Scope and Content

Although the County Council has existed since its creation under the Local Government Act 1888 (see CC1) it was reconstituted under the Local Government Act 1972 which ended the rather haphazard system in England and Wales created by the earlier Act. Under this Act towns and cities of a certain size were given administrative independence from their surrounding counties and districts and called county boroughs. In the counties responsibilities were divided between county and district councils. The latter were further graded according to size of population into municipal boroughs, urban district councils and rural district councils. This system created an administrative nonsense whereby the City of Oxford was a County Borough, with separate responsibility for services like education and social welfare, while the County Council was responsible for these services in the rest of the county but still had its headquarters in Oxford.

The 1972 Act abolished county boroughs and the differentiation of district councils and introduced a uniform two-tier system of counties and districts throughout England and Wales. County and district boundaries were altered as far as possible in accordance with local opinion as well as administrative convenience. Thus Oxfordshire's boundaries were extended to include the Vale of White Horse from Berkshire and the county was divided into five districts including the City of Oxford.

There were relatively few changes in the constitution, functions and powers of county and district councils. The office of alderman was abolished. Councils were given greater freedom to determine internal organisation but the statutory delegation of powers to social services and education committees remained. In many respects the new County Council reflected the advice of The Bains Report (the Study Group on Local Authority Management Structures set up in May 1971) which empahasised a more corporate outlook and structure including the establishment of a strategic policy-making body (the Policy and Resources Committee) with control of resources and emphasis on performance monitoring, and programme committees linked to overall policy-areas rather than specific departmental services. To a large extent the existing departmental structure was unchanged.

The Bains Report also recommended closer collaboration between local authorities particularly in areas where there was an overlap in responsibilities. County councils retained full responsibility for education, personal social services, the fire service and consumer protection but shared responsibility with district councils (and parish councils in some cases) for certain aspects of planning, transportation, environmental and recreational responsibilities. A full account of Oxfordshire County Council's changes under the 1972 Act can be found in the records of the Oxfordshire 1974 Committee (see CC1/43).

Under the terms of the Act elections to the new authorities were held in April 1973. However the old authorities continued in existence until the official handover of powers on 1st April 1974.

In 1998, the Labour Government's White Paper, Modern Local Government - In Touch with the People, outlined a major review of local government procedures with particular emphasis on stronger leadership and accountability through separation of executive and scrutiny roles. Part II of the resulting Local Government Act 2000 (political management arrangements and new constitutions) required a major reorganisation of the political structure and leadership of local authorities and the end of the traditional committee system. Requirements included the establishment of: (1) an executive power (3 options were permitted - leader and cabinet, mayor and cabinet or mayor and council manager); (2) a set of overview or scrutiny committees; (3) consultation with local electors prior to the changes.

After a consultative process (Sep 2000 to May 2001) the Council established the new system in a number of resolutions during 2001, including: (1) leader and cabinet model for the executive to consist of the leader, deputy leader and 6 other portfolio-holders; (2) the creation of five scrutiny committees reflecting main functional areas (Corporate Governance, Learning and Culture, Environment, Community Safety, Social & Health Care); the creation or continuation of other committees responsible for non-Executive functions e.g. Best Value, Planning and Regulation, Pension Fund, Standards, Employee Consultation. The new constitution was formally implemented on 5 November 2001. Further changes were introduced in 2005: the Executive was re-named Cabinet and some scrutiny committees changed reflecting structural changes to the directorates. One reflection of these changes can be seen in the agenda of council meetings where, amongst the more traditional items (e.g. declarations of interest, petitions and public address) are included: questions with notice from members of the public, report of the executive, questions with notice from members of the council.

This archive consists of agenda, minutes, reports and yearbooks relating to meetings of the Council and its committees and subcommittees. The records were created and maintained by the County Secretary's and (from 1980) Chief Executive's Departments. The records were transferred to the Record Office at various dates under the following accession numbers: 3657, 3689, 3698, 3729, 3917, 3972, 4003, 4045, 4140, 4172, 4177, 4234, 4315, 4321, 4373, 4380, 4481, 4543, 4641, 4642, 4643, 4708, 4710, 4718, 4804, 5181, 5364, 5397, 5497, 5594, 5734, 5817, 5884, 6014, 6123, 6237, 6240, 6340, 6420, 6640, 6788, 6846.

As these records have a unique significance and status as records at the highest policy-making level of the organisation and which the Council has a statutory duty to make available to the public they have been catalogued as a distinct archive unit rather than as records of the County Secretary's and Chief Executive's Departments to which they technically belong. Related records such as Members' attendance registers and declarations of acceptance of office can be found amongst the records of those departments.

Minutes are usually bound with agenda and other papers including reports of chief officers. Some minutes have been designated 'confidential' or 'exempt'. These are records of meetings from which the public was excluded as a result of a resolution under the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960 Section 1(2) or the Local Government Act 1972 Section 100 (to prevent disclosure of exempt information as defined in part 1 of schedule 12A). Confidential and exempt minutes are closed to general public access subject to the decision of the Solicitor to the Council.

Catalogued by Chris Gilliam, Feb 2004; revised and updated by Chris Gilliam, Jul 2010, with additions by Alison Smith in October 2020.

Access Information

Some records may be closed under the Data Protection Act, please see the individual records for more details.