Oxfordshire County Council is the local authority for Oxfordshire responsible for delivering services to the county’s 600,000+ residents. For 2020/21 the council had set an overall gross budget of £828.9m.
There are 63 county councillors representing 61 divisions. The political make up of the council is decided by elections which are held every four years, and any subsequent by-elections. The next election is scheduled for May 2021.
County councillors help raise concerns or queries about the council’s services by offering advice or directing people to those who can help. Some councillors also hold regular surgeries in their communities.
Oxfordshire County Council operates a political management system whereby there is a separation between decision-making and scrutiny.
All key decisions at Oxfordshire County Council are made by members of the Cabinet. The Cabinet consists of ten elected councillors. The day-to-day operations are carried out by the County Leadership Team, which consists of the County Director and directors who, between them, manage the hundreds of public services provided.
A scrutiny function, to improve service provision and to inform policy, involves all the non-Cabinet Members. They examine the county council’s functions and performance, challenge plans and decisions of the Cabinet and explore the effectiveness of other public bodies in the locality. They also question how key decisions have been made and take up issues of concern to the community.
62% of council funding comes from council tax, 12% from business rates, 20% from central government grants, and the remainder 6% from fees and charges.
The council provides 80 per cent of the local government services by expenditure in the county. The larger areas of spend in the council include adult and children’s social care (53%), some education and learning services (14%), and highways and transport including roads (9%).
Other areas of expenditure include public health improvement and prevention services (6%), waste disposal and recycling (6%), fire, rescue and community safety (5%). Libraries, museums, cultural, registration and coroner’s services make up 2% of expenditure.
The government limits the amount that councils can increase council tax without holding a local referendum to 2%. That is why many councils, including Oxfordshire County Council, generally increase council tax by 1.99% to be under the referendum limit.
And while the county council is responsible for setting council tax rates across the county, the council tax is collected by the district councils.