I DID IT MY WAY: In his own words, the outgoing county council leader Keith Mitchell reflects upon his colourful County Hall reign

Bicester Advertiser: With the county council’s 100th apprentice Nazaha Begum, celebrating a drive to take on more young people With the county council’s 100th apprentice Nazaha Begum, celebrating a drive to take on more young people

IT HAS been a long road from May 6, 1989, when I first fought and won the Bloxham seat. I have contested and held it every four years since.

I joined a horribly hung county council. It is difficult to believe now but the three parties held about a third of the seats each.

They were in a permanent state of opposition to each other and, I thought, to the council itself.

Officers did their best to navigate a way through this political minefield but it was difficult and decisions could take a very long time.

Above all, there was no strategic direction; no sense of the council’s values and objectives.

I served as the Conservative social services spokesman from 1995 until 1999, when Councillor Charles Shouler stood down as Conservative leader and I was elected in his place.

Leading a group is not an easy task; members are very different, representing a broad range of opinions. The leader’s role is to secure group consensus and to identify clear policy directions.

In 1999, the Labour government decided councils should move to a different model of governance. We opted for the cabinet and leader model but were unclear how to do it in a hung council.

Group leaders held endless bilateral discussions. I quickly put down a marker, saying my group would not serve in a “rainbow coalition”.

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That was accepted and the question then was which two groups could work together, having recently fought an election with conflicting pledges? This took some time. However, we put together an agreement with the Liberal Democrats and, as a forerunner of the Cameron/Clegg show in 2010, we formed a coalition.

The doom-mongers said it would not last and a number of my political colleagues were very angry, saying we would never win control having “got into bed with the Liberals”!

We proved them wrong and, in 2005, we secured an overall majority of 12 and increased it to 14 in a by-election. In 2009, we grew the majority to 30 and that is where we are now.

In 600 words, I cannot list all of our achievements but we have turned this council from a weak performer to one that is recognised nationally for excellence.

We saw Oxford Castle completed and opened by the Queen in 2005. We completed the “hamburger” roundabout at Headington on time and on budget. We cleared the bus stops out of Queen Street and have negotiated a landmark, joint-ticketing arrangement with the bus companies.

We supported a programme of academies before they became national policy. We have put significant funding into social care to meet demographic needs. Despite the cuts, we have found a solution that keeps all of our libraries open.

We have worked hard with partners to grow Bicester’s economy and to make growth jobs-led rather than housing-led.

We have a successful county-based Local Enterprise Partnership. I think our biggest success is in our partnership working.

In the 2007 Birthday Honours, HM The Queen appointed me a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to local government.

This was a hugely proud moment for me but, more important, a recognition of the high standing of the county council.

It has been a huge privilege to lead the council for 10-and-a-half years. I have enjoyed working with members and officers.

Looking forward, my next few weeks will feel very strange, moving from a 24/7 job running a huge business to a back-bencher. I am confident the new team will maintain Oxfordshire’s high standing in the country and I wish them well.

See tomorrow’s Oxford Mail as new leader Ian Hudspeth sets out his vision for the future

Comments (7)

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7:39pm Tue 15 May 12

LORD PETER MACVEY 0X2 6EG says...

Happy retirement Keefy Lad. But unfortunately with your lackey Hodspit taking over, we will be the subject to every looney experiment that other councils won't entertain. Ah well at least it is good news for Traffic Light Manufacturers, and cycle lane painters, and who knows, even possibly rubber road pioneers like back in the 30s 40s and 50s with Cornmarket St. We may have a new leader, but we have no change of direction.
Happy retirement Keefy Lad. But unfortunately with your lackey Hodspit taking over, we will be the subject to every looney experiment that other councils won't entertain. Ah well at least it is good news for Traffic Light Manufacturers, and cycle lane painters, and who knows, even possibly rubber road pioneers like back in the 30s 40s and 50s with Cornmarket St. We may have a new leader, but we have no change of direction. LORD PETER MACVEY 0X2 6EG
  • Score: 0

11:14pm Tue 15 May 12

DoctorBob says...

