Latest Public Sector News

28.02.17

Oxfordshire devolution deal ‘dead’ as councils wage unitary row

The proposed devolution deal for the Oxfordshire region has hit an obstacle as a feud between the county council and the region’s district councils over a unification deal has caused disagreement.

Previously, a devolution deal was being drawn up for Oxfordshire that would have devolved powers for transport, education and housing to the district councils, but now the deal could be stopped as the county council’s bid to create a unitary authority has stopped the process in its tracks.

The county council’s unitary proposal, called One Oxfordshire, has sparked anger with district councillors as One Oxfordshire’s website said that “devolution is dead”, leading councillors to believe that the timing of the unitary proposal is overshadowing the region’s bid for devolved powers.

One Oxfordshire has not officially ruled out the idea of a devolution deal, as the county council said it is continuing to work with the districts/city on a separate devolution proposal. The county council did go on to question whether central government still had the “appetite” for devolution proposals which continue to, in their words, “fall apart” across the country.

A spokeswoman from Oxfordshire County Council said: “The county council has always been committed to a devolution deal that would deliver vital investment for Oxfordshire. We just don’t think that adding a combined authority quango and an elected mayor on top of the existing parish, district and county council structure is the right way to go.

“The government has told us that a unitary council is a good vehicle for devolution, so let’s make local government in Oxfordshire simpler, not even more complicated and costly.”

The county council has also appealed to Oxford residents to not listen to the city council’s arguments about the dangers of a unification deal, designed to apparently “scare” residents to vote against the proposal, saying: “The proposal to replace all six Oxfordshire councils (including the county council) with a brand new council is good for Oxfordshire, with the city of Oxford as its beating economic and cultural heart.

“Many people are concerned about the potential for lack of autonomy for Oxford. We understand that and want to develop a model for local government that allows Oxford residents to make different choices to the rest of the county.”

They also invited Oxford City Council “around the table” to develop a model for local government in Oxford that meets the needs of Oxford residents.

Speaking of the One Oxfordshire proposal, councillor Bob Price, leader of Oxfordshire City Council had said: “Our concern is that the proposals for a county council unitary will mean the voice of the City will be lost, and the vital services that Oxford City Council protects could be put at risk.”

The council also launched a petition urging Oxford residents to reject the proposals.

Another district councillor, Cherwell’s, Barry Wood also expressed his dismay at the proposed unification: “The county council and its report have failed to take into consideration the individual challenges and successes of each district; to try and force a like-for-like comparison would be like trying to compare apples with oranges.

“But if a county-wide unitary model were adopted the specific needs of each district would be ignored in favour of the needs of the county, with a sterile uniformity and local voices would be lost in the distance.

“Under the current two tier model Oxfordshire County Council has consistently failed to manage its own budget and has axed vital services to residents whereas Cherwell has protected its services while also managing to thrive and grow.

“By increasing the county council's control of Oxfordshire this would only increase the opportunity for more failings and would remove Cherwell’s ability to innovate, step in and put right what the county continues to do wrong.”

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here.

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

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 open more > more last word articles >

public sector focus

View all News

comment

Government accountability: A year in crises

15/01/2019Government accountability: A year in crises

From Windrush to Univerisal Credit: the Institute for Government’s (I... more >
Rethinking public-private partnerships

15/01/2019Rethinking public-private partnerships

Trinley Walker, senior policy researcher at the New Local Government Networ... more >

interviews

Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

17/12/2018Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

One of the public sector’s key technology partners has recently welco... more >

the raven's daily blog

Blog: 5 minutes with Dr Tracy Vell MBE, Associate Lead for Primary and Community Care, Greater Manchester, Health and Social Care Partnership.

17/01/2019Blog: 5 minutes with Dr Tracy Vell MBE, Associate Lead for Primary and Community Care, Greater Manchester, Health and Social Care Partnership.

Ahead of next month’s EvoNorth event we caught up with Dr Tracy Vell MBE, Associate Lead for Primary and Community Care, Greater Manchester, Health and Social Care Partner... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this feeling of imminent change than the article James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has penned for us on p28. In it, he highlights... read more >