New council model could save millions for Oxfordshire

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council. ENGNNL00120130810104956
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council. ENGNNL00120130810104956

Creating a single council for Oxfordshire would save up to £33 million a year, according to independent financial anaylsis.

The report has been released by Oxfordshire County Council and the savings could be made by combining the county, four districts and city council into a single ‘unitary’ local authority.

It concludes savings could be made by reducing bureaucracy and the costs of democratic decision making, and comes as the Cabinet recommends a budget for 2015/16 which requires more than £20 million of savings, on top of the £265 million either made or already planned for 2017/18.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We are beyond the point where further savings can be achieved by finding more efficiencies or ‘salami slicing’ of services and we must find a different way of being able to provide essential services to our residents.

“As Leader of the Council it is my job to leave no stone unturned in seeking to provide the best services for Oxfordshire’s residents. Fundamentally I must ensure that we have the best resources available to fund the services that our residents need.”

The report by global accountancy firm EY was commissioned by Oxfordshire County Council as part of a fundamental rethink about how it can meet rising demand for adult and children’s care services, while meeting the challenges of enabling growth to ensure a thriving Oxfordshire in the long term.

It also highlighted the potential for pooling council reserves worth more than £250 million into a single pot.

A new unitary council could then decide to invest strategically in vitally needed infrastructure, such as providing relief roads in Banbury.

A new unitary council could then decided to invest strategically in vitally needed infrastructure, such as providing relief roads in Banbury.

Meanwhile Oxfordshire’s four rural district councils have united in opposition to a unitary bid being considered by Oxfordshire County Council as a response to its financial woes.

A statement issued on behalf of the Leaders of Cherwell, South Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse and West Oxfordshire District Councils said they were ‘disappointed’ a report had been commissioned by the county council, at taxpayers’ expense, without any consultation or engagement with its district partners.

An Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet meeting will consider the EY report on January 26.

The Cabinet will consider the EY report on January 26.