City council launches petition against ‘massive threat’ of One Oxfordshire plan

Oxford City Council has launched an online petition against what it perceives are “disastrous” plans by the region’s county council to abolish all six existing authorities to create a new unitary.

The ‘One Oxfordshire’ proposal, first pitched by the region’s county council in January, was initially attacked by Oxford’s lower-tier authorities, although South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse councils have now made a U-turn on this opposition and came out in favour of the proposal last week.

Yet the city council, alongside Cherwell and West Oxfordshire district councils, maintained that they “refused to be pressurised” into supporting the plan like the other two “fickle” authorities had done. They once again argued the plans would “wreak devastation” on the region’s population.

To further solidify this opposition, Oxford City Council has now launched a petition under the tagline ‘Hands off Oxford city’ in what it described a “rallying cry to oppose the county council’s proposals and protect the city’s assets and services, which are at risk”.

The petition’s two primary concerns about the ‘super council’ unitary proposal include: a loss of vital services, such as social housing, estates and community investment, protection of the environment and support for the voluntary and arts groups; and the “dilution” of local democracy.

The city council’s statement about the petition thoroughly lambasted the county council, laying bare its “history of cuts” in apparent support of similar claims from Cherwell District Council that the county’s “consistent failure” to manage its own budget would “only increase the opportunity for more failings” elsewhere in region.

While Oxford County Council has slashed grants to homelessness charities, bus subsidies and children’s centres, the city council argued it has, in contrast, a “proud track record” of investment.

“You may not agree with everything we do, but we are proud of our record,” read the petition. “This is not about what political party you vote for; it is about whether Oxford remains in control of local services for local people.”

Its leader, Cllr Bob Price, added: “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.

“Please sign our petition to register your opposition to the unitary county council proposals.”

Cllr Price had previously stated that harmonising services across the county “would rip up the city’s approach to key services”, including housing, homelessness, climate change, advice services, recycling and recreation.

Since being launched yesterday, the ‘Hands off Oxford city’ petition has already garnered 639 signatures. It also urges signees to write to their MPs, Andrew Smith or Nicola Blackwood, about the issue.

One supporter, Mark Spriggs, commented after signing: “A council that has been named the best in England 2015 and 2016 cannot be replaced by those who have overseen a ridiculous slump in education standards, funding mismanagement and nationally lampooned contract management in this or any other universe.”

Others posted similar remarks, campaigning against the idea of a “monster council” and claiming there is no evidence that a unitary would improve services in the area.

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Jamie   16/02/2017 at 21:52

Why has Oxford council left this so late. John McConnellHy did they not make a proposal based on the research that was carried out. OCC are doimg a good job of pushing this through with very little public information and without much consultation. The whole process will leave us a situation with very much less political representation.

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