District Council Leaders rule out cross-boundary unitary solution

Published: Thursday, 19th May 2016

Following the recent elections, Oxfordshire’s District Council Leaders have reconfirmed their ambitions to simplify local government and give more power to the people of the county.

Following the recent elections, Oxfordshire’s District Council Leaders have reconfirmed their ambitions to simplify local government and give more power to the people of the county.

As part of this, they have decided collectively with Cotswold and South Northamptonshire Councils to rule out cross-county boundary options as part of their devolution plans. The decision by District Council leaders is as a result of PwC’s early conversations with senior civil servants.

The District Councils appointed independent advisers PwC last month to investigate the full range of unitary options available to deliver devolution in our area. Early findings are that cross-boundary unitary options are too complicated at this stage, and will result in lengthy delays to the devolution process.

The determination of Oxfordshire’s District Councils to find a devolution model that will reflect the diverse communities of Oxfordshire and bring real power to the people of the county for the first time has not changed.

District Council proposals would replace the current County and District Councils with new District Unitaries. Responsibilities currently administered by the County Council would be devolved to the new District Unitaries.

Where strategic decisions that require coordination across Oxfordshire are needed – such as key transport planning, economic development and social care – the elected leaders of the new District Unitaries will work together to agree solutions.

This would give residents of each District Unitary a real say for the first time in the full range of services that affect them. The new District Unitaries will be able to tailor more services to their residents’ needs.

The devolution plan would also unlock over a billion pounds of government money, which will enable each district to build new houses, new roads, new business space and new local facilities for residents.

PwC’s study is well underway and is investigating all the options available with the current county boundaries for the future of local government in Oxfordshire.

Councillor Matthew Barber, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “Eliminating cross-boundary options now enables PwC’s independent study to focus solely on Oxfordshire’s residents and engaging with stakeholders in the county.

“Oxfordshire deserves a model of government that will give power to local people, not a one-size-fits-all model for all of Oxfordshire that will deprive people of the power to shape their local area.

“The District Unitaries will give people a real say in how their communities are run, which I think should be the bottom line when it comes to reorganising our local government. It will give power to the people of Oxfordshire.”