Simplifying services for business in Oxfordshire – have your say!

Businesses in Oxfordshire would benefit from proposals to improve and join up a range of services they receive from both Cherwell District Council and Oxfordshire County Council - freeing up their time to continue their valued contribution to the vitality of the local economy. County and district councils in Oxfordshire and elsewhere enforce more than 200 Acts of Parliament in providing regulatory services to the local business community.

Published: Tuesday, 27th August 2019

The formal partnership between the two councils, instigated almost a year ago, has seen them working ever more closely together in these areas and others – something that is being watched with a keen interest by central government and local government elsewhere in the country.

District councils such as Cherwell are responsible for the provision of environmental health and licensing. This includes food hygiene and safety, health and safety, premises licensing, environmental protection and statutory nuisance.

Meanwhile county councils are responsible for trading standards and fire safety. This includes product safety, food standards, farming standards and livestock welfare, general fair trading and petroleum licensing.

Until recently in north Oxfordshire, as in many other parts of England, these council services were provided separately, with a limited amount of joint working and information sharing. Businesses seeking advice or support from the councils needed to contact them separately.

As a result of the new partnership between Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council, the councils are reviewing:
•           How they provide advice and support to business.
•           Whether they should seek to increase business awareness of regulatory matters which affect them and, if so, how we should do this.
•           How they can simplify the local regulatory system and processes.
•           Whether they can improve business’ experiences of regulatory services.

Richard Webb, Assistant Director of Regulatory Services at Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council said: “We are already working closely together and we plan join services together to simplify and improve the customer experience for our business community. We encourage businesses to take the time to respond to our current survey.

“To inform our plans for change it is important that we have views from businesses about changes we could make. While the view of any business that operates in Oxfordshire is useful, primarily we are seeking the views of businesses that are based in Oxfordshire, not exclusively Cherwell. The views of small businesses are likely to be particularly helpful.”

Councillor Ian Corkin is the Cabinet Member for the Cherwell Partnership at Oxfordshire County Council and the Lead Member for Customers and Transformation at Cherwell District Council. He said: “We aim to make life easier for our local businesses and free up their time to make their invaluable contribution to the prosperity of our thriving local communities.

“Councils enforce huge amounts of regulations at local level up and down the country – the more streamlined we can make these processes the more businesses will be able to concentrate on their core business and contribute to the vitality of our local economy.

“In proposing to bring these services together in the north of Oxfordshire we are leading the way in terms of proving how district and county councils can work very closely and we know that councils in other parts of England are watching what we are doing with keen interest. Any joint working between the county council and Cherwell will benefit all business across Oxfordshire as officers, whether working in direct partnership or not, will have a better understanding or the challenges and issues that business face across the range of services and functions provided by both tiers of local government.”

“it is important that we have views from businesses about changes we could make. Do respond to our survey.”

The survey can be accessed here https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Regulatory_Services_Delivery

As well as Richard Webb being in a joint post covering regulatory services, Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council also currently have a joint Chief Executive, joint director of law and governance, joint deputy director of HR, joint Head of Procurement, meaning both councils will be able to negotiate better deals on contracts to the benefit of the taxpayer and a joint Housing Lead who is better linking housing services provided by Cherwell and social care services provided by Oxfordshire County Council.