County Council responds on unitary councils issue

The press release “urged the county council” to work with district councils on a joint study into unitary local government in the future.

In response to the latest district council press release Councillor Ian Hudspeth, the Leader of Oxfordshire County Council said:

“We will know that the district councils are serious about partnership working when they talk to us before issuing press releases telling us what we should be doing.

"What we proposed from the start was a proper independent study treating all options equally with proper involvement from all partners, this was ignored by the Districts who have commissioned a study designed to give them the answer they seek. They have said they have amended the study and asked us to join, yet we still have not seen those changes. What they seem to be trying to do is repair a deeply flawed tender, which we have no confidence can be achieved. We have no alternative but to do our own study and invite key stakeholders to participate.

“Yesterday the county council published an invitation to tender for an independent study that would look at all the options for local government reform. We would be happy to pause this process and talk to the districts about a joint, independently commissioned study. But until they are actually prepared to talk to us rather than issue media statements, we are continuing to proceed.”

Notes to Editors

  • Request For Quotation - Independent Review of Local Government Structures in Oxfordshire CPU 1742.  Closing date for return of RFQ - noon 14th April 2016. 
  • The earlier version of the district council tendering document that they now claim they have changed but have yet to share the proof of this with the county council, read as follows: 2.17 For the avoidance of doubt, neither of the comparator options will gain District approval because they create Unitaries outside the City that would cover a very diverse range of localities and interests which cannot be easily reflected. Larger scale organisations inevitably produce diseconomies from poor internal communication chains and tensions between local delivery and central control. In addition, the County is currently struggling to manage its budget and drive effective transformation of its services. We do not believe this would change under a County-wide unitary model.
  • Oxfordshire County Council believes an independent study should focus on the following areas, with each criteria scored separately to show the relative strengths and weaknesses of different models:
    • Improving local service delivery and outcomes, particularly for the most vulnerable
    • Delivering significant cost savings, value for money and financial sustainability
    • Providing stronger and more accountable strategic and local leadership
    • Driving economic growth and meet the infrastructure challenge
    • Engaging with communities and empowering local areas.