South Oxfordshire District
River Thames, which flows through the middle of the district.
River Thames, which flows through the middle of the district.
Coat of arms of South Oxfordshire District
South Oxfordshire shown within Oxfordshire
South Oxfordshire shown within Oxfordshire
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
RegionSouth East England
Non-metropolitan countyOxfordshire
Historic countyOxfordshire
(north of River Thames)
(south of River Thames)
StatusNon-metropolitan district
Admin HQAbingdon-on-Thames
Incorporated1 April 1974
 • TypeNon-metropolitan district council
 • BodySouth Oxfordshire District Council
 • LeadershipLeader & Cabinet (Liberal Democrat and Green Coalition)
 • MPs
 • Total261.99 sq mi (678.54 km2)
 • Rank48th (of 296)
 • Total151,820
 • Rank142nd (of 296)
 • Density580/sq mi (220/km2)
Ethnicity (2021)
 • Ethnic groups
Religion (2021)
 • Religion
Time zoneUTC0 (GMT)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (BST)
ONS code38UD (ONS)
E07000179 (GSS)
OS grid referenceSU6571895057

South Oxfordshire is a local government district in the ceremonial county of Oxfordshire, England. Its council is temporarily based outside the district at Abingdon-on-Thames pending a planned move to Didcot, the district's largest town. The areas located south of the River Thames are within the historic county of Berkshire.


The district was formed on 1 April 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, covering the area of six former districts, which were abolished at the same time:[2]

The two Wallingford districts had previously been part of the administrative county of Berkshire, whilst the other four districts had been in the administrative county of Oxfordshire. The new district was originally given the name "Wallingford District".[3] The shadow authority elected in 1973 to oversee the transition requested a change of name to "South Oxfordshire District", which was approved by the government before the new district formally came into being in 1974.[4]


The River Thames flows for approximately 47 miles through South Oxfordshire,[5] forming the historic county boundary between Berkshire and Oxfordshire. It is also joined by the River Thame within the district. A characteristic of the rivers within the district is that they have wide floodplains with few houses on them so that fluvial flooding is a lesser problem than flash flooding.[6] Towns in the district are Didcot, Henley-on-Thames, Thame, Wallingford and Watlington.


See List of civil parishes in South Oxfordshire

The larger villages in the district include:

Population change and distribution

South Oxfordshire population pyramid

The 2001 Census recorded a population of just over 128,000 in the district. This was an increase of 7% since 1991. By the 2021 Census, the figure had risen to over 149,000.[7]

Much of the district is rural in nature, with the land in agricultural use and around 70% of the district has a green belt or AONB designation (The northeast of the district forms part of the Oxford Green Belt). 50% of the district's population lives outside its four main towns of Didcot, Henley-on-Thames, Thame and Wallingford.


South Oxfordshire District Council
South Oxfordshire District Council Logo
Founded1 April 1974
David Turner,
Liberal Democrat
since 19 May 2022[8]
David Rouane,
Liberal Democrat
since 7 October 2021[9]
Mark Stone[a]
since 2017[10]
Seats36 councillors
Political groups
Administration (29)
  Liberal Democrats (21)
  Green Party (8)
Opposition (7)
  Labour (3)
  Independent (3)
  Conservative (1)
Length of term
4 years
First-past-the-post, third of council elected three years out of four
Last election
4 May 2023
Next election

South Oxfordshire District Council is elected by the district. Prior to the May 2019 local elections the council had a strong Conservative Party majority, though following the 2019 election the council moved to No Overall Control, with the Conservatives reduced to 10 seats.[11] The council is currently administered by a Liberal Democrat and Green Party coalition.[12]

In the 2023 local elections the Liberal Democrats won majority control of the council for the first time, with the Conservatives only winning one seat.[13]

2023 local election results[13]
Party Councillors
Liberal Democrats 21
Green Party 8
Labour Party 3
Henley Residents' Group 3
Conservative Party 1

At the first elections in 1973, 62 district councillors were elected.[14] Currently thirty-six district councillors are elected from twenty one electoral wards, which cover the principal towns of Didcot, Henley, Thame and Wallingford and surrounding villages.[15] This was a result of The South Oxfordshire (Electoral Changes) Order 2014, effective from the 2015 local elections.[16]

The Conservative Party held a majority on the council between 2003 and the 2019 UK local elections, when the Liberal Democrats became the larger party. After two independent councillors changed allegiance to the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party shortly after the May 2019 election, the two parties formed a coalition, led by Liberal Democrat, Sue Cooper.[17] The Liberal Democrats took a majority of the seats on the council at the 2023 election, although continued to operate in partnership with the Greens.[18]

The first election to the district council was held in 1973, initially operating as a shadow authority alongside the outgoing authorities until it came into its powers on 1 April 1974. Political control of the council since 1974 has been as follows:[19]

Party in control Years
No overall control 1974–1976
Conservative 1976–1995
No overall control 1995–2003
Conservative 2003–2019
No overall control 2019–2023
Liberal Democrats 2023–present


The leaders of the council since 2003 have been:[20]

Councillor Party From To
Ann Ducker Conservative May 2003 21 Sep 2014
John Cotton Conservative 16 Oct 2014 Apr 2018
Jane Murphy Conservative 19 Apr 2018 16 May 2019
Sue Cooper Liberal Democrats 16 May 2019 7 Oct 2021
David Rouane Liberal Democrats 7 Oct 2021


Main article: South Oxfordshire District Council elections

Full elections of the council take place every four years.

