Oxfordshire County Council

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Oxfordshire County Council
Coat of arms or logo
Chair of the council
Susanna Pressel
since May 2022
Leader of the Council
Liz Leffman, Liberal Democrat
since May 2021
Chief executive
Martin Reeves
Seats63 councillors
Oxfordshire County Council composition
Political groups
Administration (40)
  •   Liberal Democrat (21)
  •   Labour (16)
  •   Green Party (3)

Opposition (23)

Length of term
4 years
First past the post
Last election
6 May 2021
Next election
May 2025
Sapere aude (Dare to be wise)[1]
Meeting place
Old County Hall (in the foreground) with New County Hall (in the background)
County Hall, New Road, Oxford

Oxfordshire County Council is the county council (upper-tier local authority) for the non-metropolitan county of Oxfordshire in the South East of England. Established in 1889, it is an elected body responsible for most strategic local government services in the county.

Oxfordshire County Council provides a wide range of services, including education (schools, libraries and youth services), social services, public health, highway maintenance, waste disposal, emergency planning, consumer protection and town and country planning for matters to do with minerals, waste, highways and education.[2] This makes it one of the largest employers in Oxfordshire, with a gross expenditure budget of £856.2 million in 2021–22.[3][4]


County councils were first introduced in England and Wales with full powers from 22 September 1889 as a result of the Local Government Act 1888, taking over administrative functions until then carried out by the unelected quarter sessions.[5] The areas they covered were termed administrative counties and were not in all cases identical to the traditional shire counties, but in Oxfordshire the whole 'ceremonial county' came under the authority of the new council. The new system of local democracy was a significant development and reflected the increasing range of functions carried out by local government in late Victorian Britain.

The first elections to the new county council were held in January 1889. At the first meeting, several aldermen were elected.

Schools (both primary and secondary) were added to the County Council's responsibilities in 1902, and until the 1990s it was also responsible for operating Colleges of Further Education.

Oxfordshire County Council has seen a changing pattern of lower-tier authorities existing alongside it within its area, responsible for more local services, such as housing and waste collection. Until 1974, the county had a large number of urban district and rural district councils. In 1974, local government was reorganized in England and Wales generally, and Oxfordshire was enlarged to take in areas previously in Berkshire. Within its new area dozens of former urban and rural districts were amalgamated into one city council, that of Oxford, and four district councils: Cherwell, South Oxfordshire, the Vale of White Horse, and West Oxfordshire.


Since 1889, members have been elected for a term of office, with elections held all together (initially every three years, later every four years) on the "first past the post" system. Until the 1970s, the elected members chose aldermen, whose term of office was for six years, and who once appointed were also voting members of the council. This form of membership was ended by the Local Government Act 1972, so that after 1974 only honorary (that is, non-voting) aldermen could be appointed.[6]

Current composition[edit]

As of August 2021, the council composition is as follows:

Party Councillors
Conservative 21*
Liberal Democrats 21
Labour 16*
Green Party 3
Henley Residents Group 1
Independent 1

* Although the initial result was the Conservatives on 22 seats, and Labour on 15, there was a significant error in the Banbury Ruscote division where the Conservative and Labour votes were accidentally reversed and the Conservative candidate declared elected. An electoral challenge was launched by Labour and the result corrected to a Labour win.[7][8]

Following the 2021 election the Conservative Party lost seats primarily at the expense of Liberal Democrat gains including the Conservative leader Ian Hudspeth, who had served as leader since May 2012 and councillor since 2005,[9] resulting in their worst performance in Oxfordshire since its inception in 1973. Likewise this was the highest number of seats the Liberal Democrats have held on this council.[10] Liberal Democrat and Green councillors currently form a joint group known as Liberal Democrat Green Alliance.[11]

History of political control[edit]

Year Control
1973 Conservative
1977 Conservative
1981 Conservative
1985 No overall control
1989 No overall control
1993 No overall control
1997 No overall control
2001 No overall control
2005 Conservative
2009 Conservative
2013 No overall control
2017 No overall control
2021 No overall control

Past Chairs[edit]

Oxfordshire County Council Chairs, 1889 to 1974
Oxfordshire County Council Chairs, 1991 to 2005
  • Catherine Fulljames (2005–2006)
  • Lesley Legge (2006–2007)[12]
  • Don Seale (2012–2013)[13][14]
  • Timothy Hallchurch (2013-2014)
  • Anne Purse (2014–2015)[15]
  • John Sanders (2015–2016)[15]
  • Michael Waine (2016–2017)[16][17][18]
  • Zoe Patrick (2017–2018)[19][20]
  • Gill Sanders (2018–2019)[21][22]
  • Les Sibley (2019–2020)[23][24][25][26]

Notable members[edit]

Meat and dairy ban controversy[edit]

