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The proposed development at Woodstock East is causing a lot of debate particularly the size of the proposal. It's made me think what Woodstock was like in the past and how much development has occurred over the years. I found the text below on British History Online from the Victoria Museum the link to view the full text is:

Woodstock Development over the years.

From the late 19th century, presumably because of the newly established railway link, the duke of Marlborough considered schemes for suburban development in Hensington, including c. 1913 a proposal to demolish Hensington House and build houses around a central area of croquet lawns and tennis courts. (fn. 35a) Hensington House was demolished in the 1920s but the site was not developed until the 1950s. The chief additions to the town in the late 19th century and early 20th (fn. 36a) were a few houses at the south end of Union Street and along Hensington Road, some of the latter built by the duke and sold to members of the Oxford Co-operative Society under a joint scheme. (fn. 37a) Pullman's glove factory was built c. 1890 on the south side of Hensington Road (fn. 38a) and New Road in Hensington was laid out and partly built up before 1922. A drill hall on its north side was bought by the corporation for a community centre in 1970; (fn. 39a)Crutch's glove factory on its south side was builtc. 1924 and closed in the 1950s.

By the 1930s scarcity of building land obliged the council to acquire sites outside the borough. (fn. 40a) Between the two World Wars building was mostly in Hensington, and included council houses on Bear Close in 1932, and houses at the east end of Hensington, on Banbury Road and Shipton Road; Hill Rise at the north end of Old Woodstock was laid out, and a few houses were built on the Oxford road. A roman Catholic church was built on Hensington Road in 1934. (fn. 41a)A school was built on the site of Marlborough School in 1940 and a primary school on Shipton Road in 1968. (fn. 42a) After the Second World War Hensington continued to be built up; in the 1950 houses were added in the Green Lane area, on the Klondike on Shipton Road, and the Cadogan estate on the site of Hensington house; (fn. 43a) in the 1960s the large Hensington Gate estate was begun. Other areas of expansion included Cockpit Close on the southern edge of the town in the 1950s and Barn Piece Farm estate in Old Woodstock in the 1960s. By 1967 there were 150 council houses and 50 apartments in the builtup area. (fn. 44a) The former union workhouse was demolished in 1969 and the site used later for a home for the aged, Spencer Court, and a fire station, police station, library, and car park. Houses were built on the gas works site in 1972, (fn. 45a) in the Brook Hill area (partly on the corporation meadows) in the 1970s and 1980s, and along Hensington Road in the 1680s.

The central area changed little in the 20th century except for the renewal of shop fronts. Early in the century Lorimer's shop (no. 22 High Street) was built on a long vacant, and in the 1960s Blanford Court in Market Street replaced the former Blandford Arms; a tall block of apartments built in Oxford Street in the 1960s commands the northern approach to the town. The trees lining Oxford Street, planted at the duke of Marlborough's expense in 1885, (fn. 46a)fell victim to road-widening as the street became a major traffic route. From the 1920s until the 1950s the central streets were dominated by overhead electricity cables carried on large pylons. (fn. 47a) In 1975 Woodstock was designated as a conversation area.

Statement Regarding Children's Centres

Published 28 November 2013

As part of our budget setting process, we have just finished a series of public meetings to inform residents about the need to make substantial savings over the next four years and listen to their ideas about how this should be done.

Over 1000 people attended the six Talking Oxfordshire events and raised a range of issues about the council’s budget. We have also had more than 400 responses via the council’s website.

Before the meetings, some members of staff were shown an internal briefing on a ‘worst case scenario’ for saving in the children’s services directorate. The media reported that the Council had firm plans to close a large number of children’s centres, which was never the case.

Children’s centres were by no means the only issue raised in Talking Oxfordshire but understandably there has been a lot of concern locally about their future.

The online consultation closes on Friday so there is still time for people to make comments and suggestions about the council’s budget, including children’s centres.

I would like to assure people that I am listening carefully to these views – that was the point of consulting residents in the first place. I would also like to say that the county council absolutely recognises the important work of children’s centres and their value to many families.

The Cabinet’s budget proposals will be published next Friday, and as we are still working on them I don’t want to pre-empt that announcement. What I can say is that a cross-party group is looking at all the options, including greater community involvement in running children’s centres. I don’t think we are in ‘worst case’ territory either and I am confident that we can maintain our focus on early intervention to help children and families.

However given the scale of additional savings required, Oxfordshire County Council cannot guarantee that any council service will be completely unaffected. We now have to save another £60m in the next four years, on top of the £200m of savings that has been achieved or planned since 2010.

There can be no red lines or sacred cows. But we are as committed as ever to early intervention and supporting families in need in order to give children who benefit from these services the best start in life.

Meeting Protesters before the meeting

 A Trip to the English Riviera

 On Saturday Oxford United continued their great start to the season with a 1-3 win at Torquay.

