A government move to increase the number of councillors planned for the new ‘super authority’ will see an extra £3 million of taxpayers’ cash go into politician’s pockets, according to a council chief.
Bucks County Council (BCC) initially proposed the unitary authority should be made up of 98 politicians, however secretary of state James Brokenshire has confirmed the number will increase to 147 following support from district leaders.
Leader of BCC, Martin Tett, has branded the decision “disappointing” as more of taxpayer’s cash will be used to fund member’s expenses, rather than frontline services.
Speaking during a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Cllr Tett said: “The government’s decision was to increase [councillor numbers] to 147.
“That’s three times the number we have on the current county council. That was not in the business case we put forward.
“It will make us without a doubt the very largest single county unitary in the country.
“In fact, it would make us substantially bigger than the unitary authority of Birmingham which has over 1 million people, and actually has 101 members, we would be 50 per cent bigger with half the population of Birmingham and that would make us very much an outlier nationally.
“I am very disappointed with that decision.”
The county and district councils met for extraordinary meetings this week to debate on giving official consent to the draft legislation needed to create a super council in Bucks.
BCC’s cabinet gave the green light to plans, with cabinet member for transport Mark Shaw saying county and district leaders “need to collectively agree to move forward”.
However, Wycombe, Chiltern and South Bucks all agreed not to give consent – but as long as one council does, the plans can move on.
Cllr Shaw said: “This has been a very long process. I think quite clearly it’s a process that we have seen our residents, business and stake holding partners want us to agree on, I think it’s a time now that we collectively agree to move forward.
“What disturbs me of course is there may be a slight delay in bringing our colleagues within the districts together, and I would urge us to reach out to our colleagues in the districts and say the work must start today.”
Cabinet member for children’s services, Warren Whyte, said the plans present a “real opportunity to create a new, exciting, innovative, efficient council”, as the “best bits” of the five councils come together.
Cabinet member for health and wellbeing, Lin Hazell, added: “The one thing I am really quite relieved about is the attitude we are taking towards our residents.
“With all the discussion that has been going on in the last year 18 months very little has the residents’ situation come to the foreground.
“It has always been about what government would do and we need to take on board what is best for them.”
During the meetings this week cabinet chiefs raised concerns over the new temporary ‘shadow authority’ which will set the 2020/21 council tax and budget – and will be provided by a 17-seat shadow executive, with Cllr Tett as chairman.
Councillors were furious at the decision to appoint Cllr Tett as leader, saying the new council was supposed to be a “fresh start” – but claimed it was instead becoming a “county council takeover”.
The new council’s name: The Buckinghamshire Council
Number of councillors on The Buckinghamshire Council: Three per ward – 147 in total
Next elections: 2020, 2025, 2029
How many members on the ‘shadow’ authority: All existing councillors – 202
How many members of the shadow executive: 17 members – eight from the districts, eight from the county plus the leader