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

Councils falling short of preventive care obligations

22/09/2017Councils falling short of preventive care obligations

Councils are failing to meet their obligations to prevent, reduce or delay the need for care as set out in the Care Act 2014. New research p... more >
Cheshire East faces police probe over tampering of air quality data

22/09/2017Cheshire East faces police probe over tampering of air quality data

Cheshire East Council is to be investigated by police following allegations that air quality data collected by the local authority had been delib... more >
Birmingham bin strikes called off following key High Court ruling

21/09/2017Birmingham bin strikes called off following key High Court ruling

Strikes by refuse workers in Birmingham have this week been called off after the union won an important High Court ruling. Unite has called ... more >

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 >

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

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' >


Support for councils following Grenfell

04/09/2017Support for councils following Grenfell

Ian Moore, CEO of the Fire Industry Association (FIA), discusses the wider lessons of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire and what measures and assess... more >
A quiet revolution

04/09/2017A quiet revolution

Dermot Ryan, programme director at NHS Digital for the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN), talks to PSE about the importance of moving to the ... more >
Effective leadership in uncertain times

04/09/2017Effective leadership in uncertain times

Dr David Beech, lecturer in people management at Salford Business School, argues that continuous renewal and progress is fundamental to effective... more >
Refocusing professional development

04/09/2017Refocusing professional development

Graeme McDonald, managing director of Solace, discusses the importance of taking time out to focus on learning, especially in the ever-changing l... more >


‘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 >

public sector focus

View all News