I decided to take the chance to follow the U's on an away trip and to let the train take the strain down to the English Riviera from my local station, Hanborough.

On the way down I started talking to some fans about the start to the season. The conversation drifted onto to ground ownership issues etc. When they realised I was wearing a jacket and tie, not a yellow shirt I explained who I was. This caused one fan to say he recognised me from the newspaper with negative reference to me being a councillor and to the political party to which I belong. There was a bit of an awkward couple of minutes.

However we then we all started to to about the important issue of the day, team selection.

On a day like Saturday, political preference and profession go out of the window. When all is said and done we're all after one thing, for United to get promotion. By 5pm we'd all seen another excellent win and an absolutely superb goal by James Constable. We sit top of the league with a 100% record; long may it continue.

A cycling success story

Published 12 August 2013

Cycling is more and more in the headlines these days thanks to the successes of dedicated athletes such as Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froom, Sir Chris Hoy and others.

I always feel that such triumphs resonate slightly more in Oxford than in other towns and cities simply because there are so many keen cyclists here.

Similarly, when we have some success in creating something new that benefits cyclists, I guess the information is always that bit more newsworthy here because of the numbers of people who ride bicycles.

It was certainly great to hear about the money won from the Government for improvements that will benefit both cyclists and pedestrians at The Plain Roundabout in the centre of the city.

The county council will top up the £835,000 of Government cash with £130,000 of local funding, to remove one of the main barriers to cycling in and out of Oxford city centre.

Cash will be spent to reduce the width of the carriageway approaching and around the roundabout and improve the Plain Roundabout’s design to unlock access to the city for cyclists of all levels of experience. There’ll be improved cycle lanes and road markings and wider pavements for pedestrians.

It might not make headlines like the Olympics or the Tour de France, but it’ll be celebrated by many here in Oxford.

Optimism for the economy

Published 09 August 2013

It is hard not to feel optimistic for the British economy given the recent slew of good news and positive statistics reported in the national news.

We have recently learned that manufacturing in June grew at the strongest pace since the end of 2010, and retail sales saw their fastest July growth in seven years.

A number of recent surveys of the business community have revealed that optimism is higher now than for some time and the last quarter saw growth in the UK economy estimated at 0.6 per cent.

This is all much needed and everybody from the Chancellor through to householders throughout the UK want to see this continue. The country remains in economic straits with the deficit still enormous. We in local government appreciate this more than most having made large cuts with more looming on the horizon following George Osborne's recent Spending Review.

The mathematical equation is a simple one. If the economy grows, the Government is receiving more in tax, which means the nation's debts can be paid down and the UKs finances can be brought back on an even keel. It will be a long and slow process - and more cuts are on the way. However as the sun shines on the country in the Summer of 2013, we are at least making tangible strides in the right direction.

Sunshine and sporting success

Published 08 July 2013

We’ve had warm sunshine for more than a week now and the forecast ahead predicts the same for much of July.

We’ve just had a weekend in which the Lions have won in Australia and Andy Murray has ended a 77-year wait for a British man to win the Wimbledon men’s title. A few weeks ago Justin Rose became the first Englishman to win a major golf tournament since the mid-1990s

On top of that there’s been quite a bit of decent news relating to the British economy of late and it seems that an acceleration in to recovery from recession and low-growth may be on the horizon.

I am an optimist and a positive person by nature and all of these things give me great cheer. However there are mixed feelings because I know that local government still faces very tough times ahead, as anybody who recently appraised themselves of the Chancellor’s Spending Review will know all too well.

However, just as last year’s Olympics provided a wonderful diversion, so I am determined to take the positives from our current situation as a nation. Let’s make the most of the sunshine and the sporting success while it lasts!

Excellent news on Milton Interchange
Published 06 June 2013

I’ve been the leader of the council for around 12 months now and undoubtedly one of the most satisfying aspects is when things are planned and delivered that lead to real and tangible benefits in Oxfordshire.

That’s why I was so pleased recently when news came through that we’d been successful in the next stage of the process to amass the required funding to make big changes to create a hamburger style roundabout at Milton Interchange in south Oxfordshire – creating lots more capacity on a very important part of our road network.

We still need Highways Agency approval but the Government’s announcement of £5m of funding towards the £10.6m project was a huge stride forward.

Of course the real moment of satisfaction will come when the job has been done and the actual benefits of the change are being enjoyed by Oxfordshire people. By that I do not just mean motorists who use roads in that part of Oxfordshire on a regular basis. I also mean Oxfordshire’s economy and the benefits it will reap in terms of unlocking further growth potential in a part of the county that is critical to our overall wellbeing and prospects.

Apprentices whip up tasty treats for bake-off

Published 14 March 2013

Oxfordshire apprentices cooked up a treat as they battled it out in the bake-off challenge.

