Leader of Oxfordshire County Council ‘sees no reason at the moment for changing’ how region's local authorities work

Current local government set-up is known as two-tier with Oxfordshire County Council at the top

By Andy Mitchell, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 6th April 2022, 10:54 am

The leader of Oxfordshire County Council “can see no reason at the moment for changing” the way the region's local authorities work.

The current set-up is known as two-tier with the county at the top looking after things like education, transport, social care and children’s services, while Oxford City Council and the four districts – Cherwell, West Oxfordshire, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse – manage planning applications, rubbish and recycling, housing and the collection of council tax.

Part of the national government’s levelling up plan involves more power for areas to decide their own fate and how funds get spent.

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Leader of Oxfordshire County Council ‘sees no reason at the moment for changing’ how region's local authorities work

Among the arguments for a unitary authority are potential cost savings but there are concerns that rural areas could get left behind, while there is the complication of the rich mix of parties currently in power at various councils.

Cllr Eddie Reeves (Con, Banbury Calthorpe), leader of the opposition at Oxfordshire County Council, pressed leader Cllr Liz Leffman (Lib Dem, Charlbury & Wychwood) for her view at a recent meeting for county councillors.

Cllr Reeves asked: “I am simply wondering what the leader’s personal preference is. Does she want the status quo, a combined authority, a unitary with a mayor or a unitary without a mayor? Which is it?”

Cllr Leffman replied: “I don’t think it is for me to state a personal preference.

“This is a matter for the county as a whole. That includes our partners in the districts and in the city.

“If we are going to have a discussion about how we might potentially alter the way this county is run that has to be agreed collectively, it cannot be something that I decide as leader of this council.

“Personally, I think the way we work together across the county is very effective. We saw how it worked throughout Covid, the Future Oxfordshire Partnership works very well together and we have a good relationship between the various councils. I can see no reason at the moment for changing that.

“Were we asked to do so by the government, we would have to consider ways of doing things differently but at the moment I see no need to do that."