Modernising local government

Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks andWycombe District Council members voted overwhelmingly in favour of a proposal for two new unitary authorities in Bucks, at each of their respective council meetings on Monday 16 January 2017. The proposal will now be 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 council leaders are meeting 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; he is not expected to express a preference until March 2017.

Late last year, we engaged with 146 key stakeholder organisations across Bucks. 73 per cent favoured a multiple unitary model, whilst only 27 per cent said they would prefer a single unitary authority (as proposed by the 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.

Earlier in the year, to help fully inform the discussion about modernising local government in Buckinghamshire, we commissioned an open and independent review to find the best option for the future. We did this in partnership with Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern and South Bucks district councils. The report highlighted that there are many credible options for modernising local government in Bucks and a single unitary authority is not the only way.

The report was also clear that just reorganising without transformation - largely in adult social care and children’s services - wouldn’t solve the challenges that local government is facing. The focus needs to be on how things are done, not who is doing it.