BicesterVision (www.bicestervision.co.uk) are not local opticians. This is how they describe themselves on their website:
"Bicester Vision is an unique partnership
bringing together local Businesses
and Authorities in a way that does not
Bicester Vision comprises several member groups; local authorities including Oxfordshire County Council, Cherwell District Council, Bicester Town Council, Ministry of Defence, Bicester Chamber of
Commerce from the public sector and many businesses. Their website contains a list of their members but reading the Annual Report I suspect that it is now a little out of date. The
purpose of Bicester Vision is to bring together the official bodies and local businesses and employers so that they can work more closely. Effectively they provide a forum for local
businesses and our councils to talk. You could describe them as technically political lobbyists.
Seems a good idea? Well in essence it does however if you look a little deeper you might start to ask, as we did;
Of the business members, few of them could be described as 'large, local employers'. Secondly and possibly more worryingly NINE members represent the property development groups building those 13,000 new homes, i.e. they profit from it. They are A2Dominion, Countryside Properties, Dorchester Properties, Heyford Park, Hill Street Holdings, London & Metropolitan, P3Eco, Stockdale Land and ZiranLand (Source: Annual Report 13/14).
So in simplistic terms, the people who stand to profit the most are lobbying our decision makers to make the decisions they want which profit them the most. Is this a conflict of
interest? Probably and just to make matters worse, you as a taxpayer are paying for the majority of it.
Is this fair? 7 public bodies (including Cooper School, Bicester) provide 52% of BicesterVision income, yet 22 private bodies (including eight property companies) only pay 48% yet they stand to profit the most from this 'unique partnership'. Why not ask Bicester Town Councillor Richard Mould who represents the council at BicesterVision.
Now if suddenly you are starting to feel that as a resident of Bicester you are just along for the ride as property developers grease the wheels of bureaucracy to maximise their profit and ruin our town in the process then hang on just a moment because there is more.
You are actually paying for this! For the honour of being a be part of Bicester Vision, Cherwell District Council pay £15,000 per year and Bicester Town Council pay £5,000. From Bicester Vision's accounts we know that in FY13/14 they received £40,650 from 7 public bodies all provided from taxpayer funds (average £5,807 per member). Whereas their 22 commercial members including the property development companies that stand to profit the most only contributed only £38,000 (average £1,727 each).
This graph visually illustrates the huge disparity between the Bicester Vision membership fees between public bodies (£5,807)
and private sector companies (£1,727). Many of those private sector bodies are non-local property development companies who will benefit from the 13,000 homes to be built. Bicester
Vision is majority funded by the taxpayer. Why are we paying to be lobbied by those companies who will profit whilst we face the consequences of the traffic
More worryingly, Bicester Town Council gleefully hands over their £5,000 per annum but does not stipulate how the money should be spent or set any achievements/goals. This at a time when
Council openly admits that it's allocated budget for maintaining the play areas around town has been exhausted. We suspect the same is true for Cherwell District and Oxfordshire County
If this is leaving a bad taste in your mouth, you will be even more shocked to learn that Bicester Vision actually charge Cooper School to be a member. It may be a token £150 per annum but that money could be better used investing in our children's future's not a talking shop with transient property speculators.
Despite having property developers on board who stand to make millions from selling the land around this town, Bicester Vision is happy to take money from our children's education budget.
It maybe a token amount but equally Bicester Vision could make a token gesture and give both secondary schools a seat at the table.
At a Bicester Town Council Finance Committee meeting on 30th March, Bicester Traffic Action Group raised this issue. Although Councillor Richard Mould (BTC & CDC, Con) who represents
BTC on Bicester Vision's board, no councillor present could name a single success Bicester Vision had achieved. Several councillors were however openly dubious of the merits of Bicester
Vision and the value the council was obtaining for taxpayer's money.
So you, me and all the other taxpayers are paying the majority of the costs for your councillors to be lobbied by property developers? All this is in a time of public service cuts. Crazy? We think so! Join our campaign.
They all are for not asking the questions we are! However these three gentlemen are probably most culpable as they are the individuals who actually attend Bicester Vision meetings. It is their seats at the Bicester Vision table we as taxpayers are directly financing, so they must know the answers. Email them and ask!
Dear Councillor NAME
As a resident of TOWN/VILLAGE, a council tax payer and a tax payer I would like you to answer the following questions regarding Bicester Vision;