Service Transformation


Councils brand county’s unitary bid a ‘disaster’ for Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire’s lower-tier councils have lambasted their county council’s ‘One Oxfordshire’ proposal, calling it the “wrong proposal at the wrong time”.

Yesterday Oxfordshire County Council announced a proposal to abolish all six existing councils in the county to create a new unitary authority for all of Oxfordshire, claiming that it would save local authorities £100m over the next five years.

However, the county’s city and district councils have said that the plan would damage local democracy and take years to create, with local authorities particularly concerned that forcing harmonised services across the county would ignore the specific needs of each area.

“For the people of Oxford, a unitary council would be a disaster,” Cllr Bob Price, leader of Oxford City Council, said. “Harmonisation of services across the county would rip up the city’s approach to key services like housing and homelessness, climate change, advice services, recycling and recreation and the arts.

“The needs of a multi-ethnic and socially mixed urban community are very different to the more rural parts of the county. The city is also a focus for the economic vitality of the county, the region and the UK as a whole and there is a delicate balance between its economic, social, cultural and academic sectors that needs careful management. These proposals fail to address these needs.”

Oxford City Council said that the county council’s proposal to equalise council tax would lead to big rises for many of the region’s residents, highlighting that the proposed model has not yet been permitted elsewhere in the country.

It added that the ‘One Oxfordshire’ plan would also make the planning process more remote and remove easy access to councillors, with the proposals planning to slash the numbers by almost two-thirds from 282 councillors to between 100 and 125.

The plan was also criticised by the leader of Cherwell District Council, Cllr Barry Wood, who said that the county’s plans were based on “sweeping and inaccurate information”, citing the district council’s successes in coping under the current model.

“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,” Cllr Wood said.

“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."

Cllr Price suggested that Oxfordshire should focus on its recent devolution proposal instead, which could be rolled out comparatively quickly and already has the support of the county’s Local Enterprise Partnership.

He added that the £20m annual savings claimed by the county council are “very small” against the unitary authority’s proposed total budget and fail to consider the high costs of redundancy and reorganisation.  

“We would urge the county council to work with all the Districts and the Local Enterprise Partnership towards the consensus that we have been building around the devolution bid, and the resources from government that it brings into Oxfordshire,” Cllr Price said.

Oxfordshire County Council declined to comment on the criticisms raised on its proposal by the county’s other councils.

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


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Metro mayors call on PM to review criteria for allocation of housing funding

20/02/2018Metro mayors call on PM to review criteria for allocation of housing funding

Four metro mayors have written an open letter to the prime minister calling for more investment in brownfield sites in their cities. Andy Burnha... more >
Parliament told to vote on boundary review as soon as possible

20/02/2018Parliament told to vote on boundary review as soon as possible

The House of Commons should vote as soon as possible on whether to continue with the parliamentary boundary review, the Public Administration and C... more >
Seven council staff members arrested in fraud investigation

19/02/2018Seven council staff members arrested in fraud investigation

Seven members of staff at Cardiff Council have been arrested on suspicion of fraud. A council spokesperson confirmed that eight people were ... more >

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... read 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 >
View all News

the raven's daily blog

Whole of government must act together to fulfil the ambition of the Industrial Strategy

11/12/2017Whole of government must act together to fulfil the ambition of the Industrial Strategy

Jen Rae, head of innovation policy at Nesta, says the aims in the government’s new Industrial Strategy are ambitious, but will require a shift in policymaking in order to be realised in full. Last Monday saw the long-awaited launch of the UK’s new Industrial Strategy, the government’s plan for prosperity and growth in a ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >


Lord Porter: Uncharted waters

19/02/2018Lord Porter: Uncharted waters

Lord Porter CBE, chairman of the LGA, analyses the expected impact of the final local government finance settlement on councils of all shapes and... more >
Fixing the broken housing market

19/02/2018Fixing the broken housing market

Joe Anderson, mayor of Liverpool and leader of Liverpool City Council, discusses how the authority’s newly formed company Foundations is wo... more >
The power of apprenticeships

14/02/2018The power of apprenticeships

David Willett, corporate director at The Open University, describes how the apprenticeship levy can help public sector organisations unlock leade... more >
Building connected communities

22/12/2017Building connected communities

Andrew Walker, policy researcher at the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU), argues councils must be supported to develop good connectivity ... more >


BIM: Digitising the public sector

19/02/2018BIM: Digitising the public sector

PSE’s Josh Mines talks to Stephen Crompton, CTO at GroupBC, and Stuart Bell, the company’s sales and marketing director, about how Bu... more >
Duncan Selbie: The energy of devolution

19/02/2018Duncan Selbie: The energy of devolution

The NHS plays a part in keeping the country well – but when it comes to places and their people, local government has a major role to fulfi... more >
Are we taking a risk on education?

14/12/2017Are we taking a risk on education?

Adrian Prandle, director of economic strategy and negotiations at the National Education Union (NEU), questions the stark lack of announcements a... more >
A fantastic opportunity awaits you

11/12/2017A fantastic opportunity awaits you

Eight months on from the government’s announcement of major training reforms, Anne Milton, minister for apprenticeships and skills at the D... more >

public sector focus

View all News