Leader says he will not be pressured over unitary authority plans

By Sarah Edwards at

The leader of Cherwell District Council has refused to be pressurised into supporting plans for a single unitary authority as he says it would “wreak devastation on the people” he is elected to protect.
Cllr Barry Wood issued the battle cry after South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils announced they were now supporting proposals to create a single unitary authority for Oxfordshire.
The plans, which were outlined by Oxfordshire County Council, would replace the current two-tier structure comprising county and district councils and be replaced with a single authority responsible for delivering all services.
Cllr Wood said: “When the county council’s proposals for a single unitary authority were first unveiled, Cherwell stood united in opposition with Oxford City and the county’s other district councils – including South and Vale. The fact that these two fickle councils have now defected to support the county’s proposals does not alter my position or opinion that these plans would wreak devastation on the very people I am elected to protect.
“Time and again Oxfordshire County Council has proven it is inept at managing its budgets and responsibilities; its council tax has gone up year on year but service provision has gone down. Cuts were made to children’s centres, highway maintenance and bus routes, when the only thing that really needed to be cut – and wasn’t – was the grass.
“The idea of a one-size-fits all council is ludicrous; the issues affecting Banbury or Bicester will not be relevant to those in Wantage or Abingdon. We should be giving more control to local communities, not taking it away. And we certainly should not be placing such power in the hands of an authority which cannot manage the services it has now. By proposing a single point of contact, Oxfordshire County Council – with the support of South and Vale – is merely proposing a single point of failure and it is our residents who will suffer the consequences.”
Despite South Oxfordshire District Council and the Vale of White Horse District Council now changing their opinion on the proposals, Cherwell, West Oxfordshire District Council and Oxford City Council remain firmly opposed to the plans.
Oxfordshire County Council has continued to increase its share of council tax year on year, whereas Cherwell’s precept has remained frozen for the past seven years without any impact on service provision. If single unitary council were to be introduced, council tax precepts would have to go up to fund this.
Cherwell District Council is encouraging people to join them in opposing proposals for a single unitary authority by submitting feedback to Oxfordshire County Council at http://www.oneoxfordshire.org/get-involved The closing date for submissions is 28 February.