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District councils announce proposal for two unitary authorities to govern Buckinghamshire

| December 8, 2016

On Wednesday 7th December 2016 Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe District Councils announced they will be submitting a joint proposal to the Department for Communities and Local Government for two unitary authorities to take over the local government functions in Buckinghamshire.

Subject to final stakeholder engagement the unitary authorities would see local government in Buckinghamshire based on a north-south split of the County.

Cllr Neil Blake, Leader of Aylesbury Vale District Council, said: ‘Under the previous Secretary of State Greg Clark, DCLG had said that they would want to see local consensus among partners. But the current Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, has very recently inferred to us, on asking, that he may make a decision himself rather than seek consensus.

Cllr Isobel Darby, Leader of Chiltern District Council, added: ‘We have asked the Secretary of State to give us his assurance that he will not make a decision until we have submitted our own proposals, so that he can make an informed decision on what the best option for the people of Buckinghamshire may be.

On the issue of timing, Cllr Ralph Bagge, Leader of South Bucks District Council, said: ‘For the Secretary of State to only consider the one proposal that he currently has would, in our opinion, be greatly premature. Whilst we recognise that on-going uncertainty is undesirable, we do not think that speed should determine the long term future of local government in Bucks, or indeed anywhere else in the country.

Cllr Katrina Wood, Leader of Wycombe District Council, added: ‘We firmly believe that the two unitary authority approach, based on a north/south split, is much better suited for the people of Buckinghamshire and the services they need. We also believe that the north/south model will be more conducive to creative solutions for the long-term future of public services in Bucks.

The four district councils recently commissioned an outline strategic options report which highlighted that for major services, such as adult social care and children’s services, currently being provided by the County Council to be sustainable in the future change in the governance structure of the County would be needed.

The report compared one, two and three unitary authority options, with a preference emerging for two or three unitary councils in Bucks. The findings were based on a long-term solution, rather than a short-term fix. The report can be viewed here.

In response to the announcement of the proposals by the four District Councils the Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, Martin Tett, said: ‘I welcome the fact that the district councils are now starting to progress their proposals for modernising local government. There is a clear consensus for a change in local government structure.

The district councils say that speed should not determine the future of local government in Buckinghamshire. But let’s not forget that Aylesbury Vale District Council proactively commissioned an LG Futures unitary report over 18 months ago, and yet still haven’t produced any firm or detailed proposals, despite our invitation to them to collaborate and work with us when we approached them in May.

The district councils have yet to confirm any publication date for their business case and there is as yet no firm detail on their plans. I await this detail with interest. The district councils now need to submit and publish their proposals quickly so that a firm decision can be made and transition to a better government model can start.

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