From the approval of a super council to a major consultation into scrapping rubbish tips – 2018 has been eventful year for Buckinghamshire politics.
During an interview this week, leader of Bucks County Council (BCC), Martin Tett, reflected on the highs and lows of the past year as Christmas approaches.
The bid for a unitary authority has taken up a large chunk of the leader’s year, after the government said it was “minded to approve” BCC’s business case in March, then officially gave it the green light in November.
By April 2020 the county and district councils in Bucks will all be abolished and replaced with one super council, with some services passed down to town and parish councils.
Cllr Tett said he is particularly proud of the council’s work towards catching people who illegally dump waste county, stating: “we are one of the most aggressive fly-tipping prosecutors in the country”.
After a difficult financial year due to funding cuts from central government, the council is expecting to deliver a balanced budget in March, despite children’s services facing a £10 million overspend earlier on the year.
Cllr Tett said: “We have delivered a balanced budget, or will do by the end of March.
“We were running at a £10 million deficit on children’s services and a £4 million deficit on adults.
“These were really massive financial pressures, but we have managed to cope with them because we really are, despite what people say, a very well-run financially prudent council.
“We do have the capability to manage these sorts of shocks, I am very confident we will run a balanced budget.”
Cllr Tett said plans to close rubbish tips are “disappointing”, however he said it is the only realistic option to save £1 million within the service.
He said he is concerned fly-tipping may increase if the tips are close down, but said he hopes “law abiding residents” will not find a new system “too much of an inconvenience”
Cllr Tett said: “The evidence I have been shown seems to indicate it is predominantly commercial fly-tipping, so it tends to be traders who fly-tip.
“I would rather not have any changes on the household waste sites, it’s just the reality of it.
“The financial pressures are such that we have to find over £1 million worth of extra funding and we have looked at all the options and looking at some sort of restructuring of the sites is the only option that will safe that amount of money.”
He added a fresh consultation into controversial cuts to children’s centres went “really well” as the council continues to push forward with plans.
The state of the county’s roads have been another hot-topic of discussion over the past year, as harsh winter weather destroyed the county’s roads.
Although he was “deluged” with complaints earlier on in the year, Cllr Tett said he was pleased to see a major improvement in the state of the roads after £25 million was invested in repairs.
However, he has made repeated warnings in recent weeks that residents should expect the state of the roads to deteriorate again this winter.
The leader also welcomed the news BCC will receive £150,000 from government as a reward for production an “excellent” culture strategy – which aims to create a more holistic approach to managing tourism in the area.