Oxfordshire and Cherwell councils mark the start of a long-term partnership to invest in services

A long-term partnership between Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council officially launched today (Monday 1 October), as Yvonne Rees started her new role as chief executive of the County Council, alongside her existing role as chief exec of Cherwell District.

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

Yvonne Rees, chief executive of Oxfordshire County Council and of Cherwell District Council, said:

“This is an exciting time to work for two ambitious councils, both committed to improving services for residents and investing in the future of the county. My priority now is to get to know staff across the council so together we can prepare for the changes ahead and become ‘fit for the future’.

“At the same time, I will continue to ensure the separation of Cherwell from South Northamptonshire council is successful and that Cherwell staff can carry on providing great services during this time of change. We’ve had a long and productive partnership that has achieved genuine improvements in services for our residents, as well as saving millions. Whilst we are genuinely sad to be ending this joint partnership, we’ll remain friends. That experience sets us up well for the future.”

The partnership proposal came after the financial problems in Northamptonshire County Council, which had implications for Cherwell District Council’s partnership with South Northamptonshire Council, created an opportunity to explore closer joint working between Cherwell and the county council.

The joint arrangement was approved by county councillors on 10 July and Cherwell councillors on 16 July.

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

“I am delighted to welcome Yvonne Rees as our new chief executive. This marks the start of a new chapter for the county council as it adapts to future needs in Oxfordshire so we can continue to support our thriving communities.

“At the same time, I would like to thank our outgoing chief executive, Peter Clark, who has done a tremendous job of steering the county council through some difficult times for local government nationally. There will be a lot of hard work and change for the county council over the next few years, and it is a real tribute to Peter that we can look so confidently to the future.”

“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.”

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

“We’ve achieved so much over recent years by working more closely with another authority, and this will set us up well for a new relationship with the County Council. I am genuinely confident for the future of public services as we begin this new chapter today.”

Partnership arrangements under one 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 make day-to-day working simpler as they are working to a single chief executive.

For example, a pilot project involves the county council’s head of trading standards working with officers at Cherwell to support the environmental health and licensing functions. This pilot is intended to create joined up service activity across 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.