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Oxfordshire councils explore ‘breaking new ground’ in ambitious joint working partnership

Two Oxfordshire councils reaping the benefits of a “groundbreaking” joint working partnership which includes sharing staff and services are proposing to expand the partnership to a host of other services.

Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council currently share a large section of their senior leadership teams, driving senior management costs down through joint-working whilst also retaining capacity in the county.

One of the only such partnerships between a county and district council in the country, the authorities currently share a joint chief executive, lead officer for HR and director for law and governance and share assistant directors for regulatory services and public protection and for housing.

The two authorities are now working on business cases for sharing a number of key services, and the assistant chief executive Claire Taylor said the “ambition and extent of our joint working is genuinely breaking new ground.”

The proposals are for shared services in law and governance, finance, HR, communications, policy, consultation, research and regulatory services.

The councils are also in the early stages of exploring how aligned services in areas such as IT, children’s social care and housing would work.

Taylor said: “Undoubtedly these are fascinating times as we chart a way forward and break new ground with a project that has a real national significance.

“People in central and local government throughout the country are monitoring how our project is developing.”

She said Cherwell DC has a track record for innovation in housing and regeneration and the county council has proven history of attracting infrastructure linked to housing, with the ambition being to maximise those skills, resources and funding to make the most of housing and economic growth.

Taylor added that the partnership’s wider ambition was to “trigger a broader conversation throughout the country” about how councils and other public bodies can work better together.

“Many parts of England retain a two-tier structure of local government with district and county councils. There is huge potential in combining these two different approaches into a closer partnership and we believe the results will be powerful.

“We all face the same challenges and we serve the same residents - so collaboration makes good sense. It is our experience so far is that real tangible improvements can be delivered to the benefit of our residents, both as taxpayers and service-users.”


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