Cherwell council looking at partnering with county after South Northants split

Cherwell District Council and South Northamptonshire Council's partnership is ending
Cherwell District Council and South Northamptonshire Council's partnership is ending

Cherwell District Council may partner up with Oxfordshire County Council after deciding to split from South Northamptonshire Council, it has been announced today (Tuesday, May 29).

The two Oxfordshire local authorities are considering a proposal for shared service arrangements under a joint chief executive, while retaining separate councillor bodies, budgets and decision-making processes.

The proposal follows a decision by Cherwell not to join a proposed unitary body with its existing partners, South Northants Council, following a review of how Northamptonshire is governed.

County council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “We are keen to work with Cherwell to ensure its residents continue to receive good services.

“The county council also believes a joint arrangement would help to secure investment in the infrastructure needed to support increases in jobs and homes.

“The problems in Northamptonshire have created this unique opportunity for a county-district shared service arrangement.

“I am confident that if we can reach an agreement that would be good for Cherwell and good for the rest of Oxfordshire.”

The exact arrangements for sharing services and joining up functions will need to be worked out in detail and then agreed separately by each council. They will be implemented incrementally.

It is a statutory requirement the chief executive, as head of paid service, is appointed by the full councils of each council and formal appointment processes will be followed.

The joint appointment is expected to be made from one of the existing chief executives, the statement says.

It adds that the proposed partnership is not connected to unitary reorganisation proposals, and would instead ‘offer an innovative opportunity to make two tier local government more effective’.

Cherwell’s statement says Northants’ governance review, prompted by Northamptonshire County Council being taken over by the government, is ‘looking at future options that will best suit the interests of its residents’.

Cherwell council leader Barry Wood said: “This is a great opportunity to explore closer joint working with Oxfordshire County Council, putting our residents at the heart of service delivery.

“In Cherwell we already have a very successful track record of partnership working and welcome the possibility of a strong and innovative relationship with colleagues at the County.

“In line with our ethos we will consider all partnerships that fit with our culture. In short, we do not and will not, operate a ‘one size fits all policy’ – but take individual decisions based on customer need and evidence.”

Cllr Ian McCord, leader of South Northamptonshire Council, added: “We have had an excellent working relationship with Cherwell District Council that has led to impressive savings over a number of years, and it is unfortunate that external events have led to this situation being forced upon us.

“We fully understand that circumstances in Northamptonshire have completely changed the landscape.

“Cherwell District Council have had to consider their options, and our separation is totally amicable.”

The proposal will be considered by the county council’s cabinet on Monday (June 4).