Oxfordshire County Council: Row over which council started Cherwell split

Oxfordshire and Cherwell councils have confirmed the decision to “amicably” break up services they currently share – but only after a row over which side prompted the split.

By Andy Mitchell, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 6:33 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 6:34 pm

Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council merged a host of operational posts, including the roles of chief executive and director of finance, in a bid to cut costs in September 2018.

A sudden U-turn was announced last month and both authorities this week voted to begin pulling apart the deal.

Cherwell finalised its decision on Monday night.

Oxfordshire and Cherwell councils have confirmed the decision to “amicably” break up services they currently share – but only after a row over which side prompted the split.

Leader Councillor Barry Wood (Con, Fringford & Heyfords) told a meeting of all district councillors that “we need to move on to make better arrangements for the future”.

He added that “people who live in this district should not notice any difference” to services and that “substantive parts of partnership working” may continue.

He acknowledged the announcement of the decision had been “sudden” and may have come as “a bit of a surprise” to some councillors but added: “I have to say that personally, I have seen the likelihood of this coming for some months.

“You have an instinct on these things and that is my instinct, that it is time to move on and for this council to make sure we have a full scale of officer resource to enable us to deliver excellent services to our residents.”

He also stressed the importance of retaining “a high degree of goodwill”.

“That is the best way to do it, there is no value in rancour and strong disagreement,” he said.

However, his deputy at Cherwell Councillor Ian Corkin (Con, Fringford & Heyfords) became embroiled in quite the bun fight over which council had blinked first when county councillors discussed the matter the following morning (Tuesday).

Read More

Read More
Cherwell District Council: Threat of CCTV funding cut was made "to get attention...

Oxfordshire County Council leader Councillor Liz Leffman (Lib Dem, Charlbury & Wychwood) advocated the benefits of coming away from a formal arrangement with one council in favour potentially extending shared services to the other four city and district councils.

However, she insisted Cherwell’s executive had already made its decision when Conservatives claimed it had been instigated by her group.

“I had a conversation with Councillor Barry Wood, he told me that his executive had taken the decision the previous night to sever the arrangement,” she said.

“I’m sorry, Councillor Corkin, you shake your head but that is precisely what Barry told me. Therefore, this council had to agree.

“It was not originally the decision of this cabinet to take this step but because the executive in Cherwell had already decided to go that way, we decided to go along with it.

“It was a mutual decision and I will not hear any different.”

She highlighted "very important successes" in sharing services such as property management, IT and human resources.

“We are going to look at ways we can start service level agreements not just with Cherwell but possibly across the whole of the county. That is an opportunity we should definitely be considering," she said.

In response, Cllr Corkin said: “What Councillor Leffman has not told the chamber correctly is that the executive at CDC met on Friday evening and decided that if a divorce was in the offing it was best done quickly and amicably, only after Councillor Leffman rang Barry Wood and told him that was the intention of this administration."