ONE thousand years of Oxford citizens having control of their own affairs could be ended by plans for a ‘super council’, it has been warned.

Oxford City Council boss Bob Price accused Tory councils of making a ‘power grab’ with their bid for a county-wide shake-up, which we reported yesterday.

They want to take away control of major planning decisions, council housing and sports facilities from the city council, reducing it to a parish authority with limited powers over areas such as parks.

It would be part of plans to merge the six biggest councils in Oxfordshire and save £20m a year.

But Mr Price said: “This is a city of 160,000 people – it is one of the great cities of this country – and has huge economic potential.

“To have a city with 1,000 years of independent governance reduced to a parish council clearly does not reflect the interests of people living here.

“This is a power grab which will strip the city of its assets.”

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said the city should have more powers, not fewer.

He said: “In the interests of local democratic accountability and having councils which are in touch with the issues in their area, I have long supported unitary status for Oxford city, ideally on wider boundaries than present so that housing, transport and environmental protection can be planned properly.

“Swindon, Reading and Milton Keynes all have unitary status rather than being swallowed up in a wider county authority, and Oxford residents should have the same right.”

Oxford Mail:

  • Oxford East MP Andrew Smith

Mr Smith said he had voiced concerns to top government ministers, including Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

The Labour politicians were speaking after Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire district councils announced they were teaming up with Oxfordshire County Council, to submit plans for a super council next month.

This would see council tax made the same for all households in Oxfordshire, with the new authority given sweeping powers to approve major housing developments across the county.

The current six biggest councils – which currently manage services separately – would all be abolished, meaning up to 180 councillors and 400 staff could lose their jobs.

The three Conservative-run authorities backing the idea called for ‘a quick decision’ from ministers, so elections for the super council could be held as early as May 2018.

They claimed the change would ‘transform the way we deliver our services to the people of Oxfordshire for the better’, with reports saying it would save enough cash to fill 5,700 potholes or pay for almost 20,000 hours of home care.

John Cotton, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: "You could create a new Oxford council that is a parish but with more money and powers than a more typical parish might have, which would help retain services people value. But it would need a precept to do that."

He rejected suggestions the city could go it alone, saying it was 'just not big enough'. Mr Cotton added: "You would have to double the city in population to make it work."

Vale of White Horse District Council leader Matthew Barber urged city council leader Bob Price to join talks about the super council plans.

He said: "There is still time for the city to become involved in this and we would like Bob and others to be involved in deciding the details.

"There are similar examples of this in Salisbury and in Hereford.

"But we recognise Oxford is at the centre of our county and supports lots of the economic development, which is why we need a bespoke settlement for the city."

The Tory council leaders have been backed by Ed Vaizey, the Conservative MP for Wantage.