Chief executive’s first day marks ‘new chapter’ for Oxfordshire County Council

Yvonne Rees
Yvonne Rees

The new joint chief executive of the district and county councils is looking forward to getting to know staff as she begins her role today (Monday, October 1).

Yvonne Rees is being shared by Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council as part of a long-term partnership between the two, mainly to save money.

The arrangement came from Cherwell’s previous partnership with South Northamptonshire Council having to be scrapped due to the unitary authority plans for Northamptonshire.

“This is an exciting time to work for two ambitious councils, both committed to improving services for residents and investing in the future of the county,” she said.

“My priority now is to get to know staff across the council so together we can prepare for the changes ahead and become ‘fit for the future’.

“At the same time, I will continue to ensure the separation of Cherwell from South Northamptonshire council is successful and that Cherwell staff can carry on providing great services during this time of change.”

Although the county and district councils are responsible for separate services, officers believe they can save money by working together.

Spatial and transport planners are already working closely together on schemes related to housing and infrastructure, made simpler as by working to a single chief executive.

While a pilot project involves the county council’s head of trading standards working with officers at Cherwell to support the environmental health and licensing services.

Other services are expected to join up ‘where there are benefits to residents’, a spokesman said, including improving efficiency and customer service.

Before any structural changes are made there will be a full business case developed, and councillors from the two councils will make the final decision.

County council leader Ian Hudspeth welcomed Ms Rees, saying her appointment is ‘the start of a new chapter as the council adapts to future needs in Oxfordshire so we can continue to support our thriving communities’.

Cllr Hudspeth also thanked outgoing chief executive Peter Clark and the Cherwell partnership ‘will mean we can improve services for residents and secure more investment in infrastructure to support new jobs and homes’.

The joint arrangement was approved by county and district councillors in July.

District council leader Barry Wood added: “We’ve achieved so much over recent years by working more closely with another authority, and this will set us up well for a new relationship with the county council.

“I am genuinely confident for the future of public services as we begin this new chapter today.”