As part of National Apprenticeship Week (March 11-15) Oxfordshire County Council is holding a host of events to celebrate and honour apprentices and those who work with them.

This kicked-off with the bake-off at County Hall involving local apprentices, from various sectors, with leader of the county council Ian Hudspeth, food presenter and owner of Lotte's Kitchen in Chinnor, Lotte Duncan and BBC Oxford’s Jo Thoenes judging the contest.

The event was held in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support and HIT Training (training providers in the hospitality and catering industry) and is a variation of the ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’, with proceeds going to the cancer charity.

Prizes included a cake decorating experience from The Cake Shop and a trophy from The Oxford Engraver as well as shopping vouchers from HIT Training, Oxfordshire County Council and the Thames Valley Regional Network.

City Deal success

Published 20 February 2013

Not surprisingly, I was absolutely delighted to hear that the Government has awarded ‘City Deal’ status to the Oxfordshire region, following our recent bid.

The City Deal is big news for the county – and not just because of the potential for more money coming our way for economic development, major transport projects and other infrastructure - though obviously that’s a huge boon.

What’s really exciting is gaining greater local control over how money is spent in Oxfordshire, and working with our partners in the city and district councils, as well as business and research leaders, on shaping the county’s future. Put simply, City Deal status puts more decision-making power in the hands of local people who have a better understanding of the local economy and where investment is needed most.

It means helping to increase localism within our community in a way that creates efficient, effective and equitable public services as well as making Oxfordshire a place where businesses can thrive by creating jobs for people.

There’s obviously a lot of work which needs to be done to develop our plans further, but these are undoubtedly exciting times.

Council tax – a pragmatic balance

Published 28 January 2013

There’s been an awful lot of coverage in the past couple of days about councils who are planning to raise council tax by 1.99 per cent for 2013/14.

The Government has said that any council proposing to put up council tax by two per cent or more would need to hold a local referendum. A 1.99 per cent rise is therefore the most a council can raise the tax without a local poll having to take place.

We at Oxfordshire County Council are proposing a 1.99 per cent rise. After two years of accepting the Government’s Council Tax Freeze grant we felt that this year we had to look to the future and make sure we had the funds to avoid hugely difficult cuts to services.

Every year that a Government freeze grant is accepted simply stores up problems for future years with the council tax base never expanding and reverting back to 2009/10 levels in reality.

Even with a 1.99 per cent rise, we’re having to save around £80m from 2013-2017.

A 1.99 per cent rise is the equivalent of around 44p per week or a packet of sweets.

I hope the people of Oxfordshire will be able to see the pragmatic balance we are trying to strike and agreed that local choices should be allowed to be made on local priorities.

City Deal bid

Published 18 January 2013

This week saw the submission to Government of an ambitious ‘City Deal’ bid to boost Oxfordshire’s economy and secure investment to deliver infrastructure projects.

The bid – one of around 20 from across the country – is being backed by a range of public and private sector partners, including all Oxfordshire councils, business leaders and research institutions, all of whom share a desire to give our local area more of say in how Government money is spent and to attract new investment.

Oxford and Oxfordshire are already home to a thriving knowledge-based economy with a world-class reputation in high-tech businesses and scientific institutions, along with a world-renowned academic status.

If successful, our bid will help build on this success story by channeling investment into the key enterprise and innovation centres of Oxford City, Bicester, and the Science Vale area. It would help drive sustainable development through the creation of new jobs and housing, as well as creating a platform to secure funding towards much-needed transport infrastructure. This could include improvements to the A40 and A34, which would relieve pressure on the A4095.

It’s not clear how many City Deal bids will be successful, but we obviously hope the Government agrees that money spent in Oxford and Oxfordshire is really good investment. We now await the outcome, which could be at the end of next month.

A warm welcome on a cold night

Published 15 January 2013

Thanks to Wootton Parish Council for a warm welcome on a bitterly cold night. I was there to update the parish council on the county council’s budget. I explained that we were proposing a 1.99% increase in Council Tax, which is below inflation and allows us to maintain essential services such as the subsidised bus routes that our rural communities rely on so much.

Ian Hudspeth at Wootton Village Hall

I always enjoy visiting the village hall in Wootton, which has become a notable literary venue with many national writers and speakers giving village hall talks as part of the fund raising programme to restore the hall. Jeremy Paxman, Esther Rantzen and the late Gerry Anderson of Thunderbirds fame were all recent visitors to the hall.

As I left the meeting, a gritting lorry whizzed by – another vital county council service on a freezing Oxfordshire night!

A Repatriation
Published 08 January 2013

The headline on BBC news this morning brought both a sharp perspective on life and a reminder of Oxfordshire’s central role in helping deal with the repatriation of military personnel from Afghanistan.

