Cherwell and Oxfordshire council partnership starts as joint boss agreed

Yvonne Rees
Yvonne Rees

Cherwell District and Oxfordshire County councils’ partnership has begun as the appointment of a joint chief executive has been approved.

Yvonne Rees’ new job as joint chief executive for Cherwell and the county council was unanimously supported by Cherwell councillors on Monday, having been ratified by county councillors last week.

Ms Rees was joint chief executive for Cherwell and South Northamptonshire Council but as partnership between those authorities is being scrapped, she has been kept on to oversee the new deal with Oxon.

Councillors had a long debate about the concerns and merits of partnering-up with the county council, with fears raised about unitary authorities, how much it will cost and having to do it all again if Oxfordshire goes bust.

But council leader Barry Wood tried to allay the worries, saying it is an opportunity to deliver for residents and that plans to combine the county’s councils has been ‘kicked into the longest grass we have seen’.

Opposition leader Cllr Sean Woodcock said the Labour group is cautiously in support of the scheme, which officers say is necessary to avoid a £2m shortfall and can make efficiencies by pairing up complimentary services like housing and adult social care.

Cllr Wood also shared his sadness at having to separate from South Northants because of a Government-led review of Northamptonshire following the county council’s financial collapse.

Deputy leader Cllr George Reynolds said any changes will take time as he revealed Cherwell’s planning department has only been combined with South Northants for a matter of months.

Oxfordshire’s chief executive has stepped down to make room for Ms Rees, and the county councillors approved her appointment, but Cllr Kieron Mallon expressed his frustration with Cherwell’s reputation being ‘banded about’ with little defence from members who also sit on the district council.

As well as sharing a chief executive, three new groups will be set up to monitor the partnership between the councils, called a Section 113 agreement.