Jayne woodley

I disagree: there is an affordable housing crisis

A few weeks ago I promised to share some thoughts on something that had left me feeling somewhat conflicted, yet the fact that I am only now putting it out there must say a lot about the general state we find ourselves in as a society – to disagree these days seems to take a huge amount of time and effort.

However, as someone who has always felt compelled to amplify the voices of those who get drowned out or even worse those who are never given the same opportunity to be listened to, I am always hyper alert to the language used by others or the subtlety of words chosen to deliver an impact grabbing headline.

Thus my objection with the rider Crisis? What crisis? for the press release following a debate I attended at Blenheim Palace, organised by Oxfordshire Voice. The topic being discussed was the lack of affordable housing and whether or what impact this is having on economic growth in the county.

As always happens it is very difficult to understand things you haven’t personally experienced and even worse when everyone in the room is not starting from the same place in terms of knowledge. So it’s also easy for the loudest voices to want to rush to a solution rather than realise they have two ears and one mouth and society might become a lot better if only we listened ever more attentively to what the silent majority might be wanting to say. I think they would be unanimous in their opinion that there is most definitely an affordable housing crisis.

I am very supportive of what Oxfordshire Voice is aspiring to achieve yet the voice of business is not the only one that needs to be heard especially when the topics being discussed affect so many who would not necessarily see themselves as natural bedfellows with business. Therefore, I would suggest that Oxfordshire Voice will have the greatest impact when it reaches out with open arms to welcome more of those with quite different opinions and ideas into its discussions in future.

As I mentioned in January at the Blavatnik launch event, the social challenges we face today need a totally different approach and will require us all to pool our collective knowledge and resources to solve them. Perhaps, I am being naive but this is still something I would really like Oxfordshire Voice to embrace. It is also why I have agreed to add my support and help to make it a powerful and influential force that could set it apart from all the many other networking groups out there.

What I would like to believe the press release was attempting to do was highlight that whilst there is a huge amount already happening almost no one has a good overview of what that is or how they might find out about it.

Furthermore, there are many existing and community led solutions that could benefit from our support, enabling them to scale up. It is obvious to me that these have the potential to make a tangible difference right now as opposed to accepting the status quo and deciding to wait it out for the delivery of the Growth Fund or depend on those with the loudest voices making plans on our behalf.

I believe as humans we thrive best when we can interact with each other and by making connections with those we wouldn’t typically meet we also create opportunities to hone our skills by learning to disagree and become more open-minded to change.

Hence the quote below ‘It is only when we can understand different viewpoints, disagree well and find common ground that communities can move closer and grow stronger’…. more meaningful lives for ourselves as well as a greater common good.

Jayne Woodley – Oxfordshire Community Foundation

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OV – giving you a voice

We want YOU to share your news, your concerns, your issues with Oxfordshire Voice
 
It’s as easy as 1,  2, 3
 
1, Take out your phone making sure you’re in a well lit environment. Composition is king so make sure your whole face is on screen, engage with the audience. Not too much noise is essential, unless you’re shooting out and about at the heart of an issue.
 
2, Shoot a video of yourself in landscape only please. Portrait is a no go.
 
3, Once shot, share the video over email, or if too big for email, send via WhatsApp, Dropbox or We Transfer.
 
If you don’t have a very good phone, ask a colleague, friend of family member. If you are talking about a specific issue, make sure to include some relevant footage if possible.
 
If you aren’t confident doing this yourself, we’ll be going out into the field once a week and will be pleased to consider shooting your video for you.
 
Once the footage is with us, our videographer, Rob, will shape your video into a format ready to be shared with Oxfordshire.
 
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Rob at rob@b4-business.com

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Oxfordshire Voice – Off to a flying start, but lots more to be done

It’s been an encouraging first five months for Oxfordshire Voice. Here’s a ‘whistle-stop’ tour of what we’ve done and what we have in store:

THE FIRST FOUR FORUMS

Connectivity; Skills; Housing; Business Solutions

• October – UNIPART: Meeting the connectivity challenges in the digital age
• November – PEMBROKE COLLEGE: Developing and holding on to our multi-skilled workforce
• January – BLENHEIM: Solving the housing shortage
• February – ST CATHERINE’S COLLEGE: Learning from current successful business solutions

Each forum had its own identity and the level of participation from all attendees was really impressive, demonstrating a real desire to collaborate to meet the challenges we face. Each forum agreed outcomes and goals we need to achieve. Thank you to all of our hosts, panellists and participants.

