What the new Unitary Council means for you

The new Unitary Buckinghamshire Council is all coming together after the new council draft budget

By Thomas Bamford
Friday, 21st February 2020, 10:06 am
Updated Friday, 21st February 2020, 2:56 pm
Council leader Martin Tett
Council leader Martin Tett

There have been years of wrangles between the district councils and Bucks County Council, whose views drastically differed on how the new authority should look.

Aylesbury Vale District Council, together with other districts commissioned Deloite to examine the best options, and were in favour of retaining services for some districts.

But following a similar in-house study by Bucks County Council, a single unitary authority which meant that the district councils would be abolished was their preferred option.

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In November 2018 the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government sided with Bucks County Council, and announced that one single council was to replace five councils across Buckinghamshire.

And the date set for the merger is April 1 2020.

Aylesbury Vale District Council, Buckinghamshire County Council, Chiltern District Council, South Bucks District Council and Wycombe District Council will cease to exist, creating a one stop shop for all your council needs - the Buckinghamshire Council.

The new Buckinghamshire Council Leader Martin Tett says this will create simplicity, better value and will also be 'more local'.

The council have also said residents should not worry, as day to day services will continue as normal - such bin collections and parking, with the only changes being the new name and logo.

Buckinghamshire Council’s first ever budget received a green light from the Shadow Executive at its meeting on Tuesday February 18.

The final budget announcement will be made on February 27.

A total of 202 members have made up the shadow authority, the councillors voting on decisions the new council will implement.

There are some big changes promised by the new Council - here are some of the headlines

-More than one billion pounds will be spent on services and schools each year

-More cash for key areas like maintaining roads and pavements

-A £5m allocation for the council’s priority to tackle climate change

-A Cash injection into the failing Buckinghamshire County Council Children services

-Capital investment of over £500m is also included to improve Aylesbury and High Wycombe town centres, resurface more roads, clear blocked drains, provide extra school places and deliver more affordable housing

However, as always these changes need funding - and it will be the taxpayer footing the bill.

The plans include a 'cost of living' council tax rise of 1.99% - and also additional 2% increase to fund 'social care'.

The council say this will be used exclusively to cover the growing demand for adult social care and looking after the elderly.

Writing on shadow.buckinghamshire.gov.uk, Council leader Martin Tett said 'it's a start of a brand new era'.

“We’ve been working together across all five councils, as one team, to create a new council that brings together the very best from the past, but which is also strongly focused on the future. This will serve residents better and provide stronger representation for Buckinghamshire nationally.

“Of course, these remain extremely difficult times for local councils and tough decisions still lie ahead, but I believe these plans provide us with the best possible start. Extensive public consultation and rigorous scrutiny have also really helped to make sure every single pound is spent where it’s needed most.

“Inflation and rapidly rising demand for services, particularly looking after the elderly and protecting children from exploitation, have meant a rise in council tax. Increasing council tax is never something we take lightly, but it is morally right to look after our most vulnerable and I hope people will understand what a crucial difference this will make to them.

“This budget also looks to the longer term, particularly in areas like roads and pavements, which have taken another battering from the rain and recent heavy storms. My aim is to invest over £100m over the next five years on restoring these and this budget gives us a flying start.”

Martin added, “We’ll continue to look for additional funding sources. For example, the Council still awaits the outcome of a £180m bid to the Government’s ‘Housing Infrastructure Fund’ for investment in the Aylesbury Garden Town project to improve roads, local green spaces and walking and cycling routes.

“Lastly, one of my personal passions is that the new council must work better for people locally. Therefore, we are introducing 17 new Council Access Points where residents can obtain information on services; five Local Planning Committees to make decisions more locally and 16 new Community Boards bringing people together to tackle local issues with a combined investment of over £5m.