Oxford

Call for elected mayor for Oxfordshire

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Image caption Council leaders in Oxfordshire are looking into creating an elected mayor for Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire could be voting for its first elected mayor by 2018, according to a council leader.

Oxford City Council's Bob Price said a county mayor would allow Oxfordshire to pull "powers back from Whitehall".

He also claimed a mayor would increase central government funding and provide greater control over housing and transport for the county's six council authorities.

Authority leaders have confirmed they are looking at elected-mayor proposals.

It was revealed in November that the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) - tasked with boosting the county's economy - had only provisionally received £15m of £382m requested funding to complete infrastructure projects across the county.

Mr Price, who is a member of OxLEP, said: "We think that in the latest round of local growth fund allocations there was a strong bias in the allocations made by government to places which had elected mayors and combined authorities.

"There's no evidence to really prove that, but that seems to be the evidence in terms of allocations."

Mr Price said he believes there would be political consensus between the mayor and respective Labour and Conservative-run Oxfordshire authorities, as all of the authorities wanted to improve roads such as the A34, and resolve the county's housing crisis.

Analysis: Bethan Phillips, BBC Oxford political reporter:

The fact that Oxfordshire does not yet have an elected mayor is rumoured to be the reason the county recently missed out on hundreds of millions of pounds for big projects from the government.

Council bosses and Oxfordshire's Local Enterprise Partnership put together a bid for £382m for things like upgrading railway stations, building new junctions on the A34 and creating new roads.

But the county is only expected to get a tiny slice of that money.

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price claims there was a bias in allocating money to areas that have elected mayors, or plans to bring one in.

There is no consensus yet from our councils on whether or not having an elected mayor is a good idea - and they will all have to agree for the plan to go ahead.

But if there are potentially big sums of money involved, the change is going to be very tempting for councils.

The six councils - Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council and Cherwell, West Oxfordshire, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils - are looking at lobbying the government for an elected mayor, potentially as part of a devolution bid.

A spokesperson for Oxfordshire County Council, which manages transport infrastructure, social care, children and adult services in the county, said: "We cannot pass up the chance to secure infrastructure investment from the government, so we will work closely with the district and city councils on a devolution bid - which is likely to include an elected mayor and combined authority.

"But we still need to be convinced that adding another layer of council administration is right for Oxfordshire."

OxLEP chief executive Nigel Tipple said: "Ultimately, proposals will be submitted to central government for consideration and final decision.

"OxLEP will continue to work closely with all local authorities, universities, business and other partner organisations to create the conditions that will best enable the county's already thriving economy to flourish and grow in future."