Latest news re the re-organisation proposals for Oxfordshire
The latest news, activities and events across YourOxfordshire 24/03/17
The latest news, activities and events across YourOxfordshire 24/03/17
Better Oxfordshire proposal officially submitted to government
Yesterday, the county council, South Oxfordshire District Council and Vale of White Horse District Council officially submitted the Better Oxfordshire joint proposal to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
We think a unitary council would be simpler, deliver better services, be more locally accountable, and cost less to run.
If the Secretary of State agrees to the proposal, representatives from all six councils in Oxfordshire would be asked to work together to manage the transition to a new council. No date has been given for a decision, but it is unlikely to be before the county council elections on 4 May 2017.
Find out more and staying up to date
Once again, thank you to everyone who's contributed their thoughts and views. Here's a reminder of some of the changes we've made
Increased the number of 'area boards' which would have responsibility for local services
Made special arrangements for Oxford to reflect its unique needs in the county
So what happens next?
Some preparatory work can start immediately. Recommendations agreed by the cabinet include setting up a joint committee to develop the area board model, with all the councils invited to take part.
We also want to set up a City Convention so that residents and organisations in Oxford can take part in designing a new model of governance for the city.
As always, you can find out more at www.betteroxfordshire.org -and join in the discussion on Facebook.
We'll be back with your usual mix of events and useful information next week, but for now a quick reminder that the clocks change this weekend, so don't get caught out!
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To access the latest news please go to https://www.better-oxfordshire.org
Unitary ConsultationThe Parish Council responded to the Unitary consultation to say they did not feel that there was enough information to be able to give a defining answer
Proposals From the Vale and South Oxfordshire CouncilsOxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils have developed a proposal for a new single unitary council for Oxfordshire.
"A new council for A Better Oxfordshire" makes the case for abolishing the existing two-tier structure of six councils and replacing them with one single council for Oxfordshire.
* Revised proposals for unitary council published today
* More powers for local communities
* City will be local council in its own right
* Survey shows 70% public support for new unitary council
Councils agree proposal for a new council for a better Oxfordshire
Proposals for single Oxfordshire unitary council unanimously approved at Vale council meeting
The Vale of White Horse District Council unanimously approved proposals for a single council for Oxfordshire at their Full Council meeting on the 8 March 2017. Published March 09, 2017
A research report into residents' views on local government reform has been published ahead of Oxfordshire County Council's Cabinet committee meeting on Tuesday 14 March. Cabinet members will decide whether to submit the unitary proposal to the government for approval.
Published March 11, 2017 -Research shows support for a unitary council - as long as it's 'more local'
South Oxfordshire District Council approved proposals for a single council for Oxfordshire at its Full Council meeting on the 10 March 2017
Published March 13, 2017
Proposals for single Oxfordshire unitary council approved at South Oxfordshire council meeting
Read the proposal
Find out more about our proposals for a simpler, better, lower cost and more local council.
Better services. Simpler. Lower cost. More local.
Residents of Oxfordshire 'misled' by three of county's district councils
At a cost of over £40,000, MORI was commissioned to run a survey to support negative campaign tactics, with questions that exploit residents' understandable confusion about two-tier local government.
Published March 14, 2017
Better Oxfordshire Cabinet speech by Cllr Ian Hudspeth
Full text of the Leader of Oxfordshire County Council's speech
Speech by Cllr Ian Hudspeth at the Cabinet meeting on 14 March 2017
Published March 14, 2017
Oxfordshire County Council has formally approved the decision to submit the unitary bid to Government at their cabinet meeting on 14 March 2017.
Published March 14, 2017
Oxfordshire County Council cabinet agrees to submit Oxfordshire unitary bid to government
Letter from Matthew Barber re OCC'slatest Unitary Authority Proposals. 7th October 2016
You may recently have received an email from Peter Clark, County Director at Oxfordshire County Council setting out their proposals for a unitary authority covering the whole of Oxfordshire and their intention to work with stakeholders in developing their proposals. Since the email made reference to the work commissioned by the district councils, we felt it was important to write to you to clarify our position and set out how we believe efforts should now be focused to make progress on the urgent issues we face in securing investment and in improving services across the county.
Our aim in exploring governance options has always been to support proposals for a devolution deal with government which would see significant investment in transport and infrastructure and housing needed to support and manage growth sustainably. During the summer Government have made it clear that they will only agree proposals for devolution or local government reorganisation if they are collectively agreed by the councils concerned and that they will not act as referee between different proposals. Government officials have also advised that they remain open to discussion on locally supported devolution proposals that include strong, accountable governance and clear accountability. In other parts of the country, such as Cambridgeshire and Peterborough devolution proposals that will see significant funding for infrastructure are progressing without requiring local government reorganisation.
Following the work carried out over the summer, it is clear that there will be no consensus between the Oxfordshire councils about a unitary model. However the studies have identified ways in which we can make progress on the urgent challenges of delivering savings and securing investment without changes to the structure of local government. We believe our focus should now be on these opportunities that Oxfordshire cannot afford to miss.
