New partnership for investment and service improvement approved by Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council

Councillors at Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council have approved a proposal for a partnership between the two local authorities, including the appointment of a joint chief executive.

The partnership arrangement will offer long-term opportunities to join up services for residents, reduce the costs of providing services, and secure investment in Cherwell to enable the continued growth in homes and jobs.

The partnership proposal came after the financial problems in Northamptonshire County Council, which has implications for Cherwell’s existing partnership with South Northamptonshire Council, created an opportunity to explore closer joint working.

The joint arrangement was approved by county councillors on 10 July and Cherwell councillors on 16 July, and will come into effect on 1 October 2018.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said:

“We already have a strong working relationship with Cherwell and this new partnership under a joint chief executive will mean we can improve services for residents and secure more investment in infrastructure to support new jobs and homes. We already know that residents want to see new housing supported by good transport infrastructure. This partnership will ensure that happens.”

Cllr Barry Wood, Leader of Cherwell District Council, said:

“We already know about the service improvements and savings that can be made from a strong partnership, and we are confident that residents will see real benefits from joint working with the county council. We have already been working closely to join up services such as trading standards and environmental health, and I am sure we will see more of this kind of thing in the future.”

Partnership arrangements under a single chief executive will make joint working more effective and deepen the partnership arrangements. Spatial and transport planners already work closely together on schemes related to housing and infrastructure, and that will be make day-to-day working simpler as they are working to a single chief executive.

For example, a pilot project involving the county council’s head of trading standards working with officer at Cherwell and South Northamptonshire councils to support the environmental health and licensing functions. This pilot is intended to create joined up service activity across all regulatory services for the benefit of residents and businesses.

Over time other services are expected to join up where there are benefits to residents, including improving efficiency and customer service. Before any structural changes are made there will be a full business case developed, and councillors from the county council and Cherwell will decide.

Future joint working arrangements will ensure that the focus is on delivering frontline services and reducing back office costs. This approach underpins the county council’s existing Fit for the Future programme and Cherwell council’s long-term drive to make council services as cost-effective as possible.

Following a formal internal recruitment process, Yvonne Rees, the current chief executive of Cherwell and South Northamptonshire councils has been appointed to the new post of joint chief executive of Oxfordshire and Cherwell councils, with a start date of 1 October. The post of county council chief executive, currently occupied by Peter Clark, will be made redundant.

An interim chief executive is expected to be approved by South Northamptonshire on 18 July.

South Northamptonshire will remain focused on delivering for residents as the successful joint working with Cherwell begins to be uncoupled, and ahead of the future local government structures across Northamptonshire being decided.