UPCOMING FORUMS

Infrastructure; Apprenticeships; Transport; 

• March – WESTON LIBRARY: Space to Expand: What infrastructure is in place for Oxfordshire businesses to grow? How can more space be created? What are the options open to Oxfordshire businesses, new and established, to help them expand in the future?

• April – BROOKES: The Apprentice Levy: How apprenticeships are working, common issues and pitfalls and ways of making them work, and whether or not there is a county-wide underspend?

• May – PEMBROKE COLLAGE:  Transport: How are we aiming to improve access within and to Oxfordshire?

FUTURE FORUMS

Our recent OV ‘Think Tank’ came up with some excellent suggestions for future topics and these will be posted on the OV website shortly.  If you have suggestions for topics or panellists, please get in touch to make your recommendation:

The Office of the Future – How is business becoming more agile?
Higher Education – How it could better prepare the next generation for working life
Homelessness in Oxfordshire – Often the unspoken challenge we face. We seek solutions
Retail Summit – Are we facing a crisis in our retail sector – How can we help?

INCLUSIVITY AND DIVERSITY

OV is designed to be inclusive. It is here for all organisations whatever their shape and size: big or small, new or established.  We are also determined to include independent concerns, charities, social enterprises and not for profit groups. Oxford is a multi-dimensional and vibrant economy, community and society – we want OV to reflect that diversity. Step forward… we are here for you.

PARTNERS

Thank you to more than fifty OV Partners who have already shown their commitment to this exciting and growing collaborative partnership. We are talking to a host of potential partners about joining OV and hope to reach our target of 100 partners by 6th June at BIO2019 where OV will feature as a major stream at this annual event (MINI Plant Oxford – see www.businessinoxford.com for more details).

Your help is needed to help us spread the word about OV so please do introduce us to anyone you think will be a suitable partner. We’re looking for any Oxfordshire businesses who are keen to get involved in helping us to make Oxfordshire an even better place in which businesses can thrive.

ONE VOICE & YOUR VIEWS

Communication is at the heart of what we do. We’ve seen a lot of OV Partner debate on LinkedIn about how we should be speaking with one voice as loudly as possible in order to be heard. We will be in touch with OV Partners to help you help us to get our message out there through your social media and other messaging platforms. This is about spreading the word about our growing partnership so we can reach even more Oxfordshire businesses. Again, your feedback and ideas are so important.

BLUE PAPER

We are currently working on our first Blue Paper. This is the Partners’ opportunity to get their comments included in a comprehensive round-up of the work we are doing, our achievements and the work we all need to be doing.

If there is anything that you would like to include on any of the subjects we have covered to date including views, plans or suggested solutions, please send through to the OV team.

VIDEO

Our recent Housing Crisis video – written and produced by Rob Scotcher has so far had 1,500 views. We’re currently planning the next documentary but want to post at least one mini video a week to highlight the challenges and possible solutions surrounding the key issues we are tackling.

If you are an OV Partner and would like to highlight an issue or a solution you have employed in your organisation, please do let us know. We have allocated time to either shoot the mini films ourselves or take your footage and edit it into a small, circa 90 second video.

If you would like to have your say as a Partner or become a Partner and have your say, please do get in touch. We want to hear your thoughts to help us make OV a representative organisation for everyone and we can only do that with your help and support.

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Post Brexit Oxfordshire

A post-brexit economy: Oxfordshire businesses remain ‘unclear’ on what EU withdrawal will bring

A joint-OxLEP and ‘Oxfordshire Voice’ survey reveals Brexit uncertainty across many of the county’s businesses.

Just weeks ahead of the UK’s scheduled European Union withdrawal, members of one of Oxfordshire’s best-known business networking groups appear to be unclear as to what Brexit might mean to them – that’s according to a new survey.

The survey – jointly-led by the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) and B4’s ‘Oxfordshire Voice’ – saw members of B4 respond to a series of Brexit-related statements.

In it, survey respondents stated whether they agreed or disagreed with statements, covering several Brexit topics including; if leaving the EU was good for their business, whether or not Government had been communicating effectively with business on Brexit matters, as well as what Brexit might mean for future recruitment plans.

