Oxford City Council has launched a petition against the county council’s proposal to form a single unitary as four of the area’s six MPs have spoken out against the plans.
Oxfordshire CC’s proposal was backed earlier this month by the leaders of Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire DCs, who argued it was the best model to create efficiencies.
But the county’s three other districts – Oxfordshire City Council, and Cherwell and West Oxfordshire DCs – hit back against the proposal, insisting it removed the ability of councils to respond to distinct local needs.
Oxford has today launched an online petition against the county’s proposal entitled ’Hands off Oxford City’ and presented it as a “rallying cry” to protect the city’s assets.
It says a single unitary would result in the loss of “vital services” such as council housing and efforts to improve economic growth while diluting democracy.
It follows a joint statement released last week by MP for Henley John Howell (Con), MP for North Oxfordshire Victoria Prentis (Con), Witney MP Robert Courts (Con), and MP for Oxford East Andrew Smith (Lab). Ed Vaizey (Con), MP for Didcot and Wantage, has declared his support for the proposal. Nicola Blackwood (Con), MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, has not yet outlined her position on the proposals.
The MPs’ statment said the single unitary proposal did not have the support of the majority of the county’s MPs and failed the “criteria for consensus” required by the Department for Communities & Local Government.
The statement added: “It is essential that the distinct identities of the different areas in Oxfordshire are respected, with council arrangements which are sufficiently close and meaningful that they are in touch with and accountable to local residents and their needs.”
The leaders of the three main political parties on the county council launched the single unitary proposal last month.
Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire had previously joined the three other districts in supporting a three-unitary model and more recently had been working on a combined authority devolution bid.