MAKE no mistake: the action which your government is attempting to pull over South Oxfordshire District Council’s housing plan is extraordinary.


In the whole time that we have been reporting on Local Plans in Oxfordshire – the blueprints that councils have to draw up for housing development in their area – we have consistently been told that councils can choose to draw up their plan however they like, on the proviso that, if it doesn’t meet the government’s standards, the whole thing will be chucked out.

We were even told that, if they don’t want to, councils don’t have to use the government’s hated housing need calculation – the dreaded Strategic Housing Market Assessment or SHMA – but if they used another calculation they would have to justify it (and probably fail).

The point was, of course there were rules about how councils put these plans together, but if councils wanted to try making up their own rules – against all the advice – they could.

That is how democracy works.

Now, when a council elected by the people of South Oxfordshire has had the bravery to stand up to the government and say ‘no, we don’t like your formula, we want to try our own way’, they haven’t even been given a chance to try.

A government minister has stepped in to try to give the entire process to a completely different council.

What’s more, it is a Conservative government minister who has banned a Liberal Democrat and Green-led council from making their own plan, and tried to hand the process to a Conservative council.

Even if this blue alignment is a complete coincidence, which it feels hard to believe, the ‘optics’ are about as big a PR gaff as a political party could make.

Be under no illusion: if this proposed handover of control actually takes place, it will make a mockery of even having local elections in this country.

The whole point of electing district councillors will have been thrown out of the window by this government.