Businesses in West Oxfordshire have come out against the proposals to create one council for the county.
West Oxfordshire District Council has launched a campaign called ‘Too Good to Lose’, which claims local services and benefits such as free parking, low council tax and proposed A40 improvements are at risk under Oxfordshire County Council’s plans to create a unitary authority.
It also says that planned improvements to its leisure centres, including Chipping Norton, could be threatened if the proposals go ahead.
The campaign has already received support from local residents and businesses.
Last month Oxfordshire County Council revealed its plans to press ahead with one unitary authority for the county that would cover all the services currently provided by the county and five district councils.
OCC says its proposal would save £100million over five years, cut bureaucracy and reduce confusion with residents over who is responsible for what.
Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire District Councils have agreed to support the idea, but West Oxfordshire, Oxford City and Cherwell District (see opposite page) Councils are vehemently opposed.
West Oxfordshire leaders believe a unitary council would fail to recognise the specific needs of local residents. Instead, they are in favour of the creation of a combined authority model with a local mayor which would pave the way for devolution, unlocking central government funds for major infrastructure improvements.
Cllr Carol Reynolds, cabinet member for car parking and transport, said: “The message from residents and businesses in West Oxfordshire is clear – they do not want to lose essential benefits such as free parking and low council tax which we have provided for many years.
“A remote single authority would not address local needs and our businesses and communities would suffer as a result.”
The council’s ‘Too Good to Lose’ campaign has already been backed by some businesses in the district.
Gemma Finch, chair of Burford Chamber of Trade, said: “Tourism is hugely important to the town and free parking has a massive impact on visitor numbers. Losing it would be a major concern.”
And Rebecca Hogarty, manager of a children’s clothing and accessories store in Witney, added: “People value having local independent businesses and will travel to find them so free parking is a real positive.”
Find out more about the campaign by visiting www.westoxon.gov.uk/news/