Bucks County Council leader urges districts to work with him on launch of unitary

Martin Tett
Martin Tett

The leader of Bucks County Council has urged district chiefs to work with him on the launch of the contentious ‘super authority’.

Martin Tett, said he wrote to the leaders of Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe district councils immediately after the government gave the green light to plans to create a unitary authority in the county, requesting an urgent meeting over the issue.

However almost two weeks following the groundbreaking announcement, the district and county leaders have failed to agree a date to meet and discuss the plans.

On November 12, cabinet met for the first time since the government approved plans at the start of the month which will see the districts scrapped and replaced with one main council.

District leaders have long-opposed the county’s plans – and formulated their own proposals for two unitary councils in the county, one for the north and one for the south.

Cabinet member for community engagement and public health Noel Brown asked what action the county council has taken to join together with the districts and discuss the next steps towards implementing the new council.

He said: “Obviously there is a great need for us to join with our district colleagues to work out a way forward that covers all the different areas.

“We know about some, they know about others, and it has all got to go out as one unit.

“How do you think we are getting on with that?”

Cllr Tett said it is important the councils draw on each other’s expertise and work together during the transitional period – with the new council set to launch in April 2020, adding he wrote to the leaders requesting to “put the past behind us”.

He said: “I have written now on a number of occasions.

“I wrote on the evening of the announcement to all the district leaders asking them now to put the past behind us, because obviously it has been contentious, to work together in a new spirit to implement the government’s decision on a new council for the geography of Bucks.

“There has been a series of exchanges with one leader who is acting I think on behalf of them all, and I haven’t as of yet managed to agree a date with them when they can meet with us.

“I would urge them to get around the table with us quickly.

“We need to work together in the interests of our residents.”

The leader added the next step is to decide whether or not to postpone next year’s district elections as well as the town and parishes’ – which usually fall at the same time.

He also plans to work with parish and town councils to discuss passing on the delivery of some services saying: “There is a lot to discuss with town and parish councils and another reason why we need to get around the table quickly and get this moving.”

Cabinet member for transport Mark Shaw, recognised “this is an unsettling time for council staff”, asking if action had been taken to work with the districts on sending joint communications to workers.

However Cllr Tett said when the county council previously approached the districts to work together on communications they felt “it was not appropriate” – however he added meetings have been held with staff across both the district and county councils.

Cllr Tett said: “From our point of view we met about six months ago with district leaders and did offer when the announcement was made, whichever way it went, that we do joint communications.

“I offered to go and stand alongside district leaders whatever the decision.

“At the time district leaders did not feel that was appropriate and therefore at the moment communications have been done separately.”

Following the government’s announcement the district leaders issued a statement saying they are considering their options, and more information will be provided in due course.