There seems to have been fewer repatriation ceremonies to deal with at RAF Brize Norton and the Memorial Garden near Carterton recently. For that we must be thankful. However it comes as all the more of a shock when news filters through about a fatality in Afghanistan.

The UK soldier, of 28 Engineer Regiment, attached to 21 Engineer Regiment, died at Patrol Base Hazrat, in Helmand. As ever I am sure people from west Oxfordshire and beyond will turn out on the route of the cortege to pay their respects to the soldier and show solidarity with his family.


Christmas approaches

Published 22 December 2012

With Christmas approaching I wanted to give a mention to the county council staff who will be working on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and inbetween.

While many of us enjoy a Bank Holiday break, carers and firefighters will be working around the clock and away from their families for at least some of the time. It is at this time of year in particular that it hits home about the breadth and scale of the services the county council provides.

This year of course we’re also all keeping a close eye on rainfall and the levels in our local rivers and streams. Hopefully we won’t experience anything like the situation here in Oxfordshire in late November. If we do our highways teams and emergency planners are on standby to help along with others across the council.

I hope all of those people find time to have peaceful and joyful moments with their families over Christmas. I’d also like to wish Merry Christmas to everybody in Oxfordshire.

Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year

Published 19 December 2012

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and prosperous new year. We know that 2013 will be another difficult year for local government in terms of finances but I want to assure you that we want to manage that as best we while protecting key services as much as we can.

At this time of year it is important to acknowledge the people who work for the county council on the big bank holidays like Christmas Day and Boxing Day. We’ll have social care workers on duty as well as fire-fighters and highways staff to make sure everybody, including vulnerable people, remained safe and cared for during the festive period.

As the new year starts, our teams across highways, social care, trading standards, fire and rescue, education, services for children and families, libraries and many others will once again be striving to deliver high quality public services for the people of Oxfordshire.

Feisty full council meeting

Published 12 December 2012

One of the most important aspects of being a County Councillor is the opportunity to meet and debate in the council chamber. The most recent was on December 11 and it was quite a feisty occasion!

The day started with public addresses to council, the first being about motorcycles in bus lanes the rest by young people with concerns about bus subsidies, road safety and the living wage. It was encouraging to see young people attending and speaking I would welcome should they return to the chamber.

The debates ranged over just about every aspect of our services from highways and social care to schools and bus services and there were some tough exchanges between councillors who have very differing but honestly held opinions.

One of our local journalists posted a tweet part way through the meeting saying: People of Oxford, if you've never been in to see a County Council meeting, you really should. Quite lively!”

It is welcome that a local journalist is encouraging people to attend.

An eye on the weather

Published 10 December 2012

We’re now a week and a half in to December and so far Winter has thrown a bit of everything at Oxfordshire.

First we had the high winds with our highways crews out in the middle of the night removing fallen trees from the roads. Then, of course, we had the flooding with several roads across the county having to close including some major ones like the Abingdon Road in Oxford.

Either side of the heavy duty wind and rain from the west we have had periods of calmer weather with cold temperatures that have meant the county council’s gritters have had to go out more often than not.

There was even one morning when we all woke up to a dusting of snow! It was nothing like the two major snowfalls Oxfordshire experienced in January and December 2010 but nonetheless it was noteworthy.

Our highways teams are on duty around the clock and our emergency planners are always ready to respond when the weather threatens to cause disruption in our county. Let’s hope there are no more problems in the winter of 2012/13.


Meeting flooding teams with local MP
Published 29 November 2012

With Oxford and parts of the wider county still very much on flood alert, I yesterday joined one of our local MPs, Nicola Blackwood, on a visit to our Fire Service headquarters in Kidlington, to see how the on-going joint response of the emergency services is being co-ordinated.

It’s really impressive to see a multi-agency response in full-flow, with all partners working 24/7 - from the decision-makers at the top, to the staff on the frontline.

A huge effort is being to protect vulnerable residents, and I would like to put on record my thanks to everyone involved. That includes our Fire Service, Thames Valley Police, the county council’s Highways team, our partners at the city and district councils, the Environment Agency, emergency planning officers and many others.

The recurring theme from what I’ve seen is the taking of proactive action to protect residents and just as importantly, providing the help and advice they need to protect themselves.

There is obviously a long way to go with water levels set to remain high for some time yet, and the potential for further problems to emerge.

Unfortunately we now have a cold snap set for the next few days which could present a new set of challenges. However, the forecast for the next couple of days does suggest drier conditions which is obviously good news.

Homecoming Parade
Published 28 November 2012

It was heart-warming to hear that the people of Abingdon turned out in force this week for the homecoming parade of 4 Logistic Support Regiment (4LSR).

I am acutely aware of our county’s strong links and associations with the military. The turnout for the parade shows yet again the unstinting support Oxfordshire people give for the Armed Forces.

