Opposition parties unite to save Horton scrutiny committee – for now

13/12/2023

A proposal to disband the committee was voted down but the Administration say it will be discussed again

Moves to disband a committee which was set up to safeguard the Horton General Hospital have been rejected by united opposition party councillors at Oxfordshire County Council.   However, the future of the committee remains unclear.

The Horton Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) originally focused on fighting the downgrade of maternity services in Banbury when it was formed in 2018.   Later its remit was extended to include developing a masterplan for the hospital.

At a full County Council meeting yesterday a proposal was put forward by the ruling Liberal Democrat and Green alliance to merge the Horton HOSC into the existing wider Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.   This would have left no elected body specifically responsible for overseeing the Horton and has led to accusations that the county council administration is out of touch.

A report to Councillors said: “This committee was set up to support a funding bid to the Government for a new hospital.  The bid was unsuccessful and scrutiny activities relating to Horton Hospital will be taken forward by the Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.”

The recommendation was included in a report on political balance on committees.   Labour Councillor Mark Cherry requested a separate vote for each of the report’s recommendations and Labour and Conservative Councillors came together to vote down the Horton HOSC proposal.  

Councillor Cherry told Banbury FM: “The Horton HOSC is of high importance to the people of Banbury.   Abolishing the committee would be a retrograde step.”

Banbury Labour say the move is a sign that the alliance running the county council are “out of touch”.

Councillor Sean Woodcock, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate at the General Election, said:  “This attempt by the Liberal Democrats and Greens to shut down the only dedicated body of elected members for the Horton Hospital, just shows how out of touch they are.

“Our hospital has been downgraded and defunded by this Conservative government while our MP sat twiddling her thumbs. This committee, at least, spoke for Banbury and its residents. That Lib Dem and Green councillors who don’t rely on our hospital tried to scrap it, shows that those parties really don’t care about people in the north of the County.”

The Horton HOSC was formed during a period when the Conservatives were in control at County Hall.   Eddie Reeves is the Leader of the Conservative Group at Oxfordshire County Council.   He said: “Conservative Councillors were instrumental to setting up the Horton HOSC and were very clear that it should not be disbanded.

“We believe there is important work for the Horton HOSC to do and have been calling on Oxfordshire County Council to convene a meeting as soon as possible. To date, those calls have fallen on deaf ears from the Council, which has largely been run by Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Councillors since May 2021.

“We need capital investment and a Masterplan for our much-loved hospital. The Horton HOSC is critical to ensuring scrutiny of both.”

But County Council Leader, Liberal Democrat Liz Leffman, remains unconvinced the Horton HOSC is still needed.   Following the vote she told Banbury FM: “The Horton HOSC has not met for at least two years.  The JHOSC [Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee] will decide at its next meeting whether there is a need for this committee to remain in place.”


Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam

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