Business leaders in Bucks back plans for a new Buckinghamshire-wide council
Business leaders are backing the County Council’s plans to create one new, single unitary council for Buckinghamshire to replace the old ‘dysfunctional’ council system across the county.
Under the plans, both the County Council and the four District Councils would be abolished and replaced by the new Buckinghamshire Council, saving taxpayers more than £18m a year which could be ploughed back into crucial frontline services.
Support from businesses comes as county councillors voted today (Thursday 22 September) to approve the business case for the single unitary authority and present it to the Government, following their Cabinet’s decision on Monday to formally back it.
Councillors believe that having just one authority will not only save more than £18 million per year, but would reduce confusion for residents, minimise bureaucracy, bring council services much closer to the county’s towns and villages, as well as giving the county a stronger voice nationally.
And their views were echoed by Buckinghamshire business leader, Guy Lachlan, who said: “It’s pretty clear that businesses in Buckinghamshire would benefit from a new, single unitary council. The current local government system creates as much confusion for businesses as it does for residents, because it’s not clear which council business owners should talk to about planning, licensing, trading standards or other aspects of running a business. There would also be quicker decision-making and much less bureaucracy for businesses to contend with.
“The overwhelming majority of businesses in Buckinghamshire support the move to a more streamlined local government structure, with no loss of front-end services. We congratulate Buckinghamshire County Council for the spirit of openness they have employed while drawing up and refining their plans for change.”
Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, Martin Tett, said: “This would be an entirely new council, replacing both the County Council and all four District Councils, with only one Chief Executive and one Leader. This new council would make access and accountability for services in the county so much easier to understand for residents and businesses.
“The current structure divides responsibility. For example, there is one council which determines the number of new housing developments and where they might go, and there is another council which is responsible for planning the infrastructure for those developments.
“We believe that our business case is in the very best interests of everyone in the county and we hope our colleagues at the District Councils will join us in helping to make it work.”
A key part of the business case is to make services much more local for residents. To help achieve this, a network of 19 Community Hubs across the county would provide a base for a number of public services, including the new Buckinghamshire Council. The Hubs would mean that residents, particularly vulnerable or isolated people who might be unable to travel very far, would be able to access a wide range of services from a place that is local to them, all under one roof.
In addition, 19 Community Boards would serve Buckinghamshire’s towns and villages, enabling local councillors to take decisions on issues such as funding for community groups and local roads maintenance. They would meet regularly in each area and the public would be encouraged to attend alongside town and parish councils, police, fire and health organisations.
Martin added: “We want to make sure that a new council would be as close as possible to local communities, and the Community Hubs and Boards will bring the new council direct to people’s doorsteps. The Hubs will mean that there will be a visible council presence in 19 places across Bucks where residents can talk face to face with the council; and the Boards will empower local decision-making by local people for local people. I think this local presence is a really exciting aspect of our proposals.”
Watch Martin Tett explain the vision for a new, single council for Buckinghamshire here.
Watch our short animation: http://futurebucks.co.uk/our-vision/