A first person piece by Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth

As we all know, the government is cutting expenditure to reduce the nation’s budget deficit and stop our national debt growing yet more.

I understand and fully support that.

While supporting the general thrust of the government’s economic policy to make inroads in to a debt that is now comfortably more than a trillion pounds, it will come as no surprise to people that I’d prefer it if this could be achieved alongside Oxfordshire County Council getting a better deal than we are currently being offered.

I will always stand up for the people of Oxfordshire. However, recent exchanges between myself and the Prime Minster David Cameron should not lead people to believe there is fundamental disagreement between central government and Oxfordshire County Council. That is not the case.

All councils are suffering from funding cuts – as are many other parts of the public sector. It is true to say councils based in England’s big cities are getting much greater levels of protection from these cuts than ourselves in shire counties.

I am one of several county council leaders in the south who have been making clear their frustration on this topic since December.

However, the relationship between Whitehall and Oxfordshire in particular and local government in general should not just be characterised in terms of that difficult current funding debate.

You don’t have to scan the wider policy horizon for very long to appreciate that Whitehall clearly still sees a very strong role for local government – and that applies here in Oxfordshire as much as anywhere else.

The government has committed publicly to devolution. That means more power and responsibility coming the way of local councils. Devolution is a subject on which we at the county council are working closely with our partners at district councils and the NHS.

Discussions take better shape as every week goes by.

Whitehall’s decision that council funding should in future come from business rates is something else that runs counter to those who want to simplify the current relationship down to one of a powerful central government weakening a beleaguered local government.

The business rates move links the success of the local economy intrinsically to local government funding and ensures that it is in all of our interests to create a thriving economy.

Whitehall sees councils as having a core role in creating such an environment and I for one am enthusiastic to see this new era dawn in Oxfordshire.

The better the economy is doing the more money there will be for councils to provide services – particularly for the most vulnerable.

Despite all of the cuts, Oxfordshire County Council will still have an annual net budget of around £500m in future years.

We will still be assessing the care needs of tens of thousands of people each year, funding long-term care for more than 6,000 adults, supporting hundreds of children in the care system, registering around 20,000 births, deaths and marriages a year, maintaining 3,000 miles of road, disposing of more than 300,000 tonnes of waste and responding to more than 5,000 fire and rescue incidents.

The relationship between central and local government is changing. Of course we want to make sure Oxfordshire gets its fair share of funding compared to other areas and that’s why councils all over the south are currently making their feelings clear to the government.

However. the wider picture is a brighter one. The history of local government in England is one of evolution. Our role has often changed throughout the decades and we are now going through another phase of change.

However, I cannot stress enough that local councils will still be around. We’ll still be a strong component of Oxfordshire life and in future we’ll be even more important as drivers of the economic growth that creates the jobs and prosperity that means Britain can pay down its debts and thrive in to the future.

I join the government in looking forward to that future with optimism – while fighting Oxfordshire’s corner over funding in the present.