People have ‘wrong end of the stick’ on unitary plans

Neil Blake
Neil Blake
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People are getting the ‘wrong end of the stick’ on AVDC’s unitary plans, according to council leader Neil Blake.

Mr Blake spoke out after we reported last week that some opposition leaders had questioned his proposal to break away from Bucks County Council.

Leaders Robin Stuchbury (Labour) and Steven Lambert (Liberal Democrat) said that they support a unitary in theory, but would have to see more detail before expressing their full support.

Mr Stuchbury says that key questions still need to be answered on unitary, including how the council would protect the most vulnerable in the Vale.

But Mr Blake said that the announcement he made was that the council would look to make a business case for unitary, and an initial vote in the coming months would be to signify a willingness to explore the possibility of a new authority.

He said; “We have had all sorts of reactions to the announcement and I think some people are getting the wrong end of the stick.

“With Steven Lambert I spoke to him beforehand and he seems to want more detail, but the vote will be to ask the councillors for permission to explore the possibility of going unitary.

“If we get that we will then make a proper business case and we wouldn’t do anything unless we felt it was financially viable.

“We want to improve the lives of residents in the Vale by providing a more efficient service, we won’t know how to do this until we delve into these services.”

And Mr Blake also said how Bucks County Council chiefs had been less than supportive about the announcement.

Council leader Martin Tett was at Silverstone on the day of the announcement, to herald a tri-council alliance with Northants and Oxfordshire which is at odds with AVDC’s plans.

Mr Blake said: “The county council is clearly not supportive, of our plans, they have run these services for 125 years and still want to do so.

“But what’s important to me as an elected member is that we provide all the services that the residents need at the right price.

“The Vale is going to see housing growth and it would be good to have all the services that go with that in one place.

“More and more people want a single point of contact and unitary would offer that.

“I think we have proved as a council that we can look at ourservices, that’s how we have saved £11million in five years. We could apply this with new services, and we wouldn’t be looking at it in the same way as Bucks County Council which has provided them for 125 years.

“We would be starting with just a blank piece of paper, and deciding how to provide them in the most efficient way possible.”

A unitary authority is where a single council takes responsibility for all major services in the area it governs.

This may include AVDC taking responsibility for key departments such as children’s and adult services and education.

The unitary system is up and running and successful in other areas such as Bedford and Maidenhead, and could be fronted by a directly elected mayor or chairman.