DCSIMG

County Hall boss tackles tax increases, road improvements, child exploitation and scrapping councils in Christmas message

Councillor Martin Tett

Councillor Martin Tett

County Hall chief Martin Tett has defended tax rises, promised to spend millions more on road repairs and said he supports cutting the number of Bucks councils in his Christmas message to residents.

Mr Tett, the leader of Bucks County Council, said an increase in council tax of 2% after a freeze of three years was ‘unavoidable’ given the ‘severity’ of the authority’s financial situation.

The Tory admitted ‘much remains to be done’ to improve the state of the roads. Around £50 million has been spent on restoring the roads in the last three years but this will be cut to £43m over the next four years as ‘in the current financial situation we can’t keep up this level of expenditure’.

Mr Tett said he was ‘delighted that an economic upturn has started for many Bucks businesses during the last few months’ and that he is determined to keep on supporting apprentice schemes to help young people get into the jobs market.

He said the council has made dealing with child sexual exploitation a priority for 2014.

He said: “We are establishing a multi-agency safeguarding hub in Buckinghamshire, which will bring together professionals from all agencies that have contact with vulnerable people to help keep them safe from harm.”

Mr Tett admitted people ‘won’t be surprised to know that I remain determined to protect Buckinghamshire’s unique and beautiful environment’ by continuing to oppose HS2.

He added: “As the Government plans to push ahead with spending some £50 billion on its HS2 project, we will be working with local communities and town and parish councils to mitigate the very worst effects, should it ever go ahead.”

Mr Tett said many people had contacted him putting forward the case for a single council in Bucks, rather than the county and district council structure we currently have.

He said: “I have always been clear that I support a single combined council for the county, in partnership with a high degree of devolution to parish and town councils on local matters. I believe that this could save significant amounts of money.”

He said he was willing to discuss ‘all options’ for reducing the cost of local authorities in Bucks.

Finally he adds: “I am really optimistic about Buckinghamshire in 2014. We should see our economy continue to turn the corner and I want the county council, in partnership with our colleagues in other local councils and community organisations, to play its part in driving jobs and growth whilst still delivering vital services for all Buckinghamshire residents.

“I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

MARTIN TETT’S MESSAGE IN FULL:

As Christmas approaches and many of us prepare to celebrate with family and friends, it is a good time to reflect on the year we have had and what the future holds in 2014.

We have just proposed, after our recent public consultation, a council tax increase of 2% for next year.

We have frozen council tax for three years, but an increase next year is unavoidable given the severity of the financial situation and the increasing demands on our services. We have kept the increase below inflation by pledging to make a further £60 million of savings on top of the £85 million already delivered.

At the same time, we are one of the few councils to be maintaining our grants to the important voluntary and community sector which does so much for us in Buckinghamshire.

Investing in our roads and railways is also essential.

Over the past three years we have spent approximately £50 million on beginning the job of restoring roads. Much remains to be done.

In the current financial situation we can’t keep up this level of expenditure but I will be recommending that we continue to spend some £43 million over the next four years to continue the progress already made.

Importantly, we are also investing in the planned new East-West Rail service to provide better links to Milton Keynes, Reading, Oxford and Bedford as well as London.

I am committed to helping to build strong local business and jobs growth.

When I visit some of the more deprived parts of our major towns like Aylesbury, Wycombe or Chesham and meet young people struggling to find their first job, I know that we are right to continue working with local businesses and to continue investing in driving up skills for our young people and supporting modern apprenticeships.

We are also bringing the crucial benefit of ultra-fast broadband, particularly to our villages and rural areas, with some areas going live from early 2014.

I am delighted that an economic upturn has started for many Bucks businesses during the last few months. But I am not complacent; some businesses have yet to see growth.

This means that for some people life still remains very difficult and I am determined that your County Council will be there to support those who most need help.

An issue that has increased during 2013 and which we have prioritised for 2014 is that of child sexual exploitation.

Across the country, cases have emerged of young people being ‘groomed’ by gangs of men and abused.

We are establishing a multi-agency safeguarding hub in Buckinghamshire, which will bring together professionals from all agencies that have contact with vulnerable people to help keep them safe from harm.

This will be one of a network of hubs which Thames Valley Police are working with councils across the Thames Valley to achieve. We will also continue to fund a significant number of Buckinghamshire’s Police and Community Support Officers.

You won’t be surprised to know that I remain determined to protect Buckinghamshire’s unique and beautiful environment. As the Government plans to push ahead with spending some £50 billion on its HS2 project, we will be working with local communities and town and parish councils to mitigate the very worst effects, should it ever go ahead.

We have already produced ‘The Bucks Blueprint’ for mitigation and will be actively engaged with MPs and the Hybrid Bill Committee to lobby for local changes to protect the environment.

Finally, I should comment on the many letters I have had on the subject of rationalising down to a single council for Buckinghamshire.

I have always been clear that I support a single combined council for the county, in partnership with a high degree of devolution to parish and town councils on local matters. I believe that this could save significant amounts of money.

I remain willing to examine all the options for reducing the costs of local government in our county; indeed the County Council is planning discussions with Wycombe District Council, and others if they will join us, to evaluate all options for unitary government in Buckinghamshire.

Whatever the form of future governance, though, I will fight to safeguard the integrity of the historic county.

Next year, so that I can meet more people who live and work in Buckinghamshire, I’m planning some public sessions around the county, to answer questions and listen to any concerns people might have about council services or what is happening locally.

I am really optimistic about Buckinghamshire in 2014. We should see our economy continue to turn the corner and I want the County Council, in partnership with our colleagues in other local councils and community organisations, to play its part in driving jobs and growth whilst still delivering vital services for all Buckinghamshire residents.

I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

Comments

 
 

Back to the top of the page