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In August 2016, the leaders of Oxfordshire's city and district councils, including Cherwell, published the findings of their proposals for a new local government structure across Oxfordshire comprising three unitary authorities. This was released at the same time Oxfordshire County Council released its own report into proposals for a single unitary council to be formed for the whole of Oxfordshire.

The reports are available to view on the right of this page and were accompanied by a joint statement released on behalf of all city and district council leaders, which read as follows: "As Leaders of Oxfordshire's district and city councils, we are pleased to jointly release our proposition for public service reform and the future of local government in Oxfordshire.

"The two studies - carried out by the district and the county council respectively -  show that there are different alternatives for how local government is organised and there are different views on these options. The work by the district councils favours three unitary councils working together through a combined authority. The study by the county council concludes that a single county unitary would be the best option. Following discussions with civil servants, it is clear that the new Government's priorities in this area have changed and they are looking to councils to develop consensus about governance arrangements to support a devolution deal. There are also many commonalities in the findings of the two studies and it is important that all councils now take some time to fully consider all of the evidence and how this might fit with the Government's priorities as they emerge over the autumn.

"Our aim has always been to seek investment in housing and transport infrastructure; to improve skills training and develop the local economy. We are committed to working together with Oxfordshire County Council in the best interests of our residents and over the coming months we will be working jointly to agree a way forward with Government."

What is devolution?

Devolution is the transfer of power from central Government to county, district and town councils. It gives local councils the authority to make decisions and provide services within their designated boundaries.

What is happening in Oxfordshire?

The devolution proposals in Oxfordshire are to give the district councils, including Cherwell, more power to deliver more of the services that are currently provided by Oxfordshire County Council.

How would it work?

As part of the devolution process the current two-tier council structure (county and district) would be abolished and replaced with a single unitary authority for each designated area. Instead of dividing service responsibility between two council tiers, one council would have the power to deliver everything but across a smaller area. These areas have yet to be decided upon and may not follow the current district boundaries which could be disbanded and redrawn to accommodate new unitary authorities.

When will this happen?

A report is currently being commissioned to review all of the options available, which include how many unitary councils are needed, where they will be based and what areas they will cover. The work will also assess the feasibility of the proposals, this is due to be completed by the end of summer and will be reviewed by the Government in the autumn. If the Government agrees to endorse an option for devolution, further studies will commence but nothing will be implemented prior to 2019 at the very earliest.

How will this impact upon Cherwell's sharing of services with South Northamptonshire Council?

Over the past five years the two authorities have worked together to adopt joint working and generate savings for both councils. However despite sharing services during this time, the sovereignty of each council has remained separate and independent. Due to the crossing of county boundaries, it is not possible for Cherwell District and South Northamptonshire Council to become a single unitary authority. Although this does eliminate the possibility for a shared governance between the two authorities, it does not impact on the joint working which will continue as it always has done.

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