Unitary proposal announced
Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe District Councils have today (Wednesday 7 December 2016) announced that they will be submitting a joint proposal to the Department for Communities and Local Government for two unitary authorities, based on a north/south split of Buckinghamshire, subject to final stakeholder engagement.
The proposal for north and south unitary authorities in Bucks is being made by the four district councils on the firm belief that this approach 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: “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.”
A recent, outline strategic options report which was commissioned by the four district councils, highlighted that for big ticket services currently being provided by the county council - such as adult social care and children’s services – to be sustainable in the future, no change to the governance in Bucks was no longer an option. 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.