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Ipsos MORI poll finds residents want services provided at local level

Independent polling by Ipsos MORI has found two thirds of Oxfordshire residents feel local services should continue to be decided at the district/city level, rather than at the county level.

Oxfordshire County Council has put forward proposals to abolish Oxfordshire's councils and create a unitary county council covering all of Oxfordshire.

Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council and West Oxfordshire District Council commissioned leading market research company Ipsos MORI to gauge the opinion of residents to the proposals.

Ipsos MORI phoned 1,950 people living in Oxfordshire (390 in each district/city area). The size of the survey was chosen to give a statistically significant and reliable representation of Oxfordshire residents.

All the questions were signed off by an independent panel at Ipsos MORI to make sure they were fair and balanced.

The poll found:

- 67 per cent felt decisions about services that are currently managed at district level should be made at a district/city level

- 82 per cent had little or no understanding of the unitary county council proposals

- 68 per cent said they did not have sufficient information about how the unitary county council proposals would impact them and their area

- 73 per cent would like to be informed about the all proposed options and to have a say in the future structure of local government in Oxfordshire

- 84 per cent said they wanted to know how their household's council tax would be affected before they agreed or disagreed with the proposals

The full report will be available later in the week.

District/city petition results

Almost 10,000 people have now signed Oxford City Council's petition against the unitary county council proposals, including more than 8,100 online on change.org.

A further 1,200 people have so far signed Cherwell District Council's online change.org petition.

On top of this, 4,367 people took part in West Oxfordshire District Council online poll of residents' opinions. Of those who responded, 97 per cent (4,238 people) wanted to improve and safeguard local services.

Proposals rejected by county council's own research

Oxfordshire County Council's online survey, which was completed by 5,363 people, found that 74 per cent either disagree with the unitary county council proposals.

The county council also received 48 responses from organisations. Of which, 39 organisations (81.3 per cent) disagreed with the unitary county council proposals - 35 of these strongly disagreed.

Councillor Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council, said: "The results from this Ipsos MORI poll tell us that the people of Oxfordshire want the decisions that affect their lives to be taken at a local, accountable level, and not by a remote and untested unitary entity.

"The results show that Oxfordshire County Council does not have a level of broad support for their unitary authority proposal; if they were to submit it to the Secretary of State now, it would be bound to fail because of this."

Councillor Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: "The County Council's bid to abolish five successful District Councils has been decisively rejected by residents across the whole county area who were not fooled by a glossy PR campaign. The independent Ipsos MORI polling, the District and City Councils petitions, and the results of the County Council's own online survey all show consistent opposition to a unitary county council.

"The people of Oxfordshire, parish councils and many local organisations have spoken and have said no to the County. If they proceed to submit a proposal to government that lacks a shred of popular support, they will be riding roughshod over the public."

Councillor James Mills, Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, said: "People's views about how they want local services delivered is very important to us and so it is a great concern that the vast majority identified in the MORI survey had little or no understanding of Oxfordshire County Council's unitary proposals.

"It is also crystal clear from the MORI survey that residents want to see decisions and service delivery continued at district and city council level. As part of local democracy, it is imperative that these views are taken into account and we will ensure that they are made known to Oxfordshire County Council and to Government."

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