These men and women deserve to know that we value them. My thanks to the people of Abingdon for making the effort to watch the parade and welcome the soldiers home.

A visit to Ardley
Published 22 November 2012

Leader of the Council, Councillor Ian Hudspeth

I yesterday visited the construction site for the planned Energy from Waste plant in Ardley in the north west of Oxfordshire. The plant will mean yet more waste can be diverted from landfill in a county that already has a very good track record in that area.

I look forward to Viridor, who will run the plant, completing the job and beginning to operate from the site.

The process to get to this stage has been a long one and it was a pleasing moment to see the ongoing work with my own eyes.

Diamonds and Blue Sapphires
Published 20 November 2012

We have all been aware that the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee this year and there were huge and enjoyable celebrations earlier in 2012, especially centred around the June Bank Holiday.

I’m sure I am not alone in being less aware until recently that this is the year that the Queen and Prince Philip celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary – known as a blue sapphire anniversary.

I am very much a supporter of the royal family and the celebration events in Oxfordshire back in the Summer proved that there are many more like me in our county.

I’m sure therefore I am not alone in wishing the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh a very happy Blue Sapphire anniversary.

Police and Crime Commissioners
Published 19 November 2012

After a long election campaign and much media coverage we now know that the Police and Crime Commissioner for our area of the country will be Anthony Stansfield.

The new commissioners will be responsible for appointing the chief constable of their force (Thames Valley Police in our case), setting out local policing priorities, reporting on progress each year, and setting out the force budget and community safety grants.

As a council that covers a big proportion of the Thames Valley area we obviously hope to work very closely with Mr Stansfield. We have dealings with Thames Valley Police at so many different levels on a day to day basis and the community relies on that relationship being a positive and productive one.

Jointly we can stand up for Oxfordshire’s interests and the interests of our communities moving forward in to what is a new era for the Police. The Government’s aim has always been to give local people more of a say in policing matters and I look forward to that happening as we look to the future.

Remembrance events
Published 09 November 2012

With Remembrance Weekend now almost upon us I thought I’d write briefly about the two events I am involved in this weekend.

The first was today at County Hall. An annual Remembrance event is always held in the Common Hall on 11 November or the closest working day to that date. That was today and as ever it was a sombre and fitting occasion with many members of staff no doubt thinking about their Parents, Grandparents or other relatives who have may have involved in any of the great conflicts of the 20th or early 21st centuries

The second will be at Woodstock on Sunday when I will be one of those privileged to lay a wreath in memory of those from my local part of Oxfordshire who gave their lives for their country.

With my part of the world being Winston Churchill’s former area and with Blenheim Palace being in the vicinity I always feel that there is a particular resonance about the event in Woodstock, albeit we are no more or less important than any similar event across the nation.

As ever, there will be men and women well in to their seventies or older who have first-hand memories of World War Two and there will be descendants of others representing Dads, Uncles, Brothers, Sisters, Aunts and Mothers who did their bit for King or Queen and country in times gone by.

It is those people whom we are honouring and it is those people who have a special and permanent part in the history of the United Kingdom.

With John Howell MP

Readathon 20th October 2012

I was delighted to take part in the Readathon at the Central Library on Saturday. The event was orgainised by the charity Assisted Reading for Children, ARCh, which places volunteers in 100 county primary schools to read with children.

The event aimed to encourage more children to read, this links well to the County Council's own major campaign to improve reading skills across the County.



Thursday’s Announcement on the Economy

Published 22 October 2012

There’s a key moment for the UK this week with an announcement due on Thursday (October 25) about the current performance of the economy.

There are hopes that the country will have re-entered growth, leaving behind the period of recession. It is in all of our interests that this is the case and that the growth is sustained over a long period.

Put in simple terms, growth leads to more revenue for central government, which gives it far more scope in terms of paying down the huge debt that the nation funds itself in.

Of course it is also great news for jobs and future prosperity. I hope that Thursday’s announcement is a positive one for the UK.

An Eventful Tuesday

Published 17 October 2012

I was privileged to attend the annual St Frideswide Service at Christ Church cathedral on Tuesday following on from a longer than usual cabinet meeting at the county council.

Having discussed and debated the Oxford University Hospitals Trust bid to become a Foundation Trust and park and ride charges for longer stay users at Thornhill it was on to Christ Church for the service.

At the event I was privileged to meet Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run the four minute mile and an Oxfordshire resident. I was also delighted to see the Marlborough School Choir from my part of Oxfordshire, Woodstock, performing at the service.

Despite the busy day, sporting matters were never far from my mind given that I am a close follower of the England football team. I returned home from Christ Church to observe the odd happenings in Warsaw with the downpour and the postponement of a match that could have been played under a roof.

All in all, quite an eventful Tuesday, October 16!

