On Thursday 19th January the county council published ‘A Fresh Start for Oxfordshire’; draft proposals for one new unitary council for Oxfordshire.
The Executive Summary is available to see here:
and the full document is available online at www.oneoxfordshire.org
During 2016 we met with many town and parish councils, and we are very grateful to the contributions you made to this discussion on local government reorganisation. This has helped us shape the proposals, and in particular how we propose this new structure would work with and relate to towns and parishes.
What are we proposing?
To abolish all six councils (county and district) and replace them with a single new unitary council for the whole of Oxfordshire. The significant savings made by eliminating duplication from running six councils could be used to improve public services and protect them from future cuts. Joining up the key strategic functions of planning, transport and housing will help us ensure housing and infrastructure are delivered in a sustainable way.
We intend for the new council to be;
- Simpler for residents and business: a single point of contact with strong and locally accountable leadership
- Better for services: by joining up key functions like housing and social services, and planning and transport;
- More local by devolving local decisions and funding to area executive boards and enabling parishes and towns to influence the decisions that affect their own communities
- Lower cost by releasing £100m of net savings to protect and improve services in the first five years by eliminating duplication and waste
How will this work?
In the new unitary council, there would be between 100-125 councillors compared to the current 282 councillor posts in the six councils.
The proposals more than halve the number of councillors overall, while making each councillor more directly accountable to the people they represent. Every councillor would take decisions on the unitary council’s budget and policies. They would also be members of ‘area executive boards’ (based on existing district and council boundaries), which would take local decisions at the more local level, with more input from parishes and town councils.
How will Area executive boards and Towns and Parishes work together?
Area executive boards could have the power to raise and spend a local precept raised as part of council tax according to local priorities. Decisions on local planning could be taken up to a significant size of development within a countywide strategic policy focused on housing, infrastructure and jobs.
Area executive boards would work closely with town councils and parishes to give communities a strong voice in executive decisions. Parishes and town councils would play a stronger role for their communities by influencing the decisions of area executive boards, with more devolution of power and responsibility for those that want it.
What happens next?
These are draft proposals to provide a basis for an informed and engaged debate with local residents and businesses. We will also be holding meetings with stakeholders from across the county.
We would very much like to hear your views on what is proposed, so that we can incorporate the points made, before submitting a final bid to central government for a decision.
Please also encourage your colleagues and residents to go to www.oneoxfordshire.org to comment on the proposal document. The revised proposal and public response will be considered by the county council’s Cabinet on 14th March.
Thank you again for your help and advice to date, and I look forward to hearing your views on how we can secure the best future for Oxfordshire’s residents,
Peter G Clark
Interim Chief Executive
Oxfordshire County Council
Oxford OX1 1ND
Tel: 01865 323908