In July the Banbury Guardian reported moves towards an Oxfordshire unitary council had been put on hold after the county’s district and city councils and Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) decided to work together to discuss issues of common ground.
But this week, the district and city councils released their proposal for local government reform, put together by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) while OCC has released its own report produced by Grant Thornton.
The district councils’ report can be found at www.oxford.gov.uk/downloads/download/755/unitary_authority_options_study while the OCC report is at news.oxfordshire.gov.uk/review-of-future-options-for-local-government-in-oxfordshire/.
OCC leader Ian Hudspeth said both reports had been published to allow the public to ‘make up their own minds’.
He said: “Once we have all had the opportunity to consider both reports in detail, I will be looking to work with the districts on areas of common ground in the hope of finding a way forward in the interests of residents of Oxfordshire.
“It is clear real progress will only be made through joint working with the districts and other public service providers, and I will do whatever I can to make sure that happens.”
Councillor Matthew Barber, on behalf of the district councils, said: “The two studies show there are different alternatives for how local government is organised and there are different views on these options. The work by the district councils favours three unitary councils working together through a combined authority. The study by the county council concludes a single county unitary would be the best option.
“Following discussions with civil servants, it is clear the new government’s priorities in this area have changed and they are looking to councils to develop consensus about governance arrangements to support a devolution deal. There are also many commonalities in the findings of the two studies and it is important all councils now take some time to fully consider all of the evidence and how this might fit with the government’s priorities as they emerge over the autumn.
“Our aim has always been to seek investment in housing and transport infrastructure; to improve skills training and develop the local economy. We are committed to working together with Oxfordshire County Council in the best interests of our residents and over the coming months we will be working jointly to agree a way forward with government.”