Scottish Independence

Published 15 October 2012

There is a lot of news this week about the setting up of the framework for the Scottish independence vote.

After a year in which it has felt wonderful to be British, I personally hope we can put this issue to bed once and for all. I find it very easy to be proud of being both English and British, and the British aspect of that came very much to the fore during the Jubilee celebrations and the Olympics.

Did I feel any less proud of the achievements of Chris Hoy and Andy Murray than I did of Jessica Ennis and Victoria Pendleton during London 2012? Of course not.

There’ll be a lot of debating to be done and arguments based on predicted economic outcomes. In the end it is my belief that the majority of Scottish people value being part of Britain as much as I do. The vote will either prove me right or wrong.

 Attending Conference

Published 09 October 2012

I am spending the first part of this week at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, the last in the major party conferences that always take place at this time of year.

Regardless of the party to which you belong, this is an opportunity to hear first-hand the national politicians who set the direction and policy of your political party. It is an all too rare chance to meet local councillors from all over the country to discuss and compare the many issues that affect us. It is also a chance to meet party officials and learn more about the party itself.

All political parties have various shades of opinion and it is often interesting to compare more right or left leaning trains of thought as well as listening to younger politicians alongside those who have been in the party for many years.

I am sure those who are actively interested in politics, regardless of their affiliation, would agree that this is one of the more interesting times of the year.

Educational Achievements

Published 05 October 2012

Early Autumn is always the time when Oxfordshire finds out how its young pupils had achieved at Key Stage One (five to seven year olds) and Key Stage Two (seven to 11 year olds).

The picture remains mixed although there has been tangible improvement on the 2011 results. In Key Stage Two in particular there has been a real increase in achievement. Key Stage One has also seen standards rise – though there is still room for improvement, particularly in Oxford. The city is no longer at the foot of league tables but it remains close to the bottom in reading, writing and maths.

My cabinet Colleague Cllr Melinda Tilley and officers in our education team have recently joined forces with the National Literacy Trust and the Oxford Mail newspaper to launch a huge reading campaign across the county, encouraging the people of Oxfordshire to volunteer and help their local school raise standards in reading. I commend that campaign to all and everyone.

We are at the start of a long journey in terms of educational standards in Oxfordshire. September saw us set off on that journey in a very positive way.

The Ryder Cup

Monday morning, October 1, started dark and drizzly – but many people would still have been in the afterglow of Europe’s Ryder Cup success as they made their way to work.

I was one of those who stayed up late to watch the conclusion to the golf and one of the most amazing comebacks ever seen in the sporting arena. The efforts of the 12 golfers in the European team were an inspiration to us all.

This year has been one that we will never forget in terms of sporting events. When the BBC holds its annual awards in December, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to choose the Sports Personality of the Year for 2012.

The Business Bank

Published 24 September 2012

I welcome the Government’s announcement that it is to create a business bank that will have the capacity to lend up to £1bn to small to medium sized businesses from national coffers.

Specific details are to be announced towards the end of 2012 and I look forward to learning more about what is planned.

I believe that people in Oxfordshire and across the UK have the desire and the entrepreneurial spirit to drive the UK’s economy forward. Access to the bank lending to give them the initial kick-start will in many cases be one of the few things stopping them.

This is good news and will contribute to what seems already to be an economic fightback in this country.

Another Repatriation

Published 21 September 2012

I was privileged to attend the repatriation of Private Thomas Wroe, Sergeant Gareth Thursby and Lance Corporal Duane Groom at RAF Brize Norton this week.

Many other people attended and I see that the Oxford Mail has printed an article quoting the parents of the soldiers saying that the ceremony and the attendance of local people and visitors does provide comfort.

I was moved by the passage of the cortege through the Memorial Garden. People have told me that attending several events never lessens this emotion.

While I know and understand why the Government and other nations have forces in Afghanistan, I equally hope that one day the Memorial Bell at Norton Way can fall silent.

Mixed feelings centred on New York

Published 14 September 2012

Tuesday this week brought a mixture of feelings as regards a city that is distant from Oxfordshire but one of the greatest and most famous in the world – New York.

Andy Murray’s triumph in the US Open tennis at Flushing Meadows in New York was significant in that it was the first major won by a British male for 76 years. It has rightly been celebrated and lauded in the media.

Those who didn’t stay up to watch Murray’s moment of triumph awoke to the news on September 11 – a date will resonate deep in the memory banks of the human race for decades to come after events in New York on that day in 2001.

We’re now 11 years on from events that day but I still certainly remember them in great detail, as I do the bombing in London in July 2005.

A year ago this week
Published 07 September 2012

It is a year ago this week that repatriations came back to Oxfordshire following their time at RAF Lyneham, with the public paying their respects at Wootton Bassett.