In 2021, the LibDem/Green/Labour administration moved a motion at Full Council to serve only plant-based (vegan) meals at all council-catered events and meetings plus vegan school meals in the primary schools on two days a week as part of its climate change action policy.[34] The move was unsuccessfully fought by the Conservative opposition. This policy was controversial and drew protests from livestock farmers and TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson, who owns a farm in the county.[35][36] As a result of the controversy, when the motion came to the council's Cabinet for ratification in March 2022, the proposals were scaled back to cover just seven council meetings and school meals only one day a week.[37] In November 2022, Conservatives sought to cancel the vegan meals at council-catered events, which cost £6,000 annually and are purchased from a Kidlington business which sources food from Woodstock. However, the motion failed.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Camelot International, Britain's heritage and history". Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  2. ^ "Council services". Oxfordshire County Council. Archived from the original on 27 November 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  3. ^ Your Council Tax Explained page 6, published by Oxfordshire County County March 2021
  4. ^ https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/sites/default/files/file/council-tax-and-finance-spending/CouncilTaxleaflet2021-22.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  5. ^ Edwards, John, ed. (1955). "County". Chambers' Encyclopedia. London: George Newnes. pp. 189–191.
  6. ^ Padfield, Colin Frank (1975). British constitution made simple. London: W. H. Allen & Co. p. 291.
  7. ^ "Labour candidate makes legal challenge after election result". Oxford Mail.
  8. ^ "Banbury councillor reappointed after Oxfordshire election result mix-up". BBC News Online. 12 August 2021. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  9. ^ "Councillor details - Councillor Ian Hudspeth". mycouncil.oxfordshire.gov.uk. 9 May 2021. Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  10. ^ "Oxfordshire County Council Election Results 1973-2009" (PDF). Retrieved 9 May 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ "Councillor details - Councillor Liz Leffman". 21 April 2022.
  12. ^ "A mother of three who used to teach maths in south Oxfordshire becomes Chairman". Oxford Mail. 13 April 2006. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  13. ^ "Sixteen years as County Councillor after career in military". BBC.
  14. ^ "Former Councillor Don Seale". 1 December 2015. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  15. ^ a b "Cowley's John Sanders elected as Oxfordshire County Council chairman". Oxford Mail. 19 May 2015.
  16. ^ "Oxfordshire County Council presents its annual rose bush rent to the Earth Trust". Oxford Mail.
  17. ^ Busy Evening. Bicester Advertiser. 1 December 1972.
  18. ^ The youngest chairman. Bicester Advertiser. 1972.
  19. ^ "Hundreds of youngsters enjoy evening of sports in the high street". Thame Gazette.
  20. ^ "Chairman or chairwoman?' row breaks out at council". Oxford Mail. 14 February 2018.
  21. ^ "New Chair Elected". 15 May 2018.
  22. ^ "New chair of county council relishing ceremonial role". Oxford Mail. 16 May 2018.
  23. ^ "Jericho house where Chinese author Chiang Yee given refuge gets blue plaque". Oxford Times.
  24. ^ "Oxfordshire County Council independents agree 'Alliance' with Conservatives". BBC News. 11 May 2013.
  25. ^ "Party 'dumps' town Stalwart". Oxford Mail. 13 April 2013.
  26. ^ "New Bicester Village station set to bring influx of shoppers and visitors to town". Bournemouth Echo. 27 October 2015.
  27. ^ 'BILLINGHAM, Baroness', in Who's Who (London: A. & C. Black); online edition (subscription required) by Oxford University Press, December 2007, accessed 1 December 2011
  28. ^ 'BRADSHAW, Baron cr 1999 (Life Peer), of Wallingford in the county of Oxfordshire', in Who's Who (London: A. & C. Black); online edition (subscription required) by Oxford University Press, December 2007, accessed 30 November 2011
  29. ^ 'BUTLER, Peter', in Who's Who (London: A. & C. Black); online edition (subscription required) by Oxford University Press, December 2007, accessed 30 November 2011
  30. ^ 'CAMOYS, 6th Baron' in Who's Who (London: A. & C. Black); online edition (subscription required) by Oxford University Press, December 2007, accessed 1 December 2011
  31. ^ 'DROWN, Julia Kate' in Who's Who (London: A. & C. Black); online edition (subscription required) by Oxford University Press, December 2007, accessed 1 December 2011
  32. ^ 'HOWELL, John Michael' in Who's Who (London: A. & C. Black); online edition (subscription required) by Oxford University Press, accessed 1 December 2011
  33. ^ 'MACCLESFIELD, 7th Earl of', in Who Was Who (London: A. & C. Black); online edition (subscription required) by Oxford University Press, December 2007, accessed 30 November 2011
  34. ^ "Agenda item - Motion by Councillor Ian Middleton". 14 December 2021.
  35. ^ "Jeremy Clarkson fails to stop Oxfordshire council vegan switch". BBC News. 15 March 2022. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  36. ^ "APPROVED: County council will now serve vegan food at meetings and school lunches". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 17 March 2022.
  37. ^ https://mycouncil.oxfordshire.gov.uk/documents/s59862/CA_MAR1522R06%20Plant%20Based%20Food%20Cabinet%20Paper%20final%20002.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  38. ^ Harland, Gee. "'Plans to scrap vegan lunches at Oxfordshire Council fail'". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 4 November 2022.

External links[edit]