The October report given by Councillor Sean Woodcock, Leader of the Cherwell District Council Labour Group, to Banbury CLP shows what active and effective Labour District Councillors we have.
Why not watch what happens on the Council’s webcast?
All the Council’s meetings are webcast, this provides an excellent opportunity for everyone to see the Labour Group in action.
Making their Voices Heard
At full council on Monday 21 October, the Labour group had its strongest performance to date. Cllr Mark Cherry asked a question about black-listing by employers who have contracts from the District Council and to the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police about policing. Cllr Surinder Dhesi asked questions about the Bedroom Tax and the Horton Hospital.
At Labour’s request, Councillors agreed to invite the decision-makers in the Oxfordshire NHS to attend a full Council Meeting to answer questions on the Horton hospital (The Tory leader of the Council publicly declared it a ‘good idea’).
Tories on the Defensive!
Other issues debated were:
- the length of time taken for the Local Plan to come about. The plan was finally approved with Labour support.
- Cllr Andy Beere brilliantly rebutted the Liberal Democrat complaints about the Boundary Review recommendations on council size and election by thirds (which Labour had agreed with the Tories).
- Cllr Sean Woodcock sought clarity on the economic benefit to Cherwell District of the East West rail link. A growing concern because the Council is investing £4.5m in it over a number of years.
Housing Developments – Bloxham, Hook Norton & Banbury Road.
The decisions of Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, to uphold the 4 appeals which had been registered against the Council’s decision to reject developments at Hook Norton, Bloxham and on the Banbury Road has been much discussed. Sean reported that the Council seemed unlikely to try to overturn these decisions.
Welfare & Housing Reforms Hitting People Hard
- Anecdotal evidence from Sanctuary Housing Association is that since
April 2013 some of those tenants who were confident that they would be able to afford to pay the additional rent have struggled to do so and that rent arrears have increased.
- The Benefit Cap was implemented in Cherwell between 15 July and 18 August. The Cap was applied to 35 households
Bedroom Tax Costs More!
- In anticipation of greater demand as a consequence of the welfare reforms, the Government’s contribution to the Council’s fund for Discretionary Housing Payment has increased from £139,741 in 2012-2013 to £203,354 in 2013-2014. Since April 2013 the authority has received 300 applications, compared to 370 for the whole of 2012-13. Of these applications 122 were successful – less than a third.
The recommendation for changes to District Council Ward Boundaries proposes 16 Wards with 3 members in each ward, giving a total of 48 Councillors. The decisions on both the number of wards and the new boundaries will be taken in 2014.
Splits evident among Conservatives
Labour Councillors have observed the chasm which exists between the policies of the national government and the local Tory-controlled Council. The planning approvals and difficulties with welfare changes and housing support demonstrate the emptiness of the rhetoric surrounding the ‘localism’ agenda.
Few, but effective…
The Tories were so upset by Labour’s interventions that they even tried to stop Cllr Sean Woodcock speaking! All 5 of our Labour councillors spoke, and Sean thanked them for a very successful Council session. Five only of 50 Councillors may be few, but we are all looking forward to next year’s elections and adding to what is clearly shaping up to be a great team.