Lines continue to advance in battle over unitary authority proposals

CDC leader Barry Wood
CDC leader Barry Wood

A push to simplify local government in Oxfordshire in a bid to save cash has been meeting a lot of resistance from several quarters in the county.

Since Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) unveiled its vision for One Oxfordshire, which would see the six district and county councils replaced with one unitary authority, the district councils have been split over their support for the proposal.

On one side is Cherwell, West Oxfordshire and Oxford City councils, which are vehemently opposed while on the other, Vale of the White Horse and South Oxfordshire district councils have thrown their support behind OCC.

This has lead to a war of words between the two sides.

Now the group opposed to the proposal have been taking steps to secure their position.

WODC has allocated £25,000 towards a ‘fighting fund’ while a petition to stop the proposal has been launched by Cherwell District Council on the Change.org website, which has so far received around 850 signatures.

The petition states: “Proposals for a unitary county council would put our services and priorities at risk.

“You may not agree with everything we do but even Oxfordshire County Council has recognised Cherwell as an example of a ‘successful’ council; we do not fail.

“This is not about what political party you vote for, it is about whether Cherwell District Council remains in control of local services for local people. A single point of contact is a single point of failure.”

The petition will be used in a bid to demonstrate the public backs retaining CDC.

Leader Barry Wood said: “Plans for a unitary authority would mean a local voice would be lost; decisions affecting the district would be made by people at a county level who would prioritise the needs of Oxfordshire over those of Cherwell.

“The decision on the future of Cherwell should be made by people in Cherwell and if they are opposed to this model they need to make their voices known now by signing this petition.”

The political leaders opposed to the unitary plans have also sent a joint letter to the secretary of state for communities and local government, Sajid Javid, requesting an urgent meeting.

In a joint statement, councillors Wood, Bob Price (Oxford) and James Mills (West Oxfordshire) said: “These proposals affect all of Oxfordshire so it is vitally important 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.”

A spokeswoman from OCC said: “Rather than launching a petition to preserve the status quo, we urge Cherwell District Council to get around the table with us to develop a brand new model for local government in Oxfordshire that meets the future needs and aspirations of residents.

“By working together we can save £20m each year – money that could be used to improve valued frontline services.”