Last night at the Vale full council meeting, I tabled the following motion in support of one of my main objectives for this year (see my blog post about my objectives):
Council notes that government is still open to practical suggestions for devolved government.
Council notes that the benefits of devolution are far more likely to be achieved if council leaders in Oxfordshire are serious about reaching a consensus.
Council also notes that both of the recently-commissioned reports identified strengths and weaknesses in each proposal, and made recommendations for addressing them.
Council believes these recommendations are capable of forming the basis for further discussion.
- Calls on all council leaders in the county to resume talks about a workable model of local government re-organisation, with the express intention of reaching a workable consensus, and with the primary objective of achieving the best outcomes for the people of Oxfordshire in terms of service delivery and efficiencies
- Calls on the leader of Vale of white Horse District Council to play a full and constructive part in such talks
There was heartening debate where several councillors spoke. And then council unanimously agree to it. So, the motion carried.
My speech on this one:
When this process first began, everybody agreed that the current two-tier system was not a sustainable solution for service delivery in Oxfordshire. No one could agree on the best solution, so the feuding local authorities commissioned two separate consultants to assess possible models of local government reorganisation. The studies were thorough and cost the taxpayers nearly £200,000. But they agreed on one thing: the savings from streamlining local government would be significant.
Our top priority should be to preserve, and hopefully improve, delivery of services to residents of Oxfordshire. This of course includes residents of the Vale.
There’s no time for the councils’ leaders to argue amongst themselves. Time spent on defending their own power positions means time lost to find a workable solution to save vital services. Leaders appear to be unable, or unwilling, to compromise in order to find a workable way to transform local government from two tiers to one. The people don’t like to see their politicians bickering. Personally, I’ve even gone so far as to recommend they employ a facilitator experienced in conflict resolution.
Whatever the original intentions, now county, who are desperate for financial savings, continue to insist on one solution, and the leaders of city and the districts are wedded to another solution. The stand-off and the reputation smearing name calling simply must stop. We need our council leaders to work together to find a solution. I ask for council to support this motion that urges all our leaders to come together to work for a solution for the people of Oxfordshire.