Things are picking up again after the Christmas break.
Key activity at County Hall have been handling the floods, preparing the Budget and continuing the transformation of the service provided to children with special educational needs.
In my role as Cabinet Member for finance, I have been coping with the failure of central Government to provide the levels of funding it claimed it was providing, which meant that we had an even larger set of challenges than permitted. The County Council is well run, and far from the position that some other authorities are in, but we will still need to make savings that will be difficult to achieve, while ensuring that key services are protected.
Although Eynsham was mostly unscathed by the recent floods, other parts of the county were less fortunate. It is a wake-up call about building in places that can’t be kept dry. The response in West Oxfordshire was better than in some other places, in part because the District Council takes a more active role working with Oxfordshire than other districts. There will be a cross-agency process to improve on our flood preparedness and responses.
Homes England, the source or the bulk of the funding for the A40 scheme, continues discussions with the County Council about the level and timing of that funding, and hence the project appears to be making no progress. I share the frustration, not least because the Park and Ride is making such rapid progress. The whole scheme was over-ambitious, and it is a regret that when the current administration came into office it took over those plans rather than starting again from scratch.
We are in continual discussion with Network Rail. We are told that the works are still on schedule to permit the reopening of Botley Road to motor vehicles in October.
Fix my Street
It is very likely that the recent wet weather and the current cold spell will lead to an increase in the number and size of pot holes on the roads. Please use Fix my Street to report these. As mentioned frequently, we estimate that it would take around £45m per annum to keep the roads in a decent state. The Government provides £20m.
You may have noticed that parts of the wall that were not fixed last year are now crumbling. They will get fixed. Unfortunately, this fix requires the owner of the wall to do the work, and it isn’t clear exactly who that is. The District Council and the County Council are trying to make things happen quickly and I very much hope we won’t have a repeat of the long closure we saw a year ago.
Mill St/Acre End St junction
There continues to be a problem with HGV drivers trying to use this junction, despite the very clear signage telling them not to. The County Council and Parish Council are exploring ways of stopping this happening. If you see a lorry doing this, please take a photo and send it to me.
As ever, please contact me with queries, comments or requests via my email email@example.com.