Former Council Leader Keith Mitchell CBE (1946 – 2020)

The sad news was received this week that former Oxfordshire County Council Leader Keith Mitchell CBE has passed away.

Councillor Mitchell served as council leader from 2001 to 2012 and had served in prominent roles at the council prior to this. He represented Bloxham, Adderbury, Bodicote and the surrounding areas of north Oxfordshire at County Hall from the 1989 local elections until 2013.

The council’s political complexion had been “no overall control” from 1985 to 2005 – but in 2001 Councillor Mitchell became leader of the council when he formed a coalition administration in which his Conservatives joined forces with the Liberal Democrats.

The county council adopted the cabinet system for the first time and Councillor Mitchell’s Deputy as Leader was at first Councillor Margaret Godden and then Councillor Dermot Roaf.

In 2005 the Conservatives won the local elections which meant the end of the coalition arrangement. Councillor Mitchell’s Deputy Leader became Councillor David Robertson and this remained the case until Councillor Mitchell stood down as leader in 2012.

During this period the Audit Commission was still inspecting and rating each council in the country and for the first time Oxfordshire County Council was rated as “Outstanding” – the highest possible rating.

In his later days as Council Leader it fell to Councillor Mitchell and his cabinet to oversee the first of the cuts that were experienced in local government from 2010.

Other responsibilities included serving on the South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA) and the Local Government Association. He had also been a Cherwell District Councillor and was active in Freemasonry.

The current leader of the county council, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, was Keith Mitchell’s successor. He said: “Keith is a towering figure in the history of Oxfordshire County Council and was at the helm through some very significant times. He was very proud to lead the county council.

“He brought experience of the business world in to the role having previously run his own accountancy business. Keith’s public profile could be at odds with the experience of councillors and council officers who dealt with him on a day to day basis and who would testify that he was pragmatic, practical and conciliatory.

“I am sure everyone at the county council would join with me in passing on condolences to Keith’s wife. He will be missed, respected and long-remembered by staff and councillors of all political persuasions.”