Oxfordshire councils trade blows over unitary study

Oxfordshire County Council Image copyright Robin Sones
Image caption The devolution deal hopes to boost investment in schools, roads and public transport

A review into the proposed abolition of a county council has led to a war of words between council leaders.

District councils have told Oxfordshire County Council to "get on board" with a study into proposals to create "four unitary bodies".

The districts around Oxfordshire have proposed scrapping the county council.

But the county council has accused them of "putting headlines over joint working".

'Extreme budget difficulties'

Leader of the Vale of White Horse district council, Matt Barber, said: "Everyone knows the county council is having extreme budget difficulties, leading to cuts in services people value. Two-tier local government is broken in our view and we want to look at all the options for unitary councils.

He added the county council should "get on board" with the work being done by district councils and not "waste the public's money duplicating the study".

Image caption District councillor Matt Barber, left, and Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth, right, have traded blows over the proposals to rejig local government in the county

Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth said: "Once again the districts are putting headlines ahead of joint working.

"We have written to the districts twice asking them to discuss terms of reference for a joint study, with the public also given a chance to comment.

"They made it clear they weren't prepared to do that."

The four proposed unitary bodies - which would include district councils from Northamptonshire and the Cotswolds - would work in partnership with the NHS and Local Enterprise Group.

Proposed unitary authorities:

  • Southern Oxfordshire Unitary Authority, replacing Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire District Councils
  • Oxford City Unitary Authority, replacing Oxford City Council
  • West Oxfordshire (Cotswold) Unitary Authority, replacing West Oxfordshire District Council and Cotswold District Council
  • Cherwell (South Northants) Unitary Authority, replacing Cherwell District Council and South Northamptonshire Council

According to district council leaders, abolishing Oxfordshire County Council would save the taxpayer money.

County council leaders have said the four unitary body proposal has ruled out the benefits of having a single unitary council in Oxfordshire.

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