Online Hustings Q4. The future government of Oxfordshire

The Oxford city region has a thriving economy and is one of the few parts of the country to make a net positive contribution to the national economy. Oxford City is at the region’s heart and is world-famous both as a tourist destination and as a centre for learning and research. Under restructuring proposals put forward by Oxfordshire County Council and two local District Councils the City’s status would be similar to that of a Parish Council. In your role as a local MP what model of governance for Oxford and Oxfordshire would you advocate and support?

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6 thoughts on “Online Hustings Q4. The future government of Oxfordshire

  1. As your local MP, I would want to work with a strong structure of local government to ensure Oxford’s voice is heard at all levels.

    There is clearly tension between the district councils (Oxford City is a district council) in the proposals currently being put forward to the Secretary of State for One Oxfordshire. Liberal Democrats, in the recent County Council elections where we gained two seats, argued in favour of a unified authority as this would save millions of pounds that could then be invested in public services.

    I personally believe that decisions should be taken as close to the people they affect as possible, the principle of subsidiarity. I also believe in supporting and encouraging Neighbourhood Plans and Local Area Plans so that all voices are heard in regards to future development.

    Oxfordshire needs joined up strategic decision making in regards to housing, transport, schools and public services. Many work in the city but live in the villages, so getting transport right is key. Housing in Oxford is unaffordable to many, meaning it is harder to recruit for vacancies in the NHS and other local employers. Yes, our economy is growing, but unless we get infrastructure right it will not flourish.

    1. I’d be keen to tease out how County-wide strategic visions can work with subsidiarity.

      At present there are several groups, including the LEP, which bring together the County, districts & major stakeholders – but they are very distant from actual communities. You might suddenly find you live in a science corridor, or an eastern arc, when no one asked you about it. It’s very nice having a Neighbourhood plan, but that’s trumped by the local plan – and if we have a unitary authority that will be run at a county level (what would be the point of devolving it back again). So if we in the City say, for example, no building on our internal green spaces – what’s to stop the County insisting that the golf course must be built on to preserve some bit of green belt by the ring road?

      There might be a saving to be made – but that’s because the districts have professional staff & councillors with allowances. We can’t possibly replace that engagement with local needs with parish councils and Neighbourhood Forums.

      What Local structure do you think should exist between the County & the people, should it be city-wide and what role should it play?

      1. There is a big risk that “Oxfordshire needs joined up strategic decision making in regards to […] transport” will simply mean “let’s pump more cars from the villages into Oxford, who cares if those city dwellers chock to death and traffic in the city collapses”. Obviously that is already the policy by the County Council, I don’t see how things get better giving even more power to the County.

  2. The problem I see with a single unitary is that it is likely to be Conservative controlled. Can we be confident that the savings – which I accept are there to be made – will be spent on improving services rather than being ‘banked’ so that the administration can earn political brownie points by saying “Look how we’ve kept Council Tax down!”?

    1. Liberal Democrats will fight for any savings, if a unitary does indeed go forward which is not a certainty at all, to go into public services. To highlight two, this would be bus subsidies which have been cut – there are now people isolated and others not able to get to work – and funding children’s services and children’s centres.

  3. The Green Party in Oxfordshire campaigned sincerely against the Unitary Authority proposals, and I continue to believe that they would insufficiently serve the majority of our citizens.

    I sympathise with the budgetary pressures that the County is facing, but this is no good reason to threaten local democracy. Oxford itself continues to face unique problems and has a unique make-up, in light of which it must be able to direct its own future. In this regard, Local Area Plans are well-meaning but insufficient. Oxfordshire can streamline delivery of many of its services, and we should maintain strong links between councils. Neither should we be afraid to raise funds to preserve the finest and most important of our local services.

    Crucially, as your MP I would support localism across the United Kingdom. The last government created new authorities while slashing funding to existing ones: this is no way to develop local democracy. Central government all too often shifted political responsibility by making hard-up councils perform their cuts for them. As a country, we must provide for local authorities – immediately accountable, not distant – so they can provide for their constituents locally.

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