The final proposal called ‘A New Council for a Better Oxfordshire’ has now been published.
The details can be found online at www.betteroxfordshire.org
The proposal has been renamed to reflect significant changes and the fact that it has been developed by a partnership of three Oxfordshire councils – South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and Oxfordshire County Council who have written this proposal jointly.
This joint work has been supported by Ed Vaizey MP. We have and continue to encourage the other Oxfordshire councils and MPs to participate in the process.
The draft proposals we published back in January have been revised to take account of feedback we’ve had throughout this engagement process – from residents, workshops, town and parish meetings, library events and the online survey.
There are five main areas of that have been revised in light of discussions and feedback:
The original discussion document proposed a localism model centred on five area executive boards based on the boundaries of current districts. Strong feedback was that the advantages in maintaining district boundaries were outweighed by the feeling that these boards would be too large for genuine community governance that addressed local need. Therefore the revised proposal describes a model that operates at a more local level than was initially proposed with 15-20 area boards centred on the county’s market towns and surrounding villages.
The feedback was that Oxford needs a governance model that provides a new democratically elected body that will be separate and complementary to the unitary council that covers the community, environmental and civic functions that are best managed at the city level. The proposal therefore now recommends that Oxford has an independent city council, as has been created in Salisbury as part of the change to unitary local government in Wiltshire. This new body would be designed to complement and enhance the strategic functions of the unitary council and to replace the overlap and conflict inherent to the current model.
Following on from this suggested governance model for the City we’re proposing that the impact of Council Tax harmonisation is minimised by establishing the new council for Oxford its own precept to cover the costs of its services directly, rather than via the unitary council.
The planning section has been also been updated and includes clarification that existing Local Plans will remain in place during the transition period, until a revised planning framework is put in place by the new council.
In order to set up the council, we will ask the Secretary of State to create an implementation executive that will include representation from the county, city and district councils. The implementation executive will be the legal body that oversees the new council.
In updating the proposal we have been mindful of the need to retain those elements that received the most support; in particular those related to infrastructure, financial sustainability and improved provision for residents through joining up of services.
What happens next?
The proposal is being submitted to the Cabinet meetings of the County Council, Vale of the White Horse and South Oxfordshire District Councils. If agreed, the Better Oxfordshire proposal will be submitted to Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, for him to make a decision.