Plans unveiled to create single authority in Buckinghamshire that ‘could save £18m a year’

Bucks County Council leader Martin Tett has revealed plans for a single unitary authority in the county
Bucks County Council leader Martin Tett has revealed plans for a single unitary authority in the county

The leader of Buckinghamshire County Council has unveiled a plan to abolish the five county and district councils and replace them with one single authority.

Martin Tett says the new unitary authority would provide better services save tax payers more than £18m a year.

Bucks County Council says a suingle unitary authority would save �18m a year

Bucks County Council says a suingle unitary authority would save �18m a year

The business case for the new organisation, called ‘Buckinghamshire Council’, will be submitted to government this autumn if approved by the cabinet and full council.

If given the green light, the old councils, including Aylesbury Vale District Council, could be abolished and the new Buckinghamshire Council created by 2019.

As part of the plans community Hubs would be created in each of the 19 Community Board areas that would provide a base for a number of public services, including the new Buckinghamshire Council.

Parish and Town Councils would have the opportunity to take on more services and community assets if they choose to, from public toilets and parks to support for the isolated and footpath repairs.

The number of councillors sitting on ‘principal’ authorities in Bucks would reduce from 238 to 98, which would save an estimated £1.2 million a year.

Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, Martin Tett, said the “bureaucratic way” local government is currently set up in Buckinghamshire is no longer fit for purpose or affordable.

He said: “A new council would be a fresh start for Buckinghamshire, designed from the bottom up to provide better, more locally-focussed services.

“I’m particularly proud of our proposals to bring the council closer to local communities. This includes giving residents a much larger role in deciding the services they want where they live and creating 19 Community Hubs throughout Bucks where people can access a wide range of public services on their doorsteps.

“There just isn’t the money to pay for all the services residents want and if we don’t act now things will only get worse - in 2010 Bucks’ county and district councils received £88m in government funding, but by 2020 this will be zero.

“We now have the opportunity to save tens of millions of pounds which could be invested in protecting and improving frontline services.”

Mr Tett has said that about £4m would be saved by combining the back-office functions of the five councils, such as HR and finance and £3.6m would be saved by running services more efficiently on a larger scale, with greater economies of scale.

He said £3m would be saved by cutting the numbers of senior managers which previously existed across the five councils.

The council leader said the new Buckinghamshire Council could also earn £48m from selling off council buildings which are no longer required.

The one-off cost of establishing the new council would be £16.2m. Mr Tett said it would take just over two years for the new council to pay for itself.

Under the new plans, council tax would be harmonised, so a Band D rate payer in Buckingham would pay the same as a Band D rate payer in Chesham.

Mr Tett said it would result in a reduction in council tax for the majority of Buckinghamshire’s residents as the level has been brought in line with the rate Wycombe District rate payers are expected to pay by 2019, which is the lowest of all the districts in Bucks.