The campaign group A Better South Oxfordshire sprang from a growing unease that ordinary citizens of Oxfordshire are being told what to do and what is best for our county from a ‘top down’ perspective. We feel Government ministers tell Oxfordshire County council what they should do, Oxfordshire County Council tell district councils what they should do and they tell Parish Councils what to do. Local people’s voices are nowhere. We think the decision making should be in the other direction local upwards.
No one we have spoken to has yet explained how we have arrived in the position that we are to have an expressway driven through our countryside and the population of Oxfordshire doubled in twelve years; a position that most people in Oxfordshire do not support.
We tried to identify where the forces for this were coming from and we identified ministerial influence and the establishment of The Oxfordshire Growth Board. Set up and financially supported by government, the Growth Board contains only six elected councillors all of them the leaders of Oxfordshire’s district councils. The board also has three permanent members of The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLep) a government sponsored private sector body whose members are appointed by government patronage. They are payed officials and their organisation employs others to help them undertake their work. They are supposed to work with local authorities but all too often for our liking they lead and promote decision making which should be undertaken by our directly elected representatives. OxLep have received over £43 million in funds and grants in the last three years – but no one elected them.