Buckinghamshire Council to move a step closer with passing of final unitary legislation

Bucks County Council offices
Bucks County Council offices

The final piece of legislation that rubber-stumps Buckinghamshire becoming a unitary authority is set to be passed by the Government today (Friday).

Despite the eventful morning at Westminster, in which Prime Minister Theresa May announced her resignation, it is still anticipated that the Buckinghamshire Structural Changes Order will be passed by the Government.

The order will set out the details of the new Buckinghamshire Council and how the current five councils - Aylesbury Vale District, Bucks County, Chiltern District, South Bucks District and Wycombe District will come together to create it over the next year.

The key points from the order are as follows:

> The new council will be known as Buckinghamshire Council
> It will have 147 elected members with elections to the new council taking place in May 2020
> A temporary shadow authority will be formed, with all current county and district councillors having a seat on this body
> Leadership will be provided by a 17 seat shadow executive of county and district members
> An implementation team, led by the county council chief executive and with a district chief executive as deputy, will be established to manage the smooth transfer of services and staff to the new council

Once the order is approved, all county and district councillors from the five councils are set to come together to create a shadow authority that will oversee the move to the new council.

The authority comprises 236 seats, filled by 202 individuals taking into account those councillors who are both county and district councillors.

The first meeting of the shadow authority takes place on Monday June 3 at Adams Park, Wycombe at 7pm with the first meeting of the shadow executive taking place on Tuesday June 11 at the county offices in Aylesbury at 10am.

At its first meeting, the shadow authority will be consulted on the appointment of the statutory officers on an interim basis - the head of paid service, monitoring officer and chief finance officer.

They will also appoint members to relevant committees and confirm the nominated county and district members to the shadow executive.

The shadow executive will oversee the implementation plan for the new council, and will consist of 17 county and district councillors with eight from the county council, eight from the four district councils and the leader of the county council as the leader of this group, supported by a district councillor as the deputy leader.

Among the new shadow authority's responsibilities will be setting the 2020/21 council tax and first budget of the new unitary council which will take place in the new year.

The shadow authority will run alongside the current five councils until April 2020, with the current councils delivering services as usual until they transfer to the new council on April 1 2020.

In a joint statement the five Buckinghamshire council leaders Angela Macpherson (Aylesbury Vale), Martin Tett (Buckinghamshire County), Isobel Darby (Chiltern District), John Read (South Bucks District) and Katrina Wood (Wycombe District) said: “There is no doubt that this is the biggest change in the county’s local government history, and our goal now is to use this once in a lifetime opportunity to bring the best of the current five councils together to create an even better new council for the people of Buckinghamshire.

"We’re committed to working together to deliver a brand new council that will be simpler, focused on improving and supporting our communities and champion issues close to the heart of our people.

"One council will reduce duplication and running costs of five councils so we will be better able to protect local services for the future and focus on spending council tax payers’ money on services we know are important to our communities such as road repairs, adults and children’s services, housing, recycling and waste.

"Also, as the second largest non-metropolitan unitary council in the country (based on 2017 population estimates), we will have a stronger voice to speak up on behalf of the county at a national level with government, on issues that we know are important to our residents and businesses, as well as bidding for investment and funding to improve the county.”

In other council related news, Bucks County Council has announced a few changes to its cabinet line-up for its final year as an authority.

Anita Cranmer (Beaconsfield) succeeds Mike Appleyard in overseeing the education and skills portfolio, while Gareth Williams (Amersham and Chesham Bois) succeeds Noel Brown after throwing his hat into the ring of the community engagement and public health portfolio.

Mike Appleyard (The Wooburns, Bourne End and Hedsor) joins the county council's health and social care select committee with Noel Brown (Chess Valley) supporting Gareth Williams as deputy cabinet member.

Other new deputy cabinet appointments include Ralph Bagge (Stoke Poges and Wexham) in the resources portfolio, Arif Hussain (Terriers and Amersham Hill) in the education and skills portfolio and fresh from her chairmanship, Netta Glover (Wing) in the children's services portfolio.