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County Councillor report: April 2024 17 Apr 2024 (OCC Updates) New special schools and supported housing, new funds for road resurfacing and public EV charging, for cycling and walking too

I hope everyone has had a pleasant Easter, and that the worst of the wetness is behind us.

New special schools: The county council is planning two new special schools in the Didcot area to serve southeast Oxfordshire. One will specialise in educating children with Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) needs. Another special school is due to be built within the Valley Park development, and will specialise in educating children with Profound & Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD), Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD) and other needs.

In addition, as many people know, we are building or acquiring small children’s homes to provide care in the county for those who would otherwise have to go somewhere else. This will provide better care for the children, at substantially lower cost. The home in Aston opened recently, and one is planned in Sutton.

Taking on potholes: OCC is launching a £7m programme this spring to refurbish nearly 100 roads across the county this spring from 8 April to 3 June. It is the biggest surface dressing programme for 20 years. The £7m is made up of £2.6m from the department for transport and additional budget for highways agreed in the 2024/2025 Lib Dem/Green budget (which was not supported by the Tories).

This is good, but it will not make up the approximately £20m gap per annum between what we need to maintain our roads and what the government awards us. And as the weather gets worse, as appears to be the case, the pressure on our roads will continue to grow.

Money for cycling and walking: Oxfordshire has been awarded £2.384 million for improving walking and cycling infrastructure. The award will be used for expansion of the school streets programme countywide and projects in Abingdon and Witney.

Old Witney Road: I was pleased to support the proposed traffic calming scheme, which was approved last month. This is necessary up to the point at which access to the new housing at the old Nursery site is changed so that it is through the new spine road associated with West Eynsham. This may be some time away.

Tenants welcomed into supported housing: Adults with learning disabilities and autism have moved into new accommodation in Witney, purchased by OCC. A further four homes are planned, including in Horspath.

EV chargers: Oxfordshire has won another £3.6m to upgrade EV infrastructure. This is of course a bit chicken and egg. Most people who buy electric cars only do so when they can charge them at home, but we need to make provision for those who are away from home or who can’t charge at home. And we need excess capacity so that nobody turns up in urgent need of charging to discover there is no space.

Elections: Not County Council related, but there are elections for West Oxfordshire District Council on 2 May. There is one seat up in the Standlake, Aston and Stanton Harcourt ward and one in Eynsham, Cassington and South Leigh. Can I remind people that they will need to take ID to the polling station, or else get an Voter Authority Certificate, or apply for a postal vote. All the details are on the WODC web pages.

It has been a pleasure working with the two district councillors who are up for re-election.

As ever, I can be contacted at dan.levy@oxfordshire.gov.uk and I would be delighted to hear from you.

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