The Wootton Bassett events had become recognised across the country and this time last year people in Oxfordshire were hoping they could live up to what had happened in Wiltshire

A year on and Oxfordshire has its own ceremony and routine at the Memorial Garden in Carterton. Sadly the last twelve months have seen many military personnel repatriated at RAF Brize Norton and applauded through the Memorial Garden.

Let us hope that it will one day become possible for these ceremonies to come to a close. As long as they are performed, I am sure the people of Oxfordshire and visitors from other parts of the country will pay their solemn respects at the Memorial Garden and various other parts of the route to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

The Parade for Equality

I was honoured to be asked to speak at the start of ‘The Parade for Equality’ on Sunday morning organised by Oxford Unlimited. The event was held at the Iffley Road sports track that is always linked to Sir Roger Bannister and the four minute mile.

This reminded me of the fantastic achievements of Team GB at the Olympics and now we are experiencing the Paralympics. The success we are seeing at this event will raise the awareness of disabilities, by changing the way we think about them.I do not see a disabled swimmer, what I see is a fantastic swim by Ellie Simmonds, collecting yet another gold medal. Likewise in cycling I was not thinking about Sarah Storey’s disability rather her tremendous victory.On Saturday Richard Whitehead not only blew away the opposition in the 200m he blew away any stereotypical thoughts about disabled people.

We must build upon these games to reduce inequality in society.

The Drama of a Reshuffle

There can be little doubt that politicians engender strong opinions - both in terms of their policies and in terms of their profession as a whole!

I am of course a politician myself, and as one who resides in the current Prime-Minister's area of the country, I have to admit I am not sitting by the phone this morning!

However when we are on the brink of that very British political tradition the cabinet reshuffle, it doesn't matter whether you are a politician, a firefighter, a bus driver or nurse. We're all the same thing when it comes to watching the ministers pass in and out of Downing Street to hear their fate - spectators.

I concede that some might be reluctant spectators! Not everybody is as intrigued by the impending changes as I am and won't show reluctance in switching off the TV news!

However, whether you're interested in politics or not, nobody can deny that a cabinet reshuffle brings drama with only one aim in mind; to have the best team to govern the country. I look forward to seeing what Prime Minister Cameron is about to deliver!

The Chancellor and the Prime-Minister

After having written a couple of blogs recently about the economy and the big debate about how to bring Britain back to growth, I was delighted to see the Chancellor setting out his plans on the Andrew Marr show.

This came after the Prime Minister had promised fighting spirit so as to engender the economic growth necessary to lift the nation out of recession.

Announcements containing more detail are promised later in September and I look forward to those a great deal. In terms of wealth and prosperity it is in the interests of every single person in this country that our economy begins to grow.

The Paralympics

The Paralympics start this week and provide an exciting and inspirational end to a Summer that will be long remembered by the people of Great Britain.

The nation’s economic troubles are still with us but the sport has provided a fantastic diversion. I’m looking forward to the Paralympics a great deal and I’m sure they’ll be every bit as entertaining as the Olympics.

Meanwhile, locally, Oxford United have had three straight wins to start their league season and sit proudly at the top of the league. Let’s hope they can sustain this form throughout the Autumn and Winter. The club's efforts so far have certainly put a smile on the faces of many people in Oxfordshire. They have an exciting fixture this week in the League Cup at Leeds United and I wish them well in that.

A Level results day

August is the time of year when people go on holiday and enjoy a more relaxing time. However for some of our younger people it’s a time of anxiety leading to great relief and joy or sadness.
 I am of course referring to those fateful Thursdays when A-level and GCSE results are discovered by school pupils who are completing their days at secondary school or sixth form.  Today is A-levels day, a pivotal day in the lives of our 18 year olds. Results gained determine whether someone can go on to university and if so whether they have the grades for the specific course they’d wanted.

Then of course in September and October life takes on a whole new complexion when the sixth form student often leaves home and goes to a completely new town or city to undertake a degree.
 The message to those who have done well is congratulations and well done. To those who have not done as well as they have liked I’d say don’t give up, take some advice and try again.  

As the county councillor with Marlborough School in his division I’d particularly like to say well done to the student has achieved four A*-A grades As a parent myself I know how lots of Oxfordshire mums and dads will be feeling today.

There’s a strange mixture of pride and anxiety. These middle Thursdays in August are life-changing days for many!

Good luck to Oxford United

The Olympics has filled our lives for the last couple of weeks. That has applied even to those who don’t usually become pre-occupied with sporting matters.

For those of us who enjoy most sports, the sense of loss resulting from the end of the Olympics will be at least partially compensated by the onset of the football season. Locally, Oxford United kick off their campaign with a League Cup tie against Bournemouth tonight and then a tough trip to Bristol Rovers to begin the League Two campaign.

