Response to the recent announcement by South and Vale of White Horse District Councils

Published: Monday, 6th February 2017

Leader of Oxford City Council, Councillor Bob Price says:

“The County Council and South and Vale District Councils have caused chaos and confusion by launching a new set of proposals, midway through the County’s own consultation.

“The statement issued today reveals problems with the. One Oxfordshire approach. Residents would see council tax go up and lose their say on local services.

 “We have been trying to bring consensus to local government in Oxfordshire through detailed work to develop a fresh devolution proposal with a combined authority.  By declaring their hand for a unitary county council the district councils of South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse have shattered that consensus and are compromising the potential for major investment in the county.

“The creation of a unitary council is unacceptable to the City. It puts local democracy at risk and removes the ability of local councils to respond to the needs of their communities.

“A thousand years of city government for Oxford would be wiped out and replaced with little more than a parish council. A unitary council for the whole county would not give the city the priority and focus it needs as a densely packed urban community, and a major international significant centre of academic excellence, economic innovation and culture. 

“Oxford City is very different to its surrounding area and only by having its own council can that difference be respected and allowed to flourish.

“The proposal also puts significant investment that the city council has made under threat.

“In particular:

  • Council housing could be sold off and provision for social housing would lose priority
  • Further cuts to homeless services in the city with more hostel closures could result
  • The city’s housing priorities of affordable housing, high environmental standards and substantial investment in our estates and the City’s housing stock would be lost.
  • The city’s investment in community facilities such as Rose Hill and East Oxford Community Centres would be at risk
  • Our programme of improvement across all 19 community facilities would come under threat
  • We could lose investment in facilities and programmes for young people such as the Youth Ambition programme
  • £1.4m of grants to community and voluntary sector groups and to the cultural sector would be at risk and could result in the closure of many of the supported organisations

“Together with our colleagues in Cherwell and West Oxfordshire District Councils we would urge the other councils not to waste time and spend taxpayers money on expensive promotion of this destructive bid.

“It would be better for everyone to put aside personal ambitions and work together to focus delivering the homes and investment in infrastructure that our residents urgently need.

“We should put all our combined energy into tackling our common challenges on housing, roads and infrastructure, training and skills through the devolution proposal and the combined authority.  We should focus on bringing funds and powers from central Government to the local level. This approach could bring results more quickly and without the conflict and disruption involved in abolishing councils and reorganising all the services that they provide to the people of Oxfordshire”