Unitary debate will help find best option

Cllr. Ian Hudspeth, Oxfordshire County Council leader with Banbury Guardian reporter, Jason Pritchard. NNL-150127-092758009
Cllr. Ian Hudspeth, Oxfordshire County Council leader with Banbury Guardian reporter, Jason Pritchard. NNL-150127-092758009

The Leader of Oxfordshire County Council has welcomed any ideas to the unitary debate which aims to create a single authority in the county.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth spoke to the Banbury Guardian on Tuesday following the release of a report last week which looks into the possibliliy of a unitary council in Oxfordshire. Mr Hudspeth said there are three options the council is looking at but added he would welcome any other suggestions.

He said: “This is not any attempt to take over. Whatever the structure, we have to rethink and find out what is the most efficient or effective for the county. This is all about the residents and delivering the best quality services for them.

“When somebody goes to their particular council they are not sure who they go to for waste collection or highways. We have always thought about having a one-stop-shop and understanding all parts of the local government. If there is a new structure it means there is more control.”

Other options MrHudspeth mentioned as well as the unitary model was a ‘doughnut’ option. This would include Oxford City Council as a unitary body, with Cherwell, West Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire underneath all working together as one council. It is estimated this could make about £15 million in savings. Another option is a northern council of Cherwell and West Oxfordshire, Oxford City Council on its own, and a southern council comprising Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire. This would save about £5 million. The new councils would be formed of newly-elected councillors and members of staff.

Mr Hudspeth added Banbury is a thriving town and thinks it is important to give more power to the lowest forms of local level, such as Banbury Town Council. He also said he was aware of the issues many residents in Banbury might have in being isolated away from Oxford. He said: “It think it is important to give more power in the lowest local level of government so the town council could be looking at how it controls itself.

“Banbury is part of Oxfordshire and 46 per cent of its residents commute to Oxford so there is a strong link between both towns. But I acknowledge Banbury is on the edge.

“We currently have five chief executives in the county which cost £600,000. Do we actually need that many and could there be a different way of reducing frontline services? We have got some really difficult challenges coming up in the future.”