Unitary plan to be sent to government

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council NNL-150411-132839001
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council NNL-150411-132839001
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A proposal to abolish the existing councils in Oxfordshire and replace it with a unitary authority will be submitted to central government.

The vision, called A New Council for a Better Oxfordshire, was approved at Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

The document is a result of joint working between OCC, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils. It will now be submitted to the secretary of state for communities and local government, Sajid Javid.

The proposals include the creation of between 15 and 20 local area boards which will cover market towns and surrounding rural areas with budgets and the ability to make local decisions.

OCC leader Ian Hudspeth, said: “This is a hugely important decision that reflects the shared view the Better Oxfordshire proposal offers the best way to improve services and get the investment in roads and infrastructure that Oxfordshire urgently needs.

“A year ago all six councils in Oxfordshire agreed on the need for change. Since then, we have looked at all the options and concluded that a single unitary council is the best form of local government for Oxfordshire.

“In contrast, choosing the status quo is a decision with real downsides. It means continuing to spend money on running six councils, rather than improving council services – which is what the vast majority of residents want. In agreeing the revised Better Oxfordshire proposal, we are now showing that change is possible, as well as necessary.”

Recommendations agreed by cabinet also include asking officers to seek local support, respond to any subsequent consultation by the secretary of state and create as soon as possible a joint committee to develop proposals for the local area boards.

In response, Cherwell District Council, which is opposed to the proposals, released headline figures from a survey carried out by Ipsos MORI which found 67 per cent of the 1,950 people surveyed wanted decisions on local services made at district/city level.

CDC leader Barry Wood said: “The results from this Ipsos MORI poll tell us the people of Oxfordshire want the decisions that affect their lives to be taken at a local, accountable level, and not by a remote and untested unitary entity.”