At the Vale council meeting on 11 May members debated a motion tabled by the leader of the council, Matthew Barber.
This Council supports the proposal by district council leaders for the abolition of existing councils and the creation of new local unitary councils for Oxfordshire.
Furthermore this Council welcomes the appointment of Pricewaterhouse Coopers to examine all options ahead of a public consultation this summer.
Lib Dems reminded council that we just last month spent £50,000 to commission a study that’s still under way. The consultants haven’t produced their report yet.
In debate, Lib Dems pointed out that the wording in this motion, “new unitary councils” eliminates from consideration a single unitary authority. That’s one of the options in the ongoing study, but this motion calls for council to only support the district leaders’ dream of multiple authorities. Of course a single unitary authority is the option preferred by our county council colleagues.
Tory debaters all missed this key point. One speaker, Cllr Howell, focused on how we need to take a leadership position. No one was saying we shouldn’t do that. We were saying this is a premature commitment that should be managed according to the plan we already have in place, and not rushed in ahead of any evidence or public consultation.
Another Tory speaker, Cllr Sandy Lovatt, admitted he didn’t “understand what the opposition was on about.” He stated it was only a motion supporting the consultants selection and summer consultation. Cllr Lovatt needs to read more carefully and pay closer attention. He missed the point that Cllr Barber was eliminating Oxfordhire County Council’s preferred option. Cllr Lovatt is a 3-hatter, so he is a town and county councillor in addition to a Vale councillor. In short, Cllr Lovatt voted with the several district council leaders, and against his own county council’s preferred approach to a unitary authority. How awkward. (Their other member who is also a County councillor, Cllr Yvonne Constance, was absent from the Vale council meeting. Handily.)
Nutshell: the Tories all voted for this motion, which eliminates one of the four options currently being studied, before there’s been any evidence published and without listening to the public’s views.
All Tories voted for the motion. All of your Lib Dem councillors voted against this poor decision.