County council calls for public debate on future of council services for Oxfordshire

~~The four unitary council model proposed by the districts and CCG is one option. We believe all options should be considered by the public to agree what is best for Oxfordshire people and Oxfordshire public services.

Councillor Rodney Rose, deputy leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said:

“Oxfordshire is a historic county that is so much more than the sum of its parts. From a personal perspective, I would regret anything that saw that identity and heritage disappear. That said, our main focus must be on the best way to serve the people of Oxfordshire – whatever the council logo on their wheelie bins.

“At this time of diminished resources in local government, we need to make sure every single penny counts so that we can best protect services for the people of Oxfordshire – particularly vulnerable children and adults who depend on social services. Before any deal is done, we need to know the cost to the council taxpayers of Oxfordshire.

“We welcome the opportunity to join this debate about the future of public services in Oxfordshire, and invite the partners in these proposals to explain in detail how the proposals provide better, safer services and for less money.”

The county council believes the options that should be considered for local government restructuring in Oxfordshire include:

• one council providing all local authority services for all the people of Oxfordshire
• two or three councils providing all local authority services for all the people of Oxfordshire
• four councils providing all local authority services for residents of Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire

“We need to fully understand the implications for the people of Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire if social care is ‘lifted and shifted’ into the new combined authority, as the proposal suggests. No doubt the people of Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire will also want to understand the implications of shifting their transport responsibilities into this new combined authority.”

Today Councillor Rose invited the leaders of the district councils and CCG to lay out the full details of their proposals so that the public can fully understand the implications on services. These would include:

• plans for safeguarding children
• the future of the fire and rescue service for Oxfordshire
• joining up health services and adult social care in Oxfordshire
• planning the infrastructure required for expected growth of homes and jobs in the county.

In considering the best option for Oxfordshire, the county council believes the tests for the best format for local government should focus on:

• Local, democratic accountability
• Efficiency and cost-effectiveness
• Safeguarding vulnerable children and adults
• Stewardship of the county as a vitally important economic area for Oxfordshire and England
• Partnership working with other public services including policing, health and education

Cllr Rose added: “The district councils’ proposal would mean the creation of four key council services where there is currently one relating to children and adult social services, and also for planning and delivering improvement to Oxfordshire’s transport network.

“Last year we published an independent report that showed there were greater savings from a single council for Oxfordshire than three, smaller unitary councils.

“We think there is a strong argument for reducing duplication of council functions, not increasing them. For instance the NHS locally would need to deal with four organisations not one when it comes to joining up health and adult social care services, as required by government policy.

“We look forward to proposals for future structures being compared and contrasted. However the ultimate test has to be which system is the most effective way to deliver, good, safe services for people of Oxfordshire.”

Notes to editors

In early 2015, the county council published a report by Ernst & Young assessing the merits of having different council for the whole of Oxfordshire. It can be found here