Buckinghamshire Labour Party form shadow unitary council scrutiny group

Councillors Rafiq Raja and Robin Stuchbury
Councillors Rafiq Raja and Robin Stuchbury

The Buckinghamshire Labour Party have formed a county-wide group to ensure the decisions and actions of the new unitary shadow authority will be scrutinised as our residents expect and deserve.

District and County Councillors in Buckinghamshire are set to become part of a ‘shadow authority’, which will manage the transition towards the new unitary Buckinghamshire Council on 1st April 2020.

The shadow authority which is led by a ‘shadow executive’, comprising members of all five councils - nine from the County Council and two from each of the four District Councils (South Bucks, Chiltern, Wycombe and Aylesbury Vale) - will play a critical role in defining how local government operates and delivers services for many years ahead.

In January the appointment of the unitary leadership team caused controversy when some councillors expressed concern at the undemocratic process followed - the Secretary of State for Local Government James Brokenshire essentially chose the leader without a vote taking place.

The Buckinghamshire Labour Group consists of all current Labour District and County Councillors and will be led by Councillor Rafiq Raja (current leader of the Labour Group on Wycombe District Council). Councillor Robin Stuchbury (Aylesbury Vale District Council) will be deputy leader.

Councillor Raja said: “The most important task for any opposition group is effective scrutiny. We will ask the questions which must be asked to hold the shadow executive to account. The Labour Group will represent the interests of Buckinghamshire residents in the shadow unitary authority and ensure that critical decisions about future council services and spending are made in an open and transparent manner.”

Councillor Robin Stuchbury said: “The shadow authority will yield immense influence on local service delivery but it is not yet clear how it will make decisions or be led by the shadow executive. The machinery of local government must be established in the correct way, with a constitution, standing orders and correct scrutiny over decisions, particularly where spending is involved. At a time of low public confidence in the functions of government, this couldn’t be more critical.”

The Labour Group have said that they will insist upon early disclosure of scrutiny processes, committees planned for the new council and details of how opposition groups will be part of the decision making of the future unitary authority.