OXFORDSHIRE’S key public services, including the NHS, should be handed to a ‘super council’ in order to reduce disparities between existing councils, a think tank has said.

It reopens the debate into whether an Oxfordshire County Council-led bid to replace all five district councils and the county council with one 'super council' would be positive.

Independent think tank Reform said 38 'super councils' should be set up across the country to ensure further devolution from central Government and reduce disparities in healthcare between areas.

Those councils would control the needs for about 1.5m people.

Reform said 353 councils, including Oxford, Vale of White Horse, South Oxfordshire, West Oxfordshire and Cherwell, would all be swallowed up in a number of super councils.

Reform’s co-author, Alexander Hitchcock, said: “Recent Governments have rightly banged the drum for the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.

"But economic growth and public-sector reform are two sides of the same coin, which is why councils need more power to improve public services.”

The report states that although reorganisation of councils might initially be expensive, it would pay back in the long term.

The cost of reducing Cornwall’s six district councils into one authority cost £39.5m – but Reform said savings of £15.5m are being paid back every year.

Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council and Vale of White Horse District Council all worked to put together a plan for a unitary authority, which was submitted to the Government in March.

That proposal is still being considered by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

A DCLG spokeswoman said: “The Secretary of State is carefully considering the proposals submitted by Oxfordshire, and will announce an initial decision on how he is minded to proceed as soon as practicable.”

DCLG secretary, Sajid Javid, said he would ‘carefully consider proposals’ from any local authorities that want to merge.

The county council, along with SODC and the Vale, said a new authority would save £20m a year.

But Oxford City Council, which opposes the bid, said that total was ‘very small’.

Oxford City Council and West Oxfordshire and Cherwell District Councils had supported the idea of a single authority headed by a directly-elected mayor.

This would have differed from a 'super council' model in that its leader would be elected separately, rather than being the head of the largest political party in the council chamber.

It would have followed the model already set up in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Tees Valley, West of England, West Midlands, London, Liverpool and Manchester.

But all the main parties cooled on the combined authority model in their

General Election manifestos earlier this year, plunging that idea into doubt and making a super council a more likely prospect.