Saturday, 18 January 2020

New Year Message: Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council

Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council

OXFORDSHIRE 2020. That used to sound like the future and now it’s nearly upon us. Leaving aside the B-word, it’s going to be a big year for the country and the county.

I will soon announce budget plans to invest in schools, transport and social services. The sad fact is that there are more children at risk of abuse and neglect who need our help and, above all, we must make sure they are safe. As we gather with family for Christmas, it is worth remembering that all kids need warmth and safety.

Meanwhile, the overall population of Oxfordshire is aging. Within another decade, there will be double the number of over-85s. So while the new government has committed to welcome money for the NHS, it needs to think about how we fund good care for older and disabled people.

At the county council we are looking at ways to help communities provide more for older and disabled people, so they get the support they need close to home. But communities can only do so much on their own. As local government’s national spokesman on adult services, I must point out that funding for social care is as big an issue as it is for the NHS.

I am really hoping this year the Government manages to develop that cross-party consensus on how we, as a society, are going to pay for our collective ripe old age. This is an issue that should be above politics.

Talking of cross-party consensus, one of my new year’s resolutions is to continue to work closely with South Oxfordshire district councillors to see if we can find a way to secure the investment in affordable homes and transport on offer from government. There’s a lot on offer and Oxfordshire really needs that money. I really worry that if we let these funding opportunities slip through our hands now they won’t come back. My plea — let’s make it happen.

Seeing as it’s Christmas, I have to mention the Henley Bridge lights. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I do admire the determination of Clive Hemsley to do something for his town, even if he didn’t exactly do it by the book. After some initial concerns, the county council has now got behind his initiative and I hope we can, to coin a phrase, get it done.

Finally, I must mention climate change. After the council officially acknowledged the “climate emergency” in November, 2020 is the year we as a county and a country really get serious about carbon. Our commitment is to become net carbon neutral by 2030.

We’ve already started with a big investment in LED street lights and turning our fleet of council vehicles electric. We’ll have our work cut out to meet this target but I am determined to succeed. I just hope we can spare a few of those energy efficient bulbs for Mr Hemsley!

On behalf of everyone at the county council, I’d like to wish everyone living and working in and around Henley a happy and prosperous New Year.

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