"Promoting greener transport with model Sam Fox at an eco rally in Broad Street, Oxford"

Three massive t1ts!

A couple of observations from this article.
1) The County Council is not a business, it is a public body for public service.
2) A man that believes doing it "his way" is a representative position is clearly deluded.
"Promoting greener transport with model Sam Fox at an eco rally in Broad Street, Oxford" Three massive t1ts! A couple of observations from this article. 1) The County Council is not a business, it is a public body for public service. 2) A man that believes doing it "his way" is a representative position is clearly deluded. DoctorBob
  • Score: 0

9:09am Wed 16 May 12

Man on the Green says...

Dangerously delusional. A failing administration which squandered millions on the Cornmarket fiasco, is headed by senior executives of rare incompetence, and that has c@cked up every single one of the "integrated (sic) transport schemes" it has launched at vast expense (see Henley and Abingdon for the most compelling examples), has completely failed to deliver on the Government's legal obligations to reduce air pollution (even lying to Ministers in its pathetic attempts to wriggle out of its responsibilities), and has tolerated (& even encouraged) bullying and harassment by senior officers, turned a blind eye to misuse of corporate credit cards, and generally brought the good name of countless hard-working public servants into disrepute. The new regime promises nothing better.
Dangerously delusional. A failing administration which squandered millions on the Cornmarket fiasco, is headed by senior executives of rare incompetence, and that has c@cked up every single one of the "integrated (sic) transport schemes" it has launched at vast expense (see Henley and Abingdon for the most compelling examples), has completely failed to deliver on the Government's legal obligations to reduce air pollution (even lying to Ministers in its pathetic attempts to wriggle out of its responsibilities), and has tolerated (& even encouraged) bullying and harassment by senior officers, turned a blind eye to misuse of corporate credit cards, and generally brought the good name of countless hard-working public servants into disrepute. The new regime promises nothing better. Man on the Green
  • Score: 0

9:58am Wed 16 May 12

Major Oxford says...

Thanks for your great service keith, good luck in the future you an honourable man
Thanks for your great service keith, good luck in the future you an honourable man Major Oxford
  • Score: 0

5:06pm Wed 16 May 12

LORD PETER MACVEY 0X2 6EG says...

Major Oxford wrote:
Thanks for your great service keith, good luck in the future you an honourable man
no need to take the mick
[quote][p][bold]Major Oxford[/bold] wrote: Thanks for your great service keith, good luck in the future you an honourable man[/p][/quote]no need to take the mick LORD PETER MACVEY 0X2 6EG
  • Score: 0

5:43pm Thu 17 May 12

Severian says...

"We have worked hard with partners to grow Bicester’s economy and to make growth jobs-led rather than housing-led."

Clearly this man has little contact with his Tory colleagues in Bicester, who seem to be obsessed with the idea that the "Eco town" will bring economic regeneration through hundreds of building jobs.

All of their local plans for job creation seem to be centred around the extension of Bicester as a housing suburb of Oxford.
"We have worked hard with partners to grow Bicester’s economy and to make growth jobs-led rather than housing-led." Clearly this man has little contact with his Tory colleagues in Bicester, who seem to be obsessed with the idea that the "Eco town" will bring economic regeneration through hundreds of building jobs. All of their local plans for job creation seem to be centred around the extension of Bicester as a housing suburb of Oxford. Severian
  • Score: 0

5:45pm Thu 17 May 12

Severian says...

Major Oxford wrote:
Thanks for your great service keith, good luck in the future you an honourable man
Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit and isn't called for on this forum.
[quote][p][bold]Major Oxford[/bold] wrote: Thanks for your great service keith, good luck in the future you an honourable man[/p][/quote]Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit and isn't called for on this forum. Severian
  • Score: 0

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