A war of words continues to erupt between local authorities in the Banbury area over the devolution of local government this time involving the delivery of housing and infrastructure.
Leader of Cherwell District Council (CDC), Barry Wood, said a unitary authority should be created with Cherwell being given the power to deliver homes and infrastructure instead of CDC providing housing and Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) delivering roads.
He claims this would give a more unified approach to development across the district and would be more effective.
Cllr Wood said: “As a district council the government has given us a target to deliver 1,142 homes every year and this is not optional.
“But while we are working hard to meet that number and provide the houses that the growing population requires, the roads are not coming forward at the same rate.
“This is because quite often the county council is waiting for Section 106 funds to be released by the developers before it can afford to move forward with the infrastructure and in the meantime pressure is put on existing roads to cope with the increasing demand.”
He likened major developments to jigsaw puzzles with different authorities providing different parts of the project.
He said: “However if Cherwell had responsibility for delivering the infrastructure as well as the homes then this piecemeal approach could be abolished and instead a more coordinated approach could be adopted towards the completion of the overall project.”
Cherwell is working with the county’s other city and district councils to promote proposals for devolution. Currently, the local government structure involves service responsibility being shared between county and district councils.
Cllr Wood added: “OCC is struggling to address a large deficit in its budget while here at Cherwell, our account books are balanced. Therefore, if a unitary authority is proposed, it makes sense for Cherwell – which is financially sound – to take on the additional responsibilities of OCC which is already struggling to provide its own services, let alone those of the area’s city and district councils.”
But Nick Carter, councillor for local government at OCC hit back at CDC, saying: “This is pretty ripe coming from Cherwell District Council, one of five districts in the county who have utterly failed to provide a coherent housing strategy from which transport and highway infrastructure planning and economic growth then flows.
“The districts have spent 20 years bickering about housing policy. Meanwhile supply has failed to meet demand and house prices have spiralled to be the highest in England outside of London. They have failed miserably to plan for growth – yet they want to take on transport infrastructure and highways planning. Oxfordshire’s economy succeeds despite the district councils, not because of them. In their hands and with the proposal to balkanise the county in to four chunks, the success of Oxfordshire’s economy and our county’s £20bn contribution to the national exchequer would be under threat.
“What is required is a countywide strategic body that can co-ordinate housing and transport planning through one simple, streamlined decision making process. The districts talk about having a ‘combined authority’ to deal with such things. However given their track record of squabbling on just about every subject and failing to agree consensus this would be an unelected quango that would deliver paralysis.”