Prior to the May 2019 local elections the Conservative numbers on the council had been reduced from 33 to 25, after several resignations and six councillors suspended for voting against a major housing plan.[21] Following the election the Conservatives went from a controlling majority of 18, to having no overall control, with the Liberal Democrats having 12 councillors, the Conservatives having 10 and the Green Party winning 5.[22]


The council was initially based in various premises across the district in Henley, Thame, Wheatley, Wallingford and Didcot inherited from its predecessor authorities.[23] In 1981 the council moved to a purpose-built headquarters on Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford, near Wallingford.[24]

On 15 January 2015, an arson attack destroyed the district council's main offices in Crowmarsh Gifford.[25] As the fire started in the early hours of the morning there were no fatalities or injuries.[26] Immediately after the fire, the council was temporarily based in Abingdon, in the neighbouring Vale of White Horse district.[27] From later in 2015 until 2022 the council was based at Milton Park, sharing a building with Vale of White Horse District Council.[28] The Council initially intended to return to Crowmarsh,[29] but in October 2020 it was announced that both councils plan on relocating to a new building in Didcot, to be built on a site known as Didcot Gateway opposite Didcot Parkway railway station, aiming for completion in 2023.[30] In 2022 the councils vacated Milton Park and returned to Abingdon, again on a temporary basis, whilst waiting for the Didcot Gateway scheme to be ready.[31]


In terms of television, the area is served by BBC South and ITV Meridian broadcast from the Oxford transmitter. [32] However, southern parts of the district which includes Henley-on-Thames is served by BBC London and ITV London broadcasting from the Crystal Palace transmitter. [33]

Radio stations for the area are BBC Radio Oxford, BBC Radio Berkshire (covering Henley-on-Thames), Heart Thames Valley, and Jack FM.

Local newspapers are Oxfordshire Guardian, Oxford Mail and Henley Standard.

Energy consumption

In May 2006, a report commissioned by British Gas[34] showed that housing in South Oxfordshire produced the 5th highest average carbon emissions in the country at 7,356 kg of carbon dioxide per dwelling.

See also: Energy efficiency in British housing


  1. ^ Serves as joint chief executive for both South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Council
  1. ^ a b UK Census (2021). "2021 Census Area Profile – South Oxfordshire Local Authority (E07000179)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  2. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Definition) Order 1972",, The National Archives, SI 1972/2039, retrieved 22 September 2022
  3. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan District (Names) Order 1973",, The National Archives, SI 1973/551, retrieved 22 September 2022
  4. ^ "Now it's... South Oxfordshire". Evening Post. Reading. 29 September 1973. p. 12. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  5. ^ "South Oxfordshire - River activities".
  6. ^ "South Oxfordshire District Council - Floods".
  7. ^ "Census 2021 - Dataset: Population and household estimates, England and Wales". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 18 December 2022.
  8. ^ "Council minutes, 19 May 2022" (PDF). South Oxfordshire District Council. Retrieved 25 April 2023.
  9. ^ "Council minutes, 7 October 2021" (PDF). South Oxfordshire District Council. Retrieved 25 April 2023.
  10. ^ "Chief to stay". Henley Standard. 25 December 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2023.
  11. ^ "Election results: Lib Dems win Oxfordshire Tory council". BBC News. 3 May 2019. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  12. ^ Jones, Harrison (14 May 2019). "Sue Cooper set to run South Oxfordshire District Council coalition". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  13. ^ a b "South Oxfordshire result". BBC News. 3 May 2019. Retrieved 5 May 2023.
  14. ^ "South Oxfordshire District County Council Election Results 1973-2011" (PDF). The Elections Centre (Plymouth University). Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  15. ^ "Local Elections 2019: Your candidates in South Oxfordshire". Oxford Mail. 1 May 2019. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  16. ^ "The South Oxfordshire (Electoral Changes) Order 2014 - Schedule". The National Archives. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  17. ^ "Sue Cooper set to run South Oxfordshire District Council coalition". Oxford Mail. 14 May 2019. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  18. ^ "Leader and cabinet members confirmed for South Oxfordshire District Council". South Oxfordshire District Council. 19 May 2023. Retrieved 23 May 2023.
  19. ^ "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  20. ^ "Council minutes". South Oxfordshire District Council. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  21. ^ Nathan Briant (2 May 2019). "Local elections Oxfordshire 2019 - all you need to know". The Herald. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  22. ^ "Election results: Lib Dems win Oxfordshire council from Tories". BBC News. 3 May 2019. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  23. ^ 1975 Telephone Directory, South Oxfordshire District Council: Headquarters at St George's House, Wallingford, area offices at West Hill House, Henley / Stone Hall, High Street, Wallingford / Churchill House, Broadway, Didcot / London Road, Wheatley.
  24. ^ "New council HQ - it may be civic but it's no palace". Evening Post. Reading. 22 July 1981. p. 4. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  25. ^ "Video: Andrew Main sectioned after admitting South Oxfordshire council fire earlier this year". Oxford Mail.
  26. ^ "South Oxfordshire District Council building on fire". BBC News. 15 January 2015.
  27. ^ "Fire-hit councils' staff back at work". 10 November 2017 – via
  28. ^ "Henley on Thames News | Fire-hit council to move into new offices". Archived from the original on 23 July 2015. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  29. ^ "South Oxfordshire District Council is coming home to Crowmarsh - South Oxfordshire District Council".
  30. ^ "Didcot Gateway: the home of the new South and Vale district council offices". South Oxfordshire District Council. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  31. ^ "District Councils to be temporarily based in Abingdon". Vale of White Horse District Council. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  32. ^ "Full Freeview on the Oxford (Oxfordshire, England) transmitter". May 2004.
  33. ^ "Crystal Palace (Greater London, England) Full Freeview transmitter". May 2004.
  34. ^ "Centrica plc - News and views" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 June 2008.

51°39′N 1°03′W / 51.65°N 1.05°W / 51.65; -1.05