Only 13 per cent of respondents felt that their business would be better-off as a direct consequence of the UK’s EU withdrawal, with over two-thirds (71 per cent) disagreeing, saying that the move would not benefit their business.

Regarding the Prime Minister Theresa May’s initial EU withdrawal deal proposal – which was defeated in Parliament on 15 January – just 15 per cent agreed that the proposal would be a good deal for their own business. Over half (55 per cent) disagreed.

When asked if Mrs May’s initial deal would be good for UK business as a whole, 19 per cent agreed that it would be positive with close to two-thirds disagreeing (61 per cent).

A high-proportion of businesses surveyed were also critical of the level of Brexit information received directly from Government.

Just six per cent said their business had received the right level of information regarding what action to take as a consequence of the EU withdrawal – almost three quarters (71 per cent) disagreed.

Almost eight out of 10 (78 per cent) believed that the Prime Minister’s defeated EU withdrawal deal had not been presented in an effective manner, with just eight per cent believing that it had.

However, a third of respondents (35 per cent) did add that should no EU withdrawal deal be struck by the Government, that they felt prepared as a business – though 41 per cent didn’t agree with this view.

Perhaps surprisingly, only one in five respondents (20 per cent) felt that Oxfordshire is well-set to cope with the EU withdrawal, whatever deal ends-up being struck – despite being just one of just three net County areas that contribute to the exchequer with a GVA of £23bn a year – with just over half of those who responded (53 per cent) disagreeing.

Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive of OxLEP, said: “As discussions on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union continue at a pace – as a Local Enterprise Partnership – it is important that we ‘temperature test’ our business community and relay their views to Government.

“Clearly, some of our business community have genuine concerns across several areas of the negotiations and reassurance is needed.

“Oxfordshire’s economy is undoubtedly a strong and adaptable one. We have an excellent record of supporting small businesses to survive beyond five years and it was recently-announced that 50,000 new jobs have been created in the county between 2012 and 2017.

“We believe business in Oxfordshire can continue to thrive post-Brexit, on both a national and international scale.”

In addition, those who took part in the survey were generally undecided as to whether Brexit would alter the make-up of workforces, as well as the ability to recruit quality staff.

A total of 30 per cent of respondents agreed that the make-up of their workforce would change as a direct consequence of the UK’s EU withdrawal, with 38 per cent disagreeing – meanwhile, 38 per cent also felt they would find it harder to recruit the right calibre of staff as a direct consequence of the UK’s EU withdrawal, with 32 per cent disagreeing.

Richard Rosser – Chief Executive of B4, the organisation which leads Oxfordshire Voice – added: “The survey findings reflect the general disarray which prevails. Following recession and the protracted Brexit ‘era’, the only certainty that the business community can rely on is that there will always be uncertainty and Brexit is proving to be the mother ship of all uncertainty at present.

“It’s great to see an element of the business community feeling positive about the future of the local economy, however, there will always be a cautious approach from a sizeable group which will act as a natural brake to growth.

“We’re seeing decision-making on orders in many businesses we deal with taking longer and this breeds even more uncertainty. The key areas of concern, which we are addressing through Oxfordshire Voice, notably skills, housing, transport and social / environmental issues, will still be here irrespective of what course the country takes, so, either way, my personal view is that whatever happens, solving the key challenges on our doorstep has to be our focus.”

For more information – including the latest Government advice on Brexit – go to: www.oxfordshirelep.com/brexit.

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Oxfordshire Voice Housing Forum

Business Leaders and Town Planners Launch Initiative to Tell More Home Truths about Housing

Crisis? What crisis?

When it comes to housing Oxfordshire’s workforce that’s the new message from a cross-section of the county’s planning and business community.

They say there are many serious issues facing the region and the shortfall in the number of affordable homes for its workforce is the most pressing.

But, they also say a negative perception over the way the issues are being handled is overshadowing the far brighter reality and discouraging thousands of much-needed employees from coming to live and work in Oxfordshire.

Now, town planners, elected officials and the business community are coming together on a mission to explain the real issues facing the county and its housing problems and what is being done to address them.

Through the Oxfordshire Voice organisation (oxvoice.co.uk) they have launched an initiative to ensure the public get a much clearer and more accurate picture of what is being done to solve the housing shortage facing the country.

