COMMENT: Interesting times ahead for us and our politicians

9:00am Wednesday 2nd July 2014

THEY are two words guaranteed to send shivers down the spines of most county politicians: Unitary status.

The mere mention of them is enough to provoke a defensive reaction not seen since the French built the Maginot Line.

That didn’t help the French much. Nor will ducking the unitary debate do anything to stop it now that county council leader Ian Hudspeth has let the cat out of the bag.

He hasn’t said as much, but Hudspeth may envisage a countywide unitary authority sweeping away the five districts, bringing savings galore and a greatly streamlined system of local government.

It would also outflank the last bastion of the left in the county, Oxford City Council, at a stroke by absorbing it into a Greater Oxfordshire. There will be many in Oxford choking on their breaksfasts over that one this morning.

Canny city leader Bob Price is well aware of that and has already set out his own vision of a unitary Oxford.

It is not impossible that both the city and county could become unitary authorities, which would leave the other districts as cannon fodder in what could be a long and bloody political battle.

Leaders such as Barry Norton in West Oxfordshire and Matthew Barber in Vale of White Horse may well be stockpiling food and filling sandbags today in readiness.

But forget the vicious infighting that is imminent. Ultimately, any decision must be based on what is right for the council taxpayers, from the point of view of value for money and quality of service.

Things may get rough but, like it or not, this is a debate we simply must have.

Let battle commence.

Update: Three arrested after Cowley Road pub fight

Oxford Mail:

9:12pm Tuesday 22nd July 2014

THREE people were arrested after a brawl on Cowley Road.

Oxford vigil in support of Gaza scholar

Oxford Mail:

5:40pm Tuesday 22nd July 2014

A vigil has now started for an Oxford Brookes Gaza Scholar in intensive care after losing five members of his family in an Israeli bombardment.

50 glorious years of a fine village institution

Oxford Mail:

5:00pm Tuesday 22nd July 2014

IN 1965, when the Beatles released their album Help!, residents in Towersey realised their village hall was in desperate need of repair.

Listen: Fiaz Munshi guilty of manslaughter over Magdalen Road arson as police apologise for blunder + Audio

Oxford Mail:

2:52pm Tuesday 22nd July 2014

FIAZ MUNSHI has been found guilty of manslaughter and not guilty of murder over the deaths of two children in an arson attack in East Oxford in 1997.

She was loved by so many: huge turn-out for the funeral of Liberty Baker

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Tuesday 22nd July 2014

MORE than 300 friends and relatives turned out yesterday to pay their final respects to Witney schoolgirl Liberty Baker.

Exhibition unravels the story of boy king’s tomb

Oxford Mail:

8:30am Tuesday 22nd July 2014

HIDDEN under the sand for centuries, this little statue will come face-to-face with thousands of visitors in Oxford.

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