Neil Blake: "Two new unitaries would allow each area to pursue their own goals to the benefit of their residents and businesses."

District Council Leaders
District Council Leaders
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The district council leader Neil Blake has penned an open letter on the upcoming unitary decision

Following an unfortunate error in last week’s Bucks Herald which referenced a ‘two-tier bid’, I’d like to offer some clarity on the unitary situation.

On Thursday last week I met with Secretary of State Sajid Javid, alongside my fellow Bucks district council leaders, to discuss our bid to replace the current system with two new unitary councils to run all services; one in Aylesbury Vale and another in the south of the county.

These will run alongside the current Bucks unitary of Milton Keynes. At AVDC we’ve long advocated change to how councils operate and this submission means we can now move our ideas forward.

Mr Javid has two proposals to consider, one from the district councils and one from the county council. Both agree that doing nothing is not an option and that the current two-tier system is out of date and is letting people down. We need a fresh start to look at services, transforming them to be more efficient and commercial, just as we’re successfully doing at AVDC.

The north and south of Bucks are very different geographical and economic areas, naturally divided by the Chilterns. National projects such as the expansion of Heathrow in the south, and the planned Oxford/Cambridge rail and road links which will run through Aylesbury Vale, will only intensify this difference.

Our proposal shows how two new unitaries would allow each area to pursue their own goals to the benefit of their residents and businesses.

The county council favours one unitary for all Bucks which in my view is too big, too unwieldy and lacks local representation.

Big is only better if it works, and you need only look at our roads to see county-wide services are not fit for purpose.

Over the last two decades economic growth in Bucks has lagged behind the national average and for a county with such economic promise something is clearly not right. We need innovation and a system which works with our county’s diversity, not fights against it.

We await the Secretary of State’s decision but it’s unlikely any new model could be in place until 2019 at the earliest. This is an uncertain but exciting time for local government as there’s the opportunity for real, substantial change to enhance services for our residents.

You can read our proposal at www.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/mlg