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Fight continues against "controversial" unitary proposals

The leader of Cherwell District Council has said he will continue to fight Oxfordshire County Council's "controversial" plans for a unitary authority which will now be considered by the Government.

Yesterday (Tuesday) Oxfordshire County Council agreed to submit its proposals to disband the area's city and district councils and replace them with a single authority responsible for delivering all services.

The decision was made despite widespread opposition from residents and business leaders across Oxfordshire as well as Cherwell District, West Oxfordshire District and Oxford City Councils.

Cllr Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council, said: "These are hugely controversial proposals which will affect how every council service is delivered in the future yet those who will be affected most have had their opinions ignored. By its own admission, the county council's open online questionnaire recorded "strong disagreement" with the proposals yet despite this, councillors have forged ahead regardless.

"Before any change is made to council structures or service delivery we owe the public and business leaders the courtesy of exploring every option and respecting their feedback. As councillors we are elected to serve and represent the needs of our communities, be it on a town, district or county level. If the county council is not doing that now, how can it be trusted to do it in the future?"

Last month Cherwell launched a petition against the proposals and is encouraging residents and business leaders to continue adding their names until it closes at the end of March. The information will then be used in future discussions with the Government to demonstrate the lack of consensus towards a unitary model.

Cherwell remains united with West Oxfordshire District and Oxford City Councils in opposing the plans. All three authorities have raised concerns about increases to council tax to cover the £16 million implementation costs of a unitary authority, as well as the loss of localism and impact on service delivery.

Since 2011, Cherwell has made £8 million of savings without cutting any frontline services or increasing its rate of council tax since 2009. Much of this is credited to Cherwell's joint working with South Northamptonshire Council, which would also be threatened if this unitary proposal were to be approved.

Alternatively hard copies are available at the council's offices at Bodicote House and at its Link Points in Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington.

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