Leader of opposition explains why he backs ONE council

By Cllr Steven Lambert

As Liberal Democrat leader of the opposition at Buckinghamshire County Council, it’s fair to say I’ve not always seen eye to eye with its Conservative leader, Martin Tett.

But on the advantages of having one new, single authority for Buckinghamshire, I am in complete support.

When I arrived to Buckinghamshire from London I couldn’t believe that such a confusing mess of multiple district and county councils still actually existed.

In 2016, when the County Council proposed one new county-wide unitary council and the districts proposed a north-south split, I had a choice to make – not least because I am also a district (and parish) councillor.

After reading the two proposals, my decision was easy. The business case for the single unitary council is very robust, particularly on how the new authority would work with local communities and deliver real improvements on the ground. In contrast, the district case has a lot of unknowns.

One council will save at least £18m every year, many millions more than what would be saved by two different unitary councils. This is extra money which doesn’t come from tax hikes, which can be invested in making council services better.

One council will also of course make things much simpler for residents, while enabling services to be much more joined-up and strategic.

I was delighted when in March of this year, the Government announced it was ‘minded to’ implement one unitary council.

I have been challenged by some people who don’t think it’s appropriate for me to so publicly support the proposals. But this is not about party politics – it is about what is right for our residents.

The Liberal Democrat opposition leaders at Aylesbury Vale District Council and Chiltern District Council (both of whom are not members of the county council) also support the one unitary model.

I would urge anyone who cares about local council services to join me in writing to the Secretary of State Sajid Javid urging him to turn this minded-to decision into reality. You can email him at sajid.javid@communities.gsi.gov.uk

You can find out more about the proposals at www.futurebucks.co.uk

This column first appeared in The Bucks Herald on April 25.

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