William Eichler 10 May 2016

Bucks to consider single unitary council

Buckinghamshire will explore the possibility of creating a single unitary council in order to ‘streamline and simplify services for residents’.

Cabinet members yesterday approved a proposal to develop a business case to examine how local government could be reorganised for the benefit of the county’s residents and businesses.

The council says it will place high-quality, cost-effective services for residents and businesses across Buckinghamshire and a strong and accountable local leadership at the centre of its considerations.

Leader of the council, Martin Tett said: ‘The business case that cabinet has agreed today to develop will show how a single unitary council would streamline and simplify services for residents – something that is long overdue and that residents certainly tell us they want.

‘Combined with the significant cost-savings to be gained over the medium term from economies of scale, a single unitary council model is a compelling option and one that should be ‘on the table’ for consideration.’

’We’ve already seen new types of councils developed in other parts of the country and the benefits they have brought to residents, and it’s the right time now for Buckinghamshire to consider its future,’ he added.

Welcoming the review, chairman of Buckinghamshire Thames Valley LEP Andrew Smith, said: 'I welcome the decision by Buckinghamshire County Council to commission a business case looking into the options for Local Governance in Buckinghamshire and the opportunity to actively participate in an independent, evidence-based review to assess all possible options.

'I am in no doubt the Review will be supported by the vast majority of Buckinghamshire residents, businesses and key strategic stakeholders who have a direct interest in the delivery of local services.'

The council’s former chief executive Chris Williams proposed the creation of a unitary government in 2007, but the plans were rejected.

In a statement issued last March, he said: 'The two-tier system of local government made sense in 1974 when it was introduced, and even back then it replaced the equivalent of 15 existing councils down to the five we have today.

‘But more than 40 years on, the two-tier system has become outdated, not fit for purpose and far too expensive to run.’

'I love Buckinghamshire County Council, but long for the day when I hear it is being scrapped,’ he added. 

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