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Four local Councils to commission an independent review to find the best option for local government in Buckinghamshire

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The four District Council Leaders - left to right : Cllr Isobel Darby, Leader of Chiltern District Council. Cllr Katrina Wood, Leader of Wycombe District Council. Cllr Neil Blake, Leader of Aylesbury Vale District Council. Cllr Ralph Bagge, Leader of South Bucks District Council

The four District Council Leaders – left to right : Cllr Isobel Darby, Leader of Chiltern District Council. Cllr Katrina Wood, Leader of Wycombe District Council. Cllr Neil Blake, Leader of Aylesbury Vale District Council. Cllr Ralph Bagge, Leader of South Bucks District Council

Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe District Councils are to jointly commission an independent review to find the best option for the future structure of local government to serve the population of Buckinghamshire.

The four Councils are hoping to find an option that will strengthen local decision making, improve local service, and save taxpayers’ money.

By working together on the study and sharing the costs, each council will ensure they are offering value for money to local tax payers.

Earlier in June 2016 all four Districts were approached by Buckinghamshire County Council to join with them in preparing a business case for a single unitary council for Buckinghamshire. After careful consideration they declined this offer and agreed to commission a totally independent review.

The study commissioned by the District Councils will include extensive involvement of key local organisations and consultation with the public.

Councillor Neil Blake, Leader of Aylesbury Vale District Council, said: ‘The District Councils want to ensure that any changes to the structure of local governance in Buckinghamshire are in the best interest of our residents and protect high quality services within the finances available.

Councillor Isobel Darby, Leader of Chiltern District Council, said: ‘The Districts in Buckinghamshire have already led the way and have a successful track record in meeting the current and future financial challenges laid down by Government, by innovating and transforming service delivery, working in partnership to reduce overheads and maximise efficiencies, initiating commercial ventures and investing locally to grow our economies.

Councillor Ralph Bagge, Leader of South Bucks District Council, said: ‘As District Leaders it is clear to us that the key driver for the County Council in instigating this piece of work is the difficult financial position in which the organisation finds itself. It is also clear to us that the creation of a single unitary will not itself resolve the funding deficit faced by the County Council.

Councillor Katrina Wood, Leader of Wycombe District Council, added: ‘Our concerns that the work already initiated by the County, given its pre-determined outcome, are such that we feel it to be in our residents’ best interests to jointly commission our own study into potential alternative local governance structures, keeping an open mind as to what the outcome may be.

So that both reviews are based on the same data sets the District Councils will be seeking to share information on finances and service delivery with Buckinghamshire County Council.

Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council.

Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council.

In response to the decision by Buckinghamshire’s four district councils to commission an independent review on options for local government in Buckinghamshire Martin Tett (pictured above), Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, released the following statement : ‘We welcome the fact that the four District Councils have all now recognised the need to modernise local government in Buckinghamshire. But we have been clear for some time that local government can no longer afford the muddle and cost of having Parish/Town, District and County Councils covering the same area. Why do we need so many Chief Executives, Finance and Personnel departments etc. when we should be spending this money on services for residents?

We are disappointed that the four District Councils have apparently chosen to commit £200,000 of hard pressed taxpayers’ money on external management consultants without discussing their ideas with the County Council.

The County Council took the decision in early May to look at options for modernising local government in Buckinghamshire including developing a business case for a new, single unitary council for Buckinghamshire, and we invited the District Councils to work with us in evaluating any other options based on common methodology and shared evidence base. Only today, six weeks later, have we received a response to our invitation refusing our offer to work together in the interests of residents.

The fact that the District Leaders have refused to work with us and indeed have used taxpayers’ money to fund expensive management consultants is regrettable.

Our business case is still in development but one of the exciting parts of it is how we want to hand decision-making on local services back fully to local communities. This would really empower residents to decide what happens in their own local areas on the services that are important to them. We also know the massive financial savings that could be achieved by a new, single council through increased economies of scale.

I urge the District Councils to come together with us, work together and evaluate all options objectively so that they can be presented to Government for a decision.

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