The county's proposals are not supported by the five district and city councils in Oxfordshire. Such a large authority would exceed the size recommended by government and result in a one-size-fits all approach that would lack both accountability to local people and the flexibility needed to reflect the different needs and views of communities in our diverse county. The model for a county unitary with substructures at district level would mean decisions about resources and policy would be set centrally. This would remove decisions and resources from councillors in a local area and would be likely to add, not reduce complexity and confusion amongst the public over where accountability lies. The proposal also raises serious concerns about increases in council tax and implications for services that we know our residents value and wish to see protected.
Having considered both of the reports that were published over the summer, the view of all five district Leaders is that three new unitary authorities covering the city, the north and the south of the county, would provide the best option for any potential reorganisation. This model would enable greater joining up of decisions about services and deliver savings comparable to that of a single unitary whilst ensuring services remain responsive and accountable to local communities.
It would avoid the problems of tax harmonisation and mean that decisions about resources, budget and models of service delivery could reflect the very different needs of the city and rural areas. The district councils would work together through a statutory body to manage services that need to be coordinated over a wider area, such as social care and children's services.
We recognise that any changes to local government structures must provide for more effective collaboration with stakeholders to address the urgent challenges of rising demand for services and investment in infrastructure needed to support growth, in particular transport and housing. Our model includes proposals for how the district unitary authorities to work in partnership with the Local Enterprise Partnership and other agencies to more effectively improve services and drive growth.
Further information on our proposals can be found by following the link below
Summary of PwC study and district proposals
However, we recognise that in the absence of agreement between the county and the districts on a future unitary model and no government led process to help us resolve the differences of view, it is clear there will be no progress with local government restructuring in the immediate future.
We therefore believe that our efforts and the energies of our partners would be better focused on working collectively on actions that we can take now to deliver the savings that PwC and Grant Thornton identified available and to re-engage in discussions with government about a deal which will help to address the serious deficiencies in housing and transport infrastructure that threaten our economic success.
We therefore intend to continue to work together as districts and with the county, as agreed with them in the summer, to find a constructive way forward to delivering savings and a deal with government that provides the investment funding Oxfordshire needs. We would be happy to discuss these issues with you and welcome your input.
Councillor Bob Price, Leader Oxford City Council
Councillor James Mills, Leader West Oxfordshire District Council
Councillor John Cotton, Leader South Oxfordshire District Council
Councillor Matt Barber, Leader Vale of White Horse District Council
Councillor Barry Wood, Leader Cherwell District and South Northants Councils.
Devolution notes from Oxford County Council (OCC)and the Vale of White Horse
I wanted to update you on the ongoing work to reform local government in Oxfordshire.
Today the County Council's Cabinet formally decided to support development proposals for local government reorganisation based on a single council for the whole of Oxfordshire that would save around £100m over five years. We must also ensure that the new model can be responsive to the needs of communities and work effectively with stakeholders from the public, private and voluntary sectors.
You will recall that at the start of the summer the County and District Councils commissioned consultants (Grant Thornton LLP and PWC respectively) to investigate potential options for reforming Oxfordshire's local government arrangements.With both reports now published, it is clear that there is a great deal of agreement between the two. I attach a summary note, but in short the reports concur that:
§ maintaining the status quo is not in the best interest of residents;
§ a single unitary authority would deliver the biggest savings, of around £110m over five years;
§ key plans and services need to be managed on a countywide footprint;
§ a mechanism for local empowerment and decision-making is needed within the county.
The links to both reports can be found below;
· Grant Thornton Report for the County Council
· PwC report for the District Councils
I would also like to draw your attention to the Grant Thornton report's proposal for a county/district hybrid council referred to as ‘option 6' in the report. This proposal would mean a single unitary council, but where district boundaries were preserved so that unitary councillors representing areas within a given district would meet to make local decisions, as well as being part of the wider authority and taking ‘strategic decisions.
To my mind this would allow us to build on the benefits of both reports - delivering significant savings, providing a strong single voice back to central government and respecting local identity and variation.
The Cabinet today considered the two reports, alongside the recommendations of the cross-party Performance Scrutiny Committee which met last week. The Cabinet has decided that we will:
"Work with stakeholders, including the public, to develop proposals for a single Oxfordshire unitary council, and in particular further explore the proposal .... known as option 6, whereby local areas within the county could make decisions for their own area, within an overall budget and policy framework set at the strategic level."
I will update you as soon as possible on what our next steps will be, but am committed to engaging with stakeholders at the earliest opportunity to secure the best outcome for Oxfordshire.
I very much hope you will be able to contribute your insight and ideas to these discussions as we develop a workable model for local government to meet the long-term challenges and opportunities in Oxfordshire.
In the meantime, for further details and background please see www.oneoxfordshire.org
Peter G Clark
Oxfordshire County Council
Oxford OX1 1ND
Earlier information from OCC and VOWH
Click here to see OCC reply to councils newspaper article
Click here to see VOWH Vision for Oxfordshire