includes wishing to provide quality youth service provision – a service that the council sadly ceased to provide in the previous decade.
Support for local employment and businesses is a further key area for us. We will work with partners to make Oxfordshire a centre for green and sustainable technologies through a local ‘Green New Deal’ and we will use our purchasing power and contracts to maximise benefit to local employment and businesses.
The creation of a resilient local democracy − where residents are meaningfully involved in the decisions that affect their lives − is something we strongly believe in. We are committed to all decisions being taken in an open and inclusive way, and our recent changes to the system by which backbench councillors fulfil their roles as watchdogs and scrutineers reflects this. Instead of the previous two scrutiny committees, we now have three – with more councillors involved and a greater ability to dig deep into issues.
Alongside this we are committed to actively listening to residents and undertaking public consultations in a more inclusive way, using a range of different methods to reach as many people as possible.
Our recent decision-making on low traffic neighbourhoods in Oxford shows this different approach in action. We have reviewed all the feedback received and are inviting further views before committing to action. We are listening.
This is a long and detailed list, but we are determined that these priorities will guide every single job we do and every decision we make. We believe the best outcomes for the people of Oxfordshire will rest on a foundation of action to address inequalities, promote equality of opportunity, and tackle climate change. We will put this belief at the heart of our work and our decision-making.