While I’m sure all United fans would be delighted with a win against Bournemouth and the chance to have a crack at one of the Premier league giants, the real focus will be on the league campaign and the drive to get out of League Two.

I remember writing a blog shortly after I became leader of the county council, which was at roughly the same time as the end of the domestic football season. In it, I said that Oxford United’s natural place in English football’s pecking order was above the fourth tier and it would be good to see our county’s only football league club playing above that level for the first time in a decade.

Here’s hoping the year ahead will see Oxford United at the top of the table, culminating in promotion next May. Best wishes also to all of our local non-league sides at the start of the new campaign.

Smiling and proud to be British

I would like to congratulate all the athletes who took part in the games and made it the most successful of modern times for team GB.

I would also say that the organisation and running of the event was fantastic proving that we could host a global event. The feeling in the country and especially London has been fantastic with everybody smiling and being proud to be British. I for one want to see this continue.

It was only just over a year ago the country suffered from riots now look where we are. It’s a great shame that the economy of the country will not similarly be transformed in the next 12 months. We all know we have a massive debt crisis and until we get that under control we cannot move forward. We simply cannot borrow more and more otherwise we will end up like Greece.

One of the lasting memories of the Games for me will be the volunteers who helped to make them such a success many of them were volunteering for the first time and have had a wonderful experience. Perhaps now is the time for them to see if they are able to help by volunteering in their local community. I certainly find it rewarding.


I’ve just been to the Museum of Oxfordshire in Woodstock to get some training to become a regular volunteer.

You may think I’m biased as I live nearby, but I do honestly think that the museum is fantastic.

It is in the enviable position of being right in the centre of Woodstock and just a minute or two away from Blenheim Palace, meaning that it can easily be included in a great day out, where it scores over other museums, is that its focus on Oxfordshire life is second to none. It also has a café serving tasty snacks that can be eaten in the gardens - but beware of the dinosaurs.

In recent years there has been much talk about the Big Society and local people getting more involved in community life. This is something I believe in and so I’ve taken the plunge.

Volunteering isn’t a new thing. Many charities get so much from the passion and commitment of their volunteers and council services too have for many years been enhanced by local people getting involved.

Time will tell how well I do as a volunteer – I hope I fit in and am able to do just as good a job as the others. I’ll keep you posted on how I get on.

In the meantime, why not go along there yourself? It’s free to get in and, at the moment, there’s a fascinating exhibition about hats and shoes from throughout Oxfordshire’s history…
here’s a taster of some of the things you will see.

Olympics are here at last.

Published 26 July 2012

All the build-up, all the conversations, all the anticipation and all the speculation will begin to draw to a close when the opening ceremony of the Olympics takes place.

I recall vividly the day London was awarded the games back in 2005 in a warm summer of mixed emotions when the England cricket team regained the Ashes from the Australians after so many years and we saw the horrors of the July 7 bombings in our capital.

The journey from then to now has been a long one and it is a marvellous feeling for the country to be on the threshold of such a landmark moment in all of our lives.

Quite apart from the sporting highs and lows that lie before us, I hope that the nation as a whole gets a much needed economic boost from the games, specifically the South East of England including Oxfordshire.

Perhaps there'll be a few people who come to our corner of England for the first time as a result of the Olympics and I'm quite sure they'll fall in love with the place as many have before them.

Leader's Blog: tourism at home

Published 22 July 2012

With the sunshine finally out and the school holidays upon us, it finally feels like summer in Oxfordshire.

The gardens at Blenheim, photo by Counillor Ian Hudspeth

The other day I took a photograph across the estate at Blenheim. You can't go wrong at Blenheim for photographic opportunities but this photo in particular turned out very well capturing as it did a sunny day and a perfect view.

Its easy to forget as we go about our day to day work how blessed we are in Oxfordshire. We live in a county were wonderful views are never very far away. We have the Cotswolds and the Chilterns and the Vale of White Horse area and of course the city of Oxford itself.

I am very lucky to represent the county council in Woodstock which is as English a settlement as you could possibly imagine.

Now's the time of year to be enjoying what we have on our doorstep and be tourists at home. I'll certainly be endeavouring to do just that.

Good news on the railways

Published 17 July 2012

It was a fantastic start to the week yesterday to hear about the Government’s intentions for improvements to the railways in Oxfordshire.

Some of what was announced had been in the public domain for some time. However some was new, and in particular the planned investment to Oxford Railway Station will be music to the ears of many.

There is little detail as yet as to precisely what is planned and I look forward to hearing about what will be proposed. A lot of people have worked very hard at the county council and its partner organisations over the years to convince Whitehall and the rail industry that Oxford Station should be a priority.

It will be some time before work begins and I am guessing the job itself will be a fairly lengthy one. For the time being we will be working with what we’ve got at Oxford Station. However we now have something tangible and substantial to which to look forward.