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Oxfordshire is not Hammersmith and Fulham

HudspethCllr Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, says his council is providing value for money

I like reading Conservative Home but today's piece, Conservative-run Oxfordshire proposes Council Tax rise suffered from a little London/urban myopia.

Comparing Hammersmith and Fulham with Oxfordshire just doesn't make sense. Hammersmith and Fulham is home to only 182,500 people and covers just over 6 square miles of London. Oxfordshire is home to nearly four times that number of people and you could fit Hammersmith and Fulham into Oxfordshire 166 times.

But, worse still, it tries to compare an overwhelmingly urban part of London with the issues and pressures of one of the most rural counties in the South East. Take today when our hard working farmers are out there in the snow and our cab drivers are working hard to get our school children home to our 300 villages. Very different to working out how to get to Westfield for cocktails and Earls Court for a gig.

It would be great to get £19m from parking charges - but taxing motorists is not an option in a county which doesn't benefit from London buses and the tube network. We actually have to pay for things like public transport and fire services, we can't hide behind Boris.

Whereas Hammersmith and Fulham are lucky enough huge amounts of money from places like Earls Court, we have had to carefully borrow to meet our infrastructure needs. There are no county pubs, cinemas or hotels to sell off in Oxfordshire and our few farms that generate a modest income we use on our services.

Let's put all that to one side, nothing was mentioned about the £119m over four years savings we committed ourselves to in 2010. A commitment we're exceeding with £127m due to be saved by the end of the year.

And whilst the local government settlement was difficult for everyone, it was particularly difficult for Oxfordshire and county councils.

So we'll carry on looking for savings and look at how we can do things better, but not at the expense of the quality of service we deliver.

If your blogger wants to get out of London and see what local government in a rural county looks like then he can come and spend a day shadowing me. (We'll lend him a pair of wellies).

He can see exactly the quality of service and value for money we're delivering for people in Oxfordshire. They get to make the judgement in the end.


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