COUNCIL PROPOSES FUTURE BUDGET FROM A RESILIENT POSITION

OCC is planning to set a new budget having made difficult choices in previous years to manage a combination of squeezed budgets and the fact that more people need council services – especially in children’s social care and adult social care. At the same time the council has been involving communities in services for their locality – ranging from support for older people and those with learning disabilities to library volunteers. The net result is that the council’s finances are in a resilient position looking ahead to the 2018/19 financial year and planning for years up to 2022. Although proposed budget changes are not as extensive as in many previous years, like any organisation the council still has rising financial pressures that need to be matched by new savings so that a balanced budget can be proposed. At the time of writing, plans are based on a Council Tax rise of 4.99% (1.99% referendum limit plus 3% social care precept). However, in December, Central Government announced councils could add an additional 1%, should they so choose. This is currently under consideration. The Budget has to be approved by Cabinet, then Full Council on February 13th. The Budget consultation can be found here: https://consultations.oxfordshire.gov.uk/consult.ti/Budget_1819/consultationHome

CRIMINALS TARGET PUBS AND CLUBS TO PEDDLE ILLEGAL TOBACCO

Trading Standards are warning licensees and pub-goers to be on-the-look-out for criminals selling smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco. The call for vigilance follows recent research revealing that nearly half (43%) of illegal tobacco customers use pubs and clubs as their main source of supply. Cheap illegal tobacco is attractive to some smokers because it is often sold at half the price of the legal equivalent but its availability helps children to start smoking, brings communities into contact with organised criminals and undermines legitimate local businesses. In October HMRC released figures showing illegal tobacco made up 15% of all cigarettes and 28% of hand-rolling tobacco smoked in the UK. Taxpayers lost around £2.5 billion from the illicit trade in 2016-17. This money, for example, could be used to fund over 50,000 new NHS nurses for a year. Anyone with information relating to illegal tobacco being bought or sold, can report this to Trading Standards by anonymously via the Illegal Tobacco Hotline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 0300 999 6 999 or online at http://www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk/

1 MILLION TONNES OF RUBBISH TRANSFORMED INTO ENERGY AT OCC’S ARDLEY PLANT

OCC and its partner Viridor have marked the one millionth tonne of residual waste received at Ardley during December. The Ardley plant converts waste into electricity, rather than burying it in landfill. It produces enough energy to power 38,000 homes and can export up to 27MW per hour of electricity to the grid.

FIBRE BROADBAND UPDATE

This update covers the following areas: Toot Baldon, Marsh Baldon, Garsington, Stadhampton, Nuneham Courtenay, Clifton Hampden, Culham and Dorchester.

The superfast broadband infrastructure upgrade scheduled for your location has moved from being expected to complete this December, to the first half of 2018.  OCC understands this is likely to be very disappointing, and the council wishes to reassure everyone affected that all effort is being made to have this work completed as soon as possible. For context, the programme has achieved it’s 95% coverage target on time, but as part of a major infrastructure project which has delivered over 73,000 premises with access to superfast broadband, there are some instances where mostly engineering related challenges have not been overcome in time for completion by December.  These instances are normally related to gaining access wayleaves, high cost structures needing re-planning, collapsed ducts requiring new track (with commensurate traffic management notice periods), or in some cases a technology change where we are not confident the proposed new technologies such as Fibre to the Remote Node, will be properly deployed.

If you would like to have further specific information in respect of your location, please see our website map http://www.betterbroadbandoxfordshire.org.uk/cms/content/postcode-checker-map or contact us and we will provide you with all the information we have, and if necessary we can arrange a call in the New Year to discuss this with you.

SNOW GUIDE

December saw substantial snowfall across the county. OCC has produced a useful guide for snow clearance and a copy is attached to this report.