Modernising local government in Bucks - could five become two?
Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe District Council members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a proposal for two new unitary authorities in Bucks, at each of their respective council meetings (Monday 16 January). The proposal was subsequently submitted on behalf of the four Councils to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid.
The District proposal is to abolish all five county and district authorities in Buckinghamshire and replace them with two new unitary councils, one in the north alongside the existing unitary of Milton Keynes and one in the south to cover the area of the three southern district councils, saving tax payers almost £58million over a five year period. Under our new proposal each unitary council would be responsible for the delivery of all council services for the two distinct areas.
The four District Leaders met with the Secretary of State on Thursday 19 January to discuss the proposal in more detail. A decision on the County Council's single unitary option will not now be made in January to allow the Minister to properly consider the Districts' proposal; the Minister is not expected to express a preference until March 2017.
Late last year, we engaged with 146 key stakeholder organisations across Bucks. 73% favoured a multiple unitary model, whilst only 27% said they would prefer a single unitary authority (as proposed by Bucks County Council). This information, as well as showing a good deal of local consensus, has been used to help form our proposal for innovative change that will not only improve the outcomes for the people of Bucks, but will also provide a solid foundation for service provision and future challenges.
Cllr Neil Blake, Leader of Aylesbury Vale District Council said: "We have always strongly advocated a much-needed change to the local government in Buckinghamshire. Not just a restructure, but real change. And real change requires new thinking. This formal submission to government means that we can now move this forward."
Cllr Isobel Darby, Leader of Chiltern District Council said: ""While we've maintained high-quality service provision and demonstrated a strong track record of innovation in the face of financial challenges - reshaping our business models, sharing services and staff, regenerating our towns and attracting inward investment - communities are still suffering the consequences of failing county-wide services."
Cllr Ralph Bagge, Leader of South Bucks District Council said: "The north and south face different opportunities and challenges. Aylesbury Vale sits within the Oxford to Cambridge arc, identified for significant growth by Government. The three southern districts have a strong economic relationship with London with the forthcoming Heathrow expansion and high demand for new homes."
Cllr Katrina Wood, Leader of Wycombe District Council said: "The difference between the north and south of Buckinghamshire, in terms of the economy, jobs and housing market, demographic and even the topographical geography, is significant. We strongly believe that these differences will be best served by the creation of two new, more locally accountable, unitary councils in the north and south of the county."
Read the report and associated documents