Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Leaders unite to extend Government invite

Political leaders opposed to plans for a single unitary authority in Oxfordshire have requested an urgent meeting with the Government Minister responsible for deciding their future.

Last week a letter was sent to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid MP, on behalf of the leaders of Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council and West Oxfordshire District Council.

The leaders are united in their opposition against Oxfordshire County Council’s proposals for a unitary authority and have requested an opportunity to discuss the plans with Mr Javid before any decision is undertaken.

In a joint statement, council leaders Cllr Barry Wood (Cherwell), Cllr Bob Price (Oxford) and Cllr James Mills (West Oxfordshire) said: “These proposals affect all of Oxfordshire so it is vitally important that all of Oxfordshire has the opportunity to have their voice heard before any decision is made. We three councils stand united against the proposals for a unitary council which we maintain are flawed and will disregard the specific needs of each individual city and district.

“Cherwell, Oxford City and West Oxfordshire are similar in that we are three strong performing councils but we are different in the way we operate and that is what’s key to our success. By operating at a local level we can tailor services to meet the needs of our individual communities and address challenges specific to our own areas. It is this approach that makes us so successful but this would be lost if a unitary model were to proceed and Mr Javid needs to be aware of the devastating consequences before any decision is made.”

Under Oxfordshire County Council’s proposals, the area’s city and four district councils would be disbanded and replaced with a single unitary authority tasked with delivering all services across Oxfordshire.

In the letter to Mr Javid, the leaders stipulate four of the county’s five MPs have joined them in opposing the proposals and reference the “growing levels of opposition” and “concerns about increases in council tax” which have been expressed by local residents.

They add that they “want to avoid committing taxpayers’ money to commissioning further studies and analysis in response to the county’s proposals” given there is “no realistic chance of a consensus being achieved” between the city, district and county councils.

In ending the letter, the leaders request an opportunity to meet with the Minister and local MPs, stating it is “essential that such a decision should not be undertaken without robust and independent evaluation of the proposals and their deliverability”.

The leaders are now waiting to hear back from Mr Javid’s office regarding the invitation to discuss the plans.  In the meantime residents can find out more about the campaign to oppose the proposals at:

• Cherwell District Council: www.cherwell.gov.uk
• Oxford City Council: www.oxford.gov.uk
• West Oxfordshire District Council: www.westoxon.gov.uk

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