Oxfordshire County Council has announced a proposal to create a single unitary authority for Oxfordshire in place of the current district/county council structure.
The proposal was originally opposed by all of Oxfordshire’s city and district councils, including Cherwell. However on Monday South Oxfordshire District Council and the Vale of White Horse District Council announced they are now in support of the county council’s proposal for a single unitary authority and will be working with them to develop a submission to Government.
Cherwell, West Oxfordshire District Council and Oxford City Council all remain opposed to the proposal for reasons including (but not limited to):
· Council tax will increase for residents if a unitary council were to be introduced to cover the costs of implementation.
· For years Oxfordshire County Council has increased its share of council tax whilst reducing services meaning residents pay more for less.
· On the other hand Cherwell has frozen its share of council tax for the past seven years without reducing services. When taking into account inflation, residents now pay less for more from Cherwell.
· Oxfordshire County Council’s previous poor performance in managing budgets and delivering services has led to cuts in services such as children’s centres and buses which have a particular impact on the most vulnerable members of society.
· Cherwell is a strongly performing council which has repeatedly intervened where the county council has failed – this option would be lost if a unitary model were to be introduced.
· Cherwell has taken innovative steps to generate income to address reductions in Government funding. These include the Build! project and Graven Hill Village Development Company.
· The predicted savings cannot be guaranteed. There is also no reference to increasing service provision to residents implying the only options will be reductions or maintaining the status quo.
· Cherwell has supported the growth of a strong economy; the district’s unemployment figures are the lowest on record (less than 300) and the total amount paid in business rates is the highest for all of Oxfordshire.
· Local issues which are of huge importance to the local community, such as protecting the Horton General Hospital, will be diluted amongst the county’s wider issues and considered a distant problem to a city-based unitary authority.
· A single point of contact will be a single point of failure. CDC is a successful council; it does not fail.
I have issued a press release to the media confirming the authority’s opposition to the proposals which can be read on Cherwell’s website.
Daily messages will also be posted on Cherwell’s Facebook page which I would encourage you to view and share.
Oxfordshire County Council is currently collecting feedback on the proposal for a single county unitary authority. CDC is encouraging stakeholders to take part in the survey and reject the plans to help protect the future of Cherwell and other district councils in Oxfordshire.
The survey is available to complete until 28 February by clicking here.
I will continue to keep you informed of information as it becomes available. In the meantime I can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr Barry Wood
Leader of Cherwell District Council