The views of 500 “representative individuals” will be the evidence that the County Council will give to the Government to support their bid for a unitary authority.
The County, Vale and South Oxfordshire Councils have all approved the decision to submit the unitary bid to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
The website www.better-oxfordshire.org shows a number of articles suggesting that independent surveys either support the bid or “exploit the lack of understanding about two tier government”. This seems very much like spin and counter-spin.
The proposal makes the case for abolishing the existing two-tier structure of six councils and replacing them with one single council for Oxfordshire.
“A joined up, leaner, more cost effective council that can meet the big demands of a modern government, whilst understanding and fulfilling the needs of local people.”
It talks about being simpler as “public services such as the NHS and police could work better with one council rather than several”.
My understanding was these were County Council responsibilities anyway so I don’t understand what would change.
It also says that “joined-up planning for jobs, homes and transport is better for residents and the local economy”.
I think this is a good idea but I find that the district councils generally do a better job of planning than the county services such as highways and transport. So what evidence is there that this would improve?
It explains that “There is strong local support for change. These proposals have been developed with stakeholders, including an independent advisory group from other public service and business organisations, central government, parish and town councils and, most importantly, the people who live in Oxfordshire.”
This “independent advisory group” sounds like the local enterprise partnership (OxLEP) which is an unelected body making key funding decisions for Oxfordshire without any public accountability.
The “people who live in Oxfordshire” who expressed an opinion through the engagement questionnaire told a different story – two-thirds (66%) said they opposed the proposal for a single unitary, while 30% supported the idea.
Yet our Councils are doing their usual trick of ignoring consultation outcomes and deciding that they know best.
So the Unitary proposal will go to the Secretary of State whether we like it or not. There will be no referendum.
Our future will be decided for us. This is democracy.