Councils commission review into whether to go unitary

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 and Cllr Ralph Bagge, Leader of South Bucks District Council
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 and Cllr Ralph Bagge, Leader of South Bucks District Council

Four district councils are commissioning an independent review to find the best option for the future structure of local government in Bucks.

The councils say this option will strengthen local decision making, improve local service, and save taxpayers’ money.

The study is being jointly commissioned by Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe district councils.

The councils will be sharing the costs of the review which they say will ensure they are offering value for money to local taxpayers.

Earlier this month, all four districts were approached by Bucks 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.”

The district councils will be seeking to share information on finances and service delivery with Bucks County Council so that both reviews are based on the same data sets.