William Eichler 16 April 2019

Oxfordshire councils to extend joint working arrangements

Two Oxfordshire councils are considering extending their joint working partnership in a move they hope will trigger a ‘broader conversation’ on how local government is organised.

Cherwell District Council and Oxfordshire County Council set up a joint working partnership in October 2018. They have a joint chief executive and a shared assistant director for regulatory services and public protection.

This partnership, which is one of a very small number of examples of a district and county council sharing staff and services, has also seen the two authorities sharing an assistant director for housing and commissioning and an assistant chief executive.

The two councils are now working on business cases for sharing services in law and governance, finance, HR, communications, policy and consultation.

They are also looking to share research and business intelligence and regulatory services, such as trading standards and community safety, and public protection, such as fire and rescue and emergency planning.

‘Undoubtedly these are fascinating times as we chart a way forward and break new ground with a project that has a real national significance,’ said assistant chief executive Claire Taylor.

‘Many parts of England retain a two-tier structure of local government with district and county councils. Districts are close to communities and able to respond and focus at a very local level. Meanwhile county councils deliver strategic services on a larger scale, such as social care, highways and trading standards.

‘There is huge potential in combining these two different approaches into a closer partnership and we believe the results will be powerful.

‘Our ambition is to trigger a broader conversation throughout the country – via our own example here in Oxfordshire – about how the councils and other public bodies can work better together.

‘We all face the same challenges and we serve the same residents – so collaboration makes good sense. Our experience so far is that real tangible improvements can be delivered to the benefit of our residents, both as taxpayers and service-users.’

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