Community proposals explained

The following proposals were put together after the original round of conversations with town and parish councils.

We want to carry on these discussions to further improve the blueprint for a new council.

Community Boards

Why have they been proposed?

To enable local councillors and the community to have a say about issues that affect them and take action to resolve issues.

What could they look like?

  • Area-based committees, made up of local members of the unitary council, alongside town and parish councilors and other stakeholders, which can take decisions on behalf of the new council on matters specific to their community.
  • They would each have an annual budget (averaging more than £100,000) to spend on local initiatives.
  • They would play an important role in scrutinising how council policy was impacting local areas and would be a formal consultee.

How might they work?

Legally, the boards would be formally constituted decision-making committees of the unitary council (a key difference with the current Local Area Forums). As such, voting would have to rest with the unitary councillors in the board’s geographical area. However, in practice, it is expected that all members of the board would be able to have their say on decisions, and that their views would be reflected in the voting by the unitary councillors. This is the experience in Wiltshire which operates a similar model.

Where could they be?

The number of Community Boards and their boundaries would be decided after consultation with town and parish councils and other stakeholders. For illustrative purposes, the business case assumes there would be 19 Community Boards, which are co-terminous with town and parish boundaries – so they would only have to work with one board.

Community Hubs

Why have they been proposed?

There will always be times when residents need to talk to someone face to face, and a new, county-wide single unitary council would need to ensure that this can happen close to home.

What could they look like?

  • A physical place where people can get advice on council services.
  • Located throughout Buckinghamshire, meaning residents could access them within a few miles of their homes.
  • The hubs would also be home to other public services, for example police and health.

How might they work?

The new council would work closely with public sector providers, including town and parish councils, to understand local need, and identify and provide community hubs that meet this need. The hubs would build on existing examples of co-location of services, saving tax payers’ money.

Where could they be?

The locations and delivery models of the hubs would be decided after consultation with stakeholders, including town and parish councils. The business case envisages that there would be one hub per Community Board (currently envisaged at 19 but subject to change).

New devolution offer

Why has it been proposed?

Town and parish councils know what their communities want and take great pride in delivering high quality services in their area. The new devolution offer gives them greater control over local service delivery and enhances local decision-making and choice over priorities.

What could it look like?

  • The new devolution offer would be a choice, not a requirement. There would be no obligation on a town or parish council to take on additional responsibilities.
  • It is still subject to detailed consultation with town and parish councils which would be carried out during the two-year transition period of establishing the new council.
  • Assets and services which could be transferred on a case-by-case basis include:
  • Play areas; sports grounds; local Parks and open spaces; public toilets; allotments; community centres; cemeteries and churchyards.
  • Flytipping; street cleaning; abandoned vehicles, environmental health; recycling management.
  • Home care and meals on wheels; health and wellbeing services; off street car parks; community library premises; community transport; community safety/ neighbourhood watch.
  • Footpath lighting; minor road and footpath repairs; grasscutting and open space maintenance.

How could it work?

Funding for devolved services would be transferred from the unitary council to the town or parish council, according to the particular assets and services to be transferred. This would be agreed with each local council, or cluster of councils, on a case by case basis. The business case proposes that a transparent formula would be developed to identify the level of resources available for different services and assets.

 Area Planning Committees

Why have they been proposed?

So local councillors can make decisions on local planning applications.

What could they look like?

  • The five committees would be made up of local members of the unitary council. It would not legally be possible for town and parish councillors to sit on the committees. However, we expect that town and parish representatives would attend the committees and clearly they have the right to submit comments on planning issues.
  • They would carry out many of the functions currently carried out by district council planning committees, as well as determining planning decisions which the county council currently takes on issues such as the approval of school building extensions.
  • A limited number of decisions would be reserved to a strategic, council-wide planning committee. These would be decisions with wider strategic implications or a significant impact beyond a specific local area – such as planning applications for a large-scale major development. Thresholds for decision-making on planning would be set out in the new council’s constitution.

How might they work?

The new council would keep the districts’ local plans and would use these as part of the criteria for judging applications (Once the plans come up for review in 2022/2023 the new council could choose to develop a single local development and infrastructure plan for Buckinghamshire). The development of Neighbourhood Plans would be encouraged as a powerful way for communities to direct the right types of development for their community.

Where could they cover?

The current district council boundaries have been used to ensure continuity with current development committees, although Aylesbury Vale has been divided into two (north and south) to reflect the differences within the area. These boundaries would be subject to local consultation.

Frequently asked questions

Won’t Community Boards just be another tier of local government, creating more bureaucracy and not reducing it?

The cost of running the 19 boards would be dramatically less than running five county and district councils. The boards would enable local residents to hold their councillors to account in an accessible, local setting, and ensure the new unitary council’s services were tailored to meet local need and delivered in locally appropriate ways.

Isn’t devolution a way of saving money at the expense of town and parish councils?

The business case does not include any cost savings from devolving services; any devolution arrangements would be cost neutral to the new council.  All new arrangements would be negotiated on a case by case basis with each town and parish council, which would be able to decide whether or not to take part.

Will the £2m for Community Boards be used to pay for devolved services?

No. The £2m would be shared among the Community Boards to support local initiatives, and generate matched funding where appropriate. In terms of the funding for devolved services, resources would need to be transferred from the unitary council to the parish or town council, which would be agreed on a case by case basis. The business case proposes that a transparent formula be developed to identify the level of resources available for different services and assets.

Wouldn’t Community Boards be a continuation of the current Local Area Forums?

It is envisaged that they would differ in important ways:

  1. They would make formal, delegated decisions on behalf of the unitary council.
  2. They would have formal accountability for a devolved budget for local projects.
  3. They would scrutinise local service delivery.
  4. They would always be consulted on significant changes to council services which affected the local area.
  5. They would have dedicated officer support.

Local groups and town and parish councillors would have less influence because they wouldn’t be able to vote on the Community Boards?

It is envisaged that the boards would have considerably more powers and influence than current arrangements, including larger budgets. While for legal reasons only unitary councillors would formally be able to vote, if Community Boards are to succeed decisions would have to be taken by consensus.