The leader of Cherwell District Council says he won’t be pressurised into supporting plans for a single unitary authority for the county.
Cllr Barry Wood said the creation of a single council covering the whole of Oxfordshire would “wreak devastation on the people he is elected to protect”.
Cllr Wood issued the battle cry after it was revealed that South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils were now supporting proposals to create a single unitary authority. Both had previously opposed them.
The plans, which were unveiled by Oxfordshire County Council last month, would replace the current two-tier structure of county and district councils and be replaced with a single authority responsible for delivering all services. OCC says the merger would save around £100m, improve efficiency and cut down on confusion for residents on who does what.
Cllr Wood said: “When the county council’s proposals for a single unitary authority were first unveiled, Cherwell stood united in opposition with Oxford City and the county’s other district councils – including South and Vale. The fact that these two fickle councils have now defected to support the county’s proposals does not alter my position or opinion that these plans would wreak devastation on the very people I am elected to protect.
“The idea of a one-size-fits all council is ludicrous; the issues affecting Banbury or Bicester will not be relevant to those in Wantage or Abingdon. We should be giving more control to local communities, not taking it away. And we certainly should not be placing such power in the hands of an authority which cannot manage the services it has now.”
Despite South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse councils’ change of mind, Cherwell, West Oxfordshire District Council and Oxford City Council remain opposed to OCC’s plans.
Cllr Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Two weeks after publishing our draft proposal, I am pleased that three of the six councils are now working together to create a brand new council for Oxfordshire that really will be the best of both worlds - lower cost and more local.
“I hope that other districts and city councils will join us to get the best out of the new council for their areas.”