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Council warns of big Council Tax rises

Council warns of big Council Tax rises under a unitary authorityWest Oxfordshire District Council has warned that a move to Unitary Status would not be in the best interests of its residents.

The Council is writing a letter to Rt Hon Ruth Kelly MP, Minister for Communities and Local Government stating that they are against the proposals outlined by Oxford City Council for future local government arrangements in Oxfordshire. The proposed submission made by Oxford City Council would result in three Oxfordshire unitary authorities.

"The submission put forward by Oxford City Council would be bad news for West Oxfordshire residents", said Cllr Barry Norton, Leader of the Council. "West Oxfordshire's council tax is very low, currently the second lowest in England and we are concerned that our residents would have to pay much higher district council tax under the proposals put forward by Oxford City Council."

The Cabinet agreed that the best way to achieve improvements in local government would be through enhanced two-tier working and West Oxfordshire is already looking at ways of working more closely with the county council and the other district councils in Oxfordshire.

Cllr Norton said: "There are other ways of achieving savings without the huge transitional costs of setting up new authorities and the disruption that this would involve. Enhanced two-tier working would lower costs and build on the strengths and partnerships of the current structure."

"Local accountability and democracy is also at stake. The proposed unitary status, merging West Oxfordshire with Cherwell, covers a huge geographical area. The identity of the West Oxfordshire we know and love would disappear. There would inevitably be fewer councillors supporting more than 160 local town and parish councils. This, again, is not good news for our residents."

Oxford City Council has estimated the costs of setting up the unitary to be in the region of £27.1 million. However, Oxfordshire County Council has calculated that the costs of setting up three new Unitary authorities would be in excess of £53.8 million with ongoing costs of £18.5 million.

Posted : 09/02/2007 17:26:45

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