Your views

Complete the short online questionnaire

We want to ensure as many people as possible are aware of our proposals, and have a chance to tell us what they think of them and shape shape the future of local government in Buckinghamshire.

The County Council is now providing opportunities for local people, businesses and other organisations to have their say through a short questionnaire.

The resulting feedback will be provided to the government to help them consider the future of local council services in the county.

Before completing the questionnaire, please take five minutes to read our jargon-free summary of the plans – you can download the summary here, or read below:

Reshaping Council Services

Buckinghamshire’s current system of county and district councils is too expensive, bureaucratic and confusing.

Cuts in funding, along with a rapidly growing population, mean that unless there is change, some frontline services will have to be reduced or even stopped altogether.

That’s why we are proposing to abolish all five councils and replace them with one new council for Buckinghamshire, saving millions each year to protect and improve services.

One new council could

  • Invest more money into road and pavement repairs, social care and other services which matter to you
  • Reduce council tax for the majority of residents
  • Give you and your community more control over local services
  • Provide a local hub for public services in your community.

We would like to know what you think of our proposals.

One county-wide unitary council would be:

Simpler: An end to the confusion over whether a service is run by the districts or County, with one phone number and website for all council services in Buckinghamshire.

Better value: Saving hard-pressed tax payers more than £18m every year, which could be invested in frontline services such as roads, education and social services. Council tax would also be reduced for the majority of residents.

Closer: Our plans include proposals to give local communities far greater control over decisions which affect them, while there would also be a physical council presence near you wherever you live in the county.

How services are currently organised

Buckinghamshire currently has a ‘two-tier’ system of local government, with services provided by four district councils (Aylesbury Vale, Wycombe, Chiltern and South Bucks) alongside Buckinghamshire County Council.

This causes confusion over which council does what – nearly 700 calls come into the County Council each month from residents enquiring about district services.

Most ‘big ticket’ services such as roads, education and social care are already run on a county-wide basis, so adding current district services to a new Buckinghamshire-wide unitary council would be relatively straight forward.

87% of local government spend is for County Council services on a Buckinghamshire-wide basis

County services include

  • Libraries
  • Education
  • Protecting children
  • Waste disposal
  • Fostering and adoption
  • Adult social services
  • Public health
  • Trading Standards
  • Roads and transport
  • Livestock welfare
  • Country Parks

District services include

  • Housing and benefits
  • Council tax collection
  • Electoral registration
  • Bin collection
  • Street cleaning
  • Environmental health

The need for change

In 2010 Buckinghamshire’s district and county councils received £88m in central government funding – by 2020 it will be zero.

The majority of funding for services now comes from council tax and business rates.

However, demand for services such as social care is rising fast as the county’s population grows and people get older.

In 2016 – 2017, 55% of local government resources in Buckinghamshire were spent on social care services.

With cash so tight, we believe it is wrong that taxpayers’ money is spent on the salaries of multiple council chief executives and back office departments such as finance, HR and IT.

Investing in services

The £18m saved every year offers a huge potential for the new council to invest in services which matter most to you.

For example with an extra £18m the new council could decide to:

• Double what is spent every year repairing our roads and pavements
• Invest in new library books and facilities
• Pay for more educational psychologists to support children with special educational needs in schools
• Invest in improving school facilities
• Increase the number of home helpers supporting people to live independently
• Subsidise more bus routes to rural communities
• Improve support for homeless people to find work and suitable housing
• Fund more local schemes, such as speeding controls, community clean-ups or children’s playgrounds
• Pay for Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) to patrol our streets.

The power of one

One council would have one website and one phone number for all services, making it far simpler for you to get in touch.

There would also be one set of councillors, accountable to you for all council services.

Services which are currently divided between the districts and County would work better if they were joined-up under one council. For example, the way housing growth is planned (currently district) would be united with responsibility for infrastructure such as roads and schools (currently County), leading to a more coherent approach to development.

Similarly, joining up social services, housing and benefits would improve support for people who need extra help.

Under one unitary authority, council tax would be reduced for the majority of residents.

Keeping it local

The business case for a county-wide council includes radical proposals to improve local democracy and access to services.

Community Hubs would offer a physical presence for the council in 19 locations throughout Buckinghamshire.

You would be able to pop in and talk to someone face-to-face about not only council services, but those of other organisations, such as health and police.

Community Boards would take decisions in their local areas, and would have money to invest in
each area’s local priorities.

Town and parish councils would be able to take on more services currently run by the district and county councils if they chose to do so. We believe town and parish councils have the local knowledge and pride to improve many services, from grass cutting to community centres – but this would be a choice for them, not a requirement.

See also the Community Proposals Explained page

A track record of success

Other areas which have created one new county-wide council in the past, for example Wiltshire and Durham in 2009, have won widespread praise for improving the quality of services.

We have been able to protect frontline services and we are now much simpler for people to do
business with. Many, many people have come to me and said ‘we didn’t agree with it but actually you were right, it works very well.

Baroness Jane Scott OBE, leader of Wiltshire Council, a county-wide unitary council created in 2009

Other options

The County Council and the four districts all agree that change is vital.

The County Council explored a range of options but a single unitary was by far the strongest.

The districts have drawn up their own proposals, which would see Buckinghamshire split into two unitary councils – one in the north and one in the south.

These would be based on current district boundaries (Aylesbury Vale for the North, and combining Wycombe, Chiltern and South Bucks for the South).

The districts acknowledge that their proposal would save a lot less money than a county-wide council.

It would result in the splitting up of the county’s education and admissions system, alongside departments such as social services, which could cause disruption to the care and protection of our most vulnerable residents.

We believe that other public services and organisations, such as the NHS, police, fire and charities, would find it more expensive and bureaucratic to work with two councils, rather than just one.

The proposed northern council would have a population below the recommended minimum figure for a unitary council – even with all the housing growth that is planned.

Independent studies have shown the performance and financial sustainability of smaller unitary councils to be weaker than that of larger, county-wide authorities.

Buckinghamshire, which has been an administrative unit for more than 1,000 years, has a strong, united economy and it is one of the most productive areas in the UK.

With one council it could speak with one powerful voice on the national stage, to bring in government grants for big county-wide infrastructure projects, boosting the local economy.

You can read more about the districts’ proposals at www.modernisingbucks.org.

“On balance, Business Board Members feel that the single unitary solution proposed by Buckinghamshire County Council appears to be the most desirable of the two options proposed, both in terms of immediate financial benefits, the direct impact on services and institutions and on the opportunities for long term sustainability, deliverability and economic growth.”

Business Board members of the Buckinghamshire Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership

“We have a single NHS Commissioning team, a single NHS acute and community services provider, a single mental health provider and a single Health and Wellbeing Board. We need our local government to be as streamlined as possible to provide us with the very best opportunity to collaborate…”

Louise Patten, Accountable Officer for NHS Aylesbury Vale & Chiltern Clinical Commissioning Groups

Tell us what you think

Last year we engaged extensively with local residents, businesses and other organisations.

Following the submission of our initial plans to government, we are continuing this engagement.

We want to ensure as many people as possible are aware of the proposals, and have a chance to tell us what they think of them and shape shape the future of local government in Buckinghamshire.

The County Council is now providing opportunities for local people, businesses and other organisations to have their say through the short questionnaire.

We will also be conducting a telephone survey and a series of face to face group discussions.

The resulting feedback will be provided to the government to help them consider the future of local council services in the county.

Click here to complete the short online questionnaire