This report was presented to Eynsham Parish Council by Cllr Dan Levy, Oxfordshire County Council, in January 2022.
I must start by wishing everyone a successful, healthy and fulfilling 2022 – happy new year to you all. What follows is a quick roundup of things relating to Oxfordshire County Council.
Falafel and foodbanks
You may have read that the County Council passed a motion that commits us to serving only plant-based food at County functions. Most likely you will have heard about it via the national media where headlines claimed we were ‘banning meat from councillors’ mouths’ and ‘stuffing falafel down resisting throats’. It is, disappointingly, not as dramatic as the press has made out.
The facts are these: there are only six occasions each year when food is served to councillors (which is six too many in my opinion). The sandwiches provided at these events will now be plant based but any councillor who wants to bring in their own meat-based food will be welcome to do so. There are plenty of places to buy food within five minutes of County Hall so no one will be denied their ‘meat fix’.
There are far more important issues to be discussed around food. We are seeing our foodbanks being increasingly used by residents; we should now be campaigning against the need for people to use them. We must also remember that we face a climate crisis in which what we eat is important. Finally, we have admirable school pupils – including the ones who attended the recent Eynsham School Partnership forum – questioning why their school meals have such poor non-meat options. Incidentally, the council motion was designed to throw a spotlight on all these issues. It also recognised and praised the work of the excellent farmers of Oxfordshire.
Moving around the County
I am very pleased to say that, following the simplification of creating 20mph zones, the Fair Deal Alliance has voted to introduce a Low Traffic Neighbourhood in East Oxford. This will, essentially, prevent the residential streets off Cowley Road being used as rat runs.
It also makes permanent the restrictions on Witney High Street that reserve the road for use by pedestrians, people on bikes, taxis, buses and blue badge holders only. We need to make our streets livable, allow people to breathe better air and encourage drivers to swap their cars for something greener. There remains an enormous amount of parking within two-minute walk of Witney High Street so it shouldn’t inconvenience anyone too much. I appreciate that not everyone agrees with the Council’s decisions, but sometimes we must make difficult choices for the betterment of all.
The First and Last Mile bus service linking Standlake, Northmoor and Stanton Harcourt to Eynsham – as well as Freeland, Long Hanborough and Hanborough station – started on 4 January. It’s excellent that the villages which were effectively reliant on the motor car no longer are; I very much hope that the service will be well used. You will see the minibuses moving through the village, with services timed to coincide with Bartholomew School opening and closing each day.
Park and Ride
Unfortunately, there are times when the County Council isn’t allowed to choose what happens in our area. The A40 Park and Ride project (including the associated bus lanes) is likely to go for formal planning permission early in 2022. If the Alliance had been in power when decisions were made, it would not have used the Housing Infrastructure Fund for this purpose and would have asked for the money to go elsewhere. It is now too late to change the core structure and the Government is insisting on it being built, so we have to make the best of it.
The facilities for cyclists, bus users and walkers will be better than they currently are, but the project remains deeply problematic. The question of how people will get from the Salt Cross Garden Village to Eynsham remains – a set of pelican crossings isn’t good enough. And, of course, there is already a good bus service from Eynsham into Oxford so it’s unlikely that the Park and Ride will benefit people in the area. I made my opinion clear in a recent Oxford Mail article in which I was reflecting the views of nearly all the residents I have spoken to in Eynsham, Cassington, South Leigh and other villages. It will be interesting to see if the travel patterns of residents of West Oxfordshire change when the new A40 facilities are open.
There are a number of consultations happening that you may have an opinion on. You can find them all on the County Council website. The budget, the new Local Transport Plan and the new Libraries and Museum strategy are all open for consultation and we welcome your views.
Helping young people
Finally, the best news of all. After being abolished by the last administration, the early intervention youth service is being restored. It will work alongside the excellent voluntary sector bodies who have endeavoured to fill in the gaps over recent years.
The best way to ensure that young people stay on the straight and narrow, and have fulfilling lives, is to work with them at an early stage to avoid the sort of issues that will lead to future problems. This approach makes huge sense from every perspective and I am really proud that we have got it back in place so soon after taking office. I recall the uproar in Eynsham when services were removed – I think it made the national press, given who our MP was then. It is fantastic to be heading in the right direction again.
As ever, I can be contacted by email at [email protected] and by phone on 07852748362.