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Homes, schools and shops top priority, says city council leader
GETTING up to 1,200 new homes built on land next to Oxford’s ring road and improving education are key priorities for the city’s ruling Labour council.
Leader Bob Price outlined his priorities for the next two years after the Labour group strengthened its grip on the Town Hall at the local election on May 3.
It now has 29 councillors on the 48-seat authority.
Building the new homes, improving school pupils’ exam results and moving forward with plans to improve the West End, including the Westgate shopping centre redevelopment, are three key priorities, said Mr Price.
He said the Labour group wanted to ensure that new facilities built with new homes at West Barton, including a new primary school, complemented existing community facilities on the neighbouring Barton estate.
He said: “The new estate will need a new primary school because of its size and it is likely to be an academy-type operation.
“Whatever goes on the new estate will have to work closely with the lively community centre and sports and social club on the Barton estate.”
An examination-in-public on the Barton Area Action Plan will take place at the Town Hall from July 16-20.
Mr Price remains as Labour group leader after the group’s annual general meeting on Thursday, with Ed Turner remaining as his deputy.
But three changes were made to the city executive board.
Scott Seamons replaces Joe McManners, who held the housing portfolio, Steve Curran replaces Antonia Bance for stronger communities, while Bob Timbs, who stood down as a councillor, is replaced by Dee Sinclair on crime and community safety.
Mr Price added that improving the educational attainment of the city’s primary school pupils is another key priority, Last year’s Key Stage One results for seven-year-olds were lower in Oxford City Council’s boundaries than anywhere else in England.
Mr Price said the city council would invest £400,000 a year over the next four years in a joint project with the county council designed to improve results.
He added: “Education is a county council responsibility, but we feel very concerned about low educational attainment and its effect on employability.
“Young people will need a relatively high level of attainment if they are going to go in for jobs at science parks and business parks.”
He added that he was confident that plans to revamp the Westgate Centre would go ahead, with the refurbished shopping centre opening in 2017.
He said: “Crown Estates are working hard on these proposals which would bring in a John Lewis store, and with the electrification of the railways, due to take place between 2014 and 2016, there is a real opportunity to transform the whole West End.”
The Liberal Democrats now have 13 seats on the council, while the Greens have five and there is one Independent.