Plans to create a single unitary authority for Oxfordshire will ‘wreak devastation’ on residents, district council leader warns.
The plans, proposed by Oxfordshire County Council, would replace the current two-tier structure comprising county and district councils with a single authority responsible for delivering all services.
South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils yesterday announced they supported the proposals. However, the leader of Cherwell District Council said he ‘refused to be pressurised’ into supporting this local government transformation.
‘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,’ said Cllr Barry Wood.
‘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.’
Cllr Wood accused Oxfordshire CC of being ‘inept’ at managing its budget and responsibilities.
‘Its council tax has gone up year on year but service provision has gone down,’ he said.
‘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 Cherwell leader characterised the proposed unitary council as a “one-size-fits all” approach and said power should not be taken away from local communities and given to an authority - Oxfordshire CC - 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,’ he said.
Cllr Wood highlighted the fact Cherwell’s council tax precept has remained frozen for the past seven years without any impact on service provision. If a single unitary council were to be introduced, he warned, council tax precepts would have to go up.