Cherwell District Council: Top brass defiant over split from county

Cherwell District Council “would not necessarily rule out” sharing services with other councils again despite questions prevailing over the abrupt end to its latest partnership.

By Andy Mitchell, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 9:53 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 9:54 pm

Cherwell and Oxfordshire County Council merged a host of operational posts, in particular senior roles such as chief executive and director of finance, in a bid to cut costs in September 2018.

Less than three-and-a-half years later and many of those arrangements are set to be pulled apart again, although both councils have stated a desire to continue to exchange some services under new deals.

Each authority voted through plans to serve notice on the other this week, meaning the axe will officially fall at the end of August but the division has already started.

herwell District Council “would not necessarily rule out” sharing services with other councils again despite questions prevailing over the abrupt end to its latest partnership.

Oxfordshire has appointed Stephen Chandler as its interim chief executive and Anita Bradley its returning officer. Cherwell has appointed Shahin Ismail as its interim monitoring officer and Michael Furness as director of finance. Each of these posts had previously been undertaken by one person covering both councils.

Leader of the opposition at Cherwell, Councillor Sean Woodcock (Lab, Banbury Ruscote), focused on a third partnership being dissolved in the past decade, citing them as “repeated, failed and expensive reorganisations”.

He said: “I would ask how much money has been thrown at all of these, how much time has been spent by officers, how many consultations, how many redundancies, how many hours spent writing and reading reports for the next shake-up instead of actually improving council services?

“There has been one constant throughout that time, one Conservative leader, one Conservative administration.”

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Cllr Sames highlighted the “really strong benefits” of a partnership that had “saved the taxpayer lots of money” with “most of the things in the district working extremely well”.

“Knowing the benefits this could bring to our residents and to the district, I would not necessarily rule out doing it again in the future if there was a suitable partner,” he added.

Leader Councillor Barry Wood (Con, Fringford & Heyfords) said: “I have been at the helm for a number of these changes over the years. There have been different sets of restructuring for different reasons at different times.

"I think it is fair to say we as a group endorse the doctrine of continuous improvement. No organisation should just stand still, that has always been at the back of all the changes we have sought to make.”

Cllr Wood confirmed “there could be other partnerships” in the future.

On the financial aspect, he added: “I am confident and this side is confident that the budget planning we have in place is sound and that we can substantiate the financial fallout that will come. You will see that we have put aside reserves.”