Comment

21.04.17

Oxfordshire devolution will boost UK economy

Source: PSE Apr/May 17

Peter Sloman, chief executive of Oxford City Council, argues that pursuing devolution rather than restructuring local government in the county is better for the area’s economy.

This year is likely to be dominated by the debates around the triggering of Article 50 and the initiation of formal negotiations to secure a strong future for the UK economy after Brexit. 

Against that background, it is vital that policies on devolution and industrial strategy take proper account of the dynamism and economic potential of Oxfordshire. 

We are a large and diverse county with a number of distinctive communities: Henley on Thames in the south, Bicester and Banbury in the north, and Didcot and Abingdon in the south. 

The county also has many small villages, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and multiple and overlapping travel to work areas. Oxford itself lies at the centre of the county and is a fast-growing and multicultural city, ranked as the UK’s top city for ‘good growth’ and, along with Cambridge, the most innovative city in the UK. 

The National Planning Policy Framework process for co-operation between local planning authorities grinds exceedingly slow, but it eventually delivers, and the Oxfordshire authorities are now agreed that we will accommodate 97,000 new homes across the county in the next 15 years. 

Working together we are delivering an ambitious City Deal with three Enterprise Zones (Harwell, Didcot and Milton Park), two Garden Towns (Bicester and Didcot), major developments around the station in Oxford and a range of specialist ‘big science’ and research facilities. 

We are already exploiting the potential of the unique knowledge economy ecosystem that has developed around the University of Oxford – currently ranked number one in the world – but much more is in prospect. 

Together, this makes Oxfordshire one of the country’s principal resources for high-quality, knowledge-based growth. 

This has attracted and nourished outstanding and fast-growing businesses with names that are widely recognised around the world, such as BMW - Mini, Siemens Magnet Technology, Immunocore, Sharp Laboratories and Oxford University Press. 

The challenge facing us – and government – is how we can work together to manage the results of our success and tackle the big constraints that we are running up against, such as a congested transport network, housing demand massively outstripping supply and skills shortages in key areas of technical and scientific work.  

It is crucial that we tackle these challenges together, and in partnership with government, in order to make the most of the potential of the most successful economic zones in the county, and that the National Infrastructure Commission’s work on the Cambridge–Milton Keynes–Oxford corridor complements the county-based drive for economic growth and environmental sustainability. 

The secretary of state has made it clear that he will not impose structural changes, and that he is looking for proposals that command a wide consensus and have ambitious housebuilding and economic growth plans at their heart.

This is clearly the right approach to getting our economy moving quickly. Our experience this year shows that it is only worth putting time and effort into proposals that have widespread support.  

The majority of our MPs and three of the city and district leaders in Oxfordshire oppose the county council’s proposals for creating a unitary authority. 

We don’t believe that such a large council spread over such a huge area could adequately manage growth and sustainable development across the diverse communities of Oxfordshire. 

The savings claimed are modest and much smaller than can be secured through service transformation within existing structures. 

The track record of the districts in delivering cost-savings and innovative approaches to service improvement is excellent. 

We strongly believe that this is the time to concentrate on ensuring that our county economy is reinforced to make its potential contribution of the national economy post-Brexit. 

Our collective aspiration is to bring in some £2bn of investment in infrastructure to the local economy while protecting the countryside and quality of life within the context of a dynamic and growing modern economy.  

We call on the county council to stop its wasteful exercise and focus instead on addressing the challenges we face collectively on behalf of the city and county in Oxfordshire.

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

‘Fundamental rethink’ on social housing needed as Javid brings forward green paper

20/09/2017‘Fundamental rethink’ on social housing needed as Javid brings forward green paper

A wide-ranging, top-to-bottom green paper on social housing is to be brought forward by the government, Sajid Javid has this week announced. ... more >
Cost benefit analysis of government infrastructure ‘misused and poorly communicated’

20/09/2017Cost benefit analysis of government infrastructure ‘misused and poorly communicated’

The government must improve its system for valuing the costs and benefits of its infrastructure to improve the delivery of key projects, experts ... more >
Birmingham recalls Improvement Panel following ‘serious setbacks’

20/09/2017Birmingham recalls Improvement Panel following ‘serious setbacks’

Birmingham City Council’s improvement panel is to stay at the city, despite the authority telling the DCLG that it no longer required its s... more >
149x260 PSE Subscribe button

the raven's daily blog

How do we deliver true social and economic value for the community?

18/09/2017How do we deliver true social and economic value for the community?

Five years on from the introduction of the Social Value Act, Alison Ramsey, frameworks co-ordinator at Scape Procure, reflects on the key questions that prompted the legislation’s introduction. The Social Value Act was an important landmark. It decisively addressed the need for major public projects led by all public bodies to maxim... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

interviews

‘The HSCN is the realisation of industry best practice’

30/06/2017‘The HSCN is the realisation of industry best practice’

Keith Smith, public sector business development manager at Virgin Media Business, tells PSE’s Luana Salles that health and social care orga... more >
HSCN: The enabler for a more joined-up public sector

26/06/2017HSCN: The enabler for a more joined-up public sector

Mark Hall, Chief Assurance Officer at Redcentric, discusses NHS Digital’s project, the new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) and what b... more >
Maintaining the momentum for further devolution

25/04/2017Maintaining the momentum for further devolution

Ahead of this year’s mayoral elections, Lord Kerslake, the former head of the Civil Service, tells PSE’s David Stevenson why the argu... more >
New social care funding misses the point

13/04/2017New social care funding misses the point

Clive Betts MP, chair of the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee, reflects on the social care funding released in this year’s ... more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

14/08/2017Time for reflection

A lot has happened since the last edition of PSE was published. In particular, the snap general election delivered an astounding result that many of the pollsters and political experts could not have predicted when Theresa May initially called for it back in April. Chris Painter, Professor Emeritus at Birmingham City University, provides ... read more >

public sector focus

Make the census meaningful again

11/09/2017Make the census meaningful again

Christopher Gallagher, Public Sector – ... more >
Time to revisit community engagement and rebuild trust

30/08/2017Time to revisit community engagement and rebuild trust

The Grenfell Tower disaster revealed a number... more >