City and District council statement on the future of local government in Oxfordshire
Speaking on behalf of the City and District councils in Oxfordshire, Councillor James Mills, Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council said:
“We believe that local government should be for local people and that a three unitary authority model is the one that best serves all the needs of the residents, businesses and solves the challenges that lie ahead.
“The County Council’s conclusion that we should create a single unitary authority for Oxfordshire is deeply flawed. It could mean up to a 20% increase in council tax for residents in Vale of White Horse, South Oxfordshire, Cherwell and West Oxfordshire over five years without any increase in investment in services in their area. It would remove local democratic accountability by creating England’s biggest unitary shire council that would fail to recognise the very different needs of communities across the county.
“The County is in desperate straits. It is unable to manage its own budget properly and following several cuts to frontline services, it is clutching at straws to try to shore up its own financial position at the expense of local residents and local councils. A monolithic, unitary council would flounder trying to manage the needs of a growing dynamic city and the pressures on its rural conurbation. It would be unable to manage the different needs of the county’s different communities and would impose blanket solutions to problems that would make no one happy.
“The three unitary model also delivers significant savings of up to £40 million a year, but does so whilst retaining local accountability without requiring the creation of new costly, complex and confusing sub-structures. It avoids the problem of council tax harmonisation and allows local councils to set local rates of council tax for their areas. It provides a simple way for the three councils to work together to ensure Oxfordshire is an engine for economic growth.
“Far from working together as the Government has asked us to do, the County has decided to go it alone in campaigning for a flawed model of local government based upon big is best and central is better than local. The PwC report demonstrates that significant savings are available from transforming services without reorganising governance structures. Hearing what government is telling us we now want to focus on delivering those savings and ensuring investment in infrastructure, housing and jobs. Our partners have told us they are not interested in a debate about governance structures that no one can agree, but want to work together on how we can attract investment and deliver more joined up services. We believe that working together is key. We need to establish working partnerships across our public, private and voluntary sectors. By going it alone the County Council is putting at risk the opportunity to secure a devolution deal with central government that could deliver millions of pounds in devolved funds to Oxfordshire.”