Northamptonshire failure inspires new county-district deal with joint CEO

Proposals are being considered for joint working between Cherwell District Council and Oxfordshire County Council following the former’s decision to end its partnership with South Northamptonshire.

The move comes after the local government review in Northamptonshire required the leader and the administration of Cherwell council to “reflect upon its future and to consider what is best for its residents.”

Under the new plans, the local authorities would retain separate councillor bodies, budgets and decision-making processes, whilst having shared service arrangements under a joint chief executive.

The joint working arrangements would need to be formally approved under a section 113 agreement. The decision will be taken by Oxfordshire council’s cabinet on 4 June before being considered by Cherwell council.

Cllr Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “This is a great opportunity to explore closer joint working with Oxfordshire County Council, putting our residents at the heart of service delivery.

“In Cherwell we already have a very successful track record of partnership working and welcome the possibility of a strong and innovative relationship with colleagues at the county.

“In line with our ethos we will consider all partnerships that fit with our culture. In short, we do not and will not, operate a ‘one size fits all policy’ – but take individual decisions based on customer need and evidence.”

Exact details of sharing services and joining up functions will need to be worked out in detail and agreed by each council, with shared service arrangements implemented incrementally in order to prevent day-to-day services from being affected.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, explained that the widely-reported problems in Northamptonshire have created this “unique opportunity for a county-district shared service arrangement.”

As a statutory requirement, the chief executive must be appointed by the full councils of each authority and a formal appointment process must be followed.

Peter Clark, chief executive at Oxfordshire, has revealed that he would step down if the joint working arrangement was agreed.

The partnership, which is not connected to the ongoing unitary reorganisation proposals, would reportedly offer an “innovative” opportunity to make two tier local government more effective.

Top image: oversnap


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