Nigel Tipple – Chief Executive of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) said: “We are recognised globally as a place that can support innovation-led growth, greater productivity and major ‘place potential’ as we move towards an ever-increasing internationally-focussed economy – and with a GVA of £23billion per annum – we are one of only three net county contributors to the Exchequer.

“We also have a track record of nurturing genuine innovation and taking it to a world-stage, whilst – between 2012 and 2017 – we have seen a total of 50,000 new jobs created in the county.

“With this demand, it’s really important that – as a county – we create forums for discussion between business, local authorities and property developers to improve the diversity and availability of quality housing for our communities.”

This misconception was highlighted in a recent Oxfordshire Voice survey which found more than nine out of ten (95%) business people in the county think there is a looming housing crisis and a lack of vision and management skills amongst planning organisations to address it.

However, at the Oxfordshire Voice forum, it was agreed this widespread misconception needed to be addressed to set the record straight and provide people with easy to access information on what housing options are available now and in the future.

That forum was held at Blenheim Palace – which is also undertaking a multi-million-pound community and house building scheme.

“Oxfordshire needs more affordable homes for our children and grandchildren and if we are to attract and retain teachers and nurses for our schools and hospitals. The market alone cannot be relied upon to do that so the challenge for Oxfordshire is how public, private and third sector partners can work together to influence the market.” says Paul Staines from the Oxfordshire Growth Board.

Bob Price – former city council Leader – reinforced the Growth Board claims. He says of the hundred thousand new homes already designated, 19,000 have already been built. The rate of new home construction has accelerated substantially in the past three years in line with the Housing and Growth Deal.

“To meet the 102,000 figure, we need an improvement in construction industry capabilities – skilled workers, capital investment and material supplies,” he says.

The waiting lists for social housing across the county add up to around 10,000 families. This highlights the need for a massive increase in the supply of social homes for rent.

Jayne Woodley of Oxfordshire Community Foundation agrees: “The real issue should not be between social and affordable,” she says. “Affordable housing should mean affordable housing. That’s a range of homes which are affordable to everyone who needs to put a roof over their head.”

“There are a host of very attractive and workable schemes in place already which will meet many of the housing demands for people working in the county – whatever their income,” says Simon Howson-Green from Oxfordshire Voice. “We are now working together under the Oxfordshire Voice banner to make sure people know this.”

The OV forum debated the pros and cons of releasing some green belt land to create more homes and build communities. The hundreds of acres of brownfield land which is currently laying fallow were also discussed.  Bringing the cost not housing down to suit everyone pocket is dependent on finding more land on which to build.

“Oxfordshire faces a real challenge in delivering 100,000 houses in the period to 2031, however, the unique mix of land ownership where many of the landowners have very long term roots in the area including Blenheim and the Oxford Colleges does present an opportunity to do things differently and create a long term positive legacy for both themselves and the county,” says Roger File of Blenheim Palace.

The forum concluded the problem is one of perception. Companies are desperate to bring workers into Oxfordshire. It’s a thriving business community with huge potential. But the failure to inform people of home building plans in the pipeline or the range of ownership and rental schemes available is persuading potential workers to strike Oxfordshire off their wish list of places to live and work before they know the facts.

“You can sum up the communication problem like this,” says Kate Faulkner – a property expert in the private sector.

“Employers offer people a job and before anyone agrees to an interview, they log on to Rightmove. This gives a very skewed snapshot of the housing market and gives the impression that buying a home here is beyond most people’s reach.”

“We need a far more effective approach to telling the housing story and letting people see the range of buying and renting options available.” says Richard Rosser of Oxfordshire Voice “That’s where this initiative with Oxfordshire Voice comes in.”

Upcoming Oxfordshire Voice Events

Connectivity Conference at Unipart House (Open to all)
Date: 15th February 2019
Tickets: https://ov-connectivity.eventbrite.co.uk

OV Forum at St Catherine’s College (Open to OV Partners only)
Date: 21st February 2019
Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/february-oxfordshire-voice-forum-tickets-52255260892

More about the Oxfordshire Voice forum:

See also links below to pictures and footage from the Oxfordshire Voice forum:
Housing Documentary: https://youtu.be/IKO5FcdUUrc
Photos: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmzYngb4

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