According to Oxfordshire County Council’s proposal for local government reorganisation abolishing all of Oxfordshire’s six councils and creating one new unitary council would save £20m each year – money that would pay for better services and keep council tax low.
Oxfordshire County Council wants to hear the views of residents on their draft proposals before submitting a unitary bid to government.
To find out more and have your say, go to www.oneoxfordshire.gov.uk or visit your local library.
West Oxfordshire District Council’s response to Oxfordshire County Council’s One Oxfordshire proposal
“The ‘One Oxfordshire’ proposal may sound attractive on the surface, but digging a little deeper, we soon see the adverse impacts it will have on our residents and how it is likely to change our District. This greatly concerns me”, says Cllr James Mills Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council.
Cllr Mills explains what some of his concerns are for West Oxfordshire:
Residents want to see infrastructure improvements
“High on our agenda is the need for funding to improve our transport infrastructure. Residents are fed up of travelling on congested roads, the A40 in particular causes a lot of misery for many people. Together, with all the Oxfordshire councils, we have agreed to jointly bid for devolution funding through a Combined Authority model. However, this work is in danger of being severely delayed if a new ‘One Oxfordshire’ authority is created, as it would take years to put a new authority in place.”
Council tax to rise
“Our council tax would rise under a single Oxfordshire authority. Currently West Oxfordshire has, by far, the lowest charge across the county, which is less than a third of the Oxford City Council charge.
Local decisions taken remotely – a threat to local democracy
“All decisions would be significantly influenced by councillors who represent areas outside of West Oxfordshire. They simply cannot have our residents’ best interests at heart, because they will not know what they are.
A local voice for local issues
“The District Council provides a local voice and regularly speaks out about issues affecting our communities. As a statutory body, our views have to be taken into account – without us being here, who else would do this? Our campaign against Oxfordshire County Council closing Dix Pit was successful and, at the moment, several of our councillors are leading on local campaigns to maintain hospital and health centre provision in Chipping Norton and Witney.
“Rural West Oxfordshire has already faced a heavy burden of service cuts by Oxfordshire County Council from Children’s Services to Public Transport. These new proposals do not address the needs of our residents.
The end to free parking
“A new ‘One Oxfordshire’ authority is a threat to our free parking policy in West Oxfordshire. Free parking benefits our residents and is a major driver of our very robust local economy as seen by our thriving town centres. A single Oxfordshire authority would lead to the introduction of parking charges, the same as the rest of the county.
Support for leisure and community facilities
“Our grants programme helps communities maintain and improve parks, play areas and village halls. Future improvements are planned for our leisure centres in Carterton, Chipping Norton and Witney. Without a District Council in the future, there is no guarantee that these improvements will take place and indeed cuts are more likely in order to fund the statutory services currently provided by the County Council.
Savings being made are not substantial
“One Oxfordshire’ is proposing savings of £20m a year, but this is a small sum when considered as part of the proposed authority’s total budget of over £821m. It is only a 2.4% saving and does not compare well with the 14% savings we are currently making in West Oxfordshire through shared working alone! A large ‘One Oxfordshire’ authority will not have the agility and ability to work as efficiently as the smaller district councils. We are already seeing how Oxfordshire County Council, as a large authority, is not managing its budgets.
“However, I am not against the concept of Unitary Councils as they can provide many advantages, both financial and improved decision-making. But, to be successful, a Unitary Authority must be based on strong areas of community interest. There are no examples in England where a Unitary Council has a city in the heart of a largely rural environment. ‘One Oxfordshire’ is simply the wrong proposal at the wrong time.
“My purpose as an elected representative is always to put residents first and ‘One Oxfordshire’ simply does not do that.”