Sunday, 26 September 2021

New Year message from Sue Cooper, leader, South Oxfordshire District Council

New Year message from Sue Cooper, leader, South Oxfordshire District Council

I WISH everyone a happy, healthy and rather better New Year than the extraordinary one we have just had.

Our heartfelt sympathy goes to all those who have lost family or friends either through covid or for other reasons.

But one of the encouraging aspects of our constrained way of living has been the wonderful support within our communities for each other. Thank you to all those who have helped and still are helping with our amazing community hubs.

The past year has been tough on our council as it has been for the rest of society. Our officers have been kept very busy dispensing more than £26 million in aid to businesses and helping individuals in our district.

At the same time, they have been doing their best to keep our normal services going. Our planning policy officers have been working hard on the recently adopted Local Plan 2035. Now we start on the next one.

We had a record number of responses from local residents to our consultation on our new corporate strategy, which will guide the way that we operate and support our residents over the next few years.

The themes in the plan are:

1. Protect and restore our natural world

2. Openness and accountability

3. Action on the climate emergency

4.Improved economic and community wellbeing

5. Homes and infrastructure that meet local needs

6.Investment that rebuilds our financial viability

We will be focussing on a sustainable recovery for our local economy, our environment and our social wellbeing.

Those themes address all of these issues and we are developing projects that will bring them to life.

Although the climate emergency is listed above, it will pervade all of our thinking and actions to progress the corporate strategy as well as the bread-and-butter issues that are part of our normal operations.

With almost all of our staff working from home over the past 10 months, we intend to make this a more permanent mode of operation, albeit mainly on a part-time basis.

This means that we no longer need as large an office building as that we were planning at Crowmarsh. We can have a smaller one in a much more accessible and sustainable location opposite Didcot station.

This will be very low-carbon and shared with Vale of White Horse District Council, near the boundary between the two districts.

But our council can’t solve the climate emergency on its own. It is the actions of every individual in cutting out unnecessary car journeys in favour of walking and cycling, preventing unnecessary heat loss from their dwellings and workplaces and doing all we can to reduce our carbon footprints.

I hope that the Henley Standard will give that campaign its support.

Let us look forward to peaceful progress next year with helping to save our planet.

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