Featured letter: Councillor John Chilver responds to Howard Mordue's comments on unitary

John Chilver responds to Howard Mordue's letter
John Chilver responds to Howard Mordue's letter

Cllr John Chilver responds to our featured letter from Howard Mordue last week on the pros and cons of a single Unitary.

In last week’s letters page, Cllr Howard Mordue attempted to explain how splitting Buckinghamshire into north and south councils would be in the best interests of residents.

Cllr Mordue said that ‘for him, it’s all about the local community’. Yet he then dismisses the localism proposals for one new council for Buckinghamshire. These plans would see physical places where people can access services in around 19 towns and villages across the county, alongside local decision-making boards armed with a six-figure budget which would be able to address priorities for their areas. The Buckingham area would also get its own planning committee – currently decisions about it are made in Aylesbury.

In contrast, proponents for two councils think that if they say enough times they’d be more local, that will make it so. It won’t. Aylesbury is nearer to Wycombe than Buckingham. Having an Aylesbury-centric northern unitary won’t do anything for communities in north Bucks, like Buckingham and Winslow.

Another leap of faith is that splitting county-wide services such as social care and transport in half (and thereby creating additional layers of expensive management) would make them better. I have to tell Cllr Mordue that these are extremely complex services often dealing with our most vulnerable people. They’re a lot more complex than anything Aylesbury Vale District Council currently runs.

Cllr Mordue is however correct when he says we need change. Everyone agrees we can’t go on with the complicated and bureaucratic system of district and county councils. Yet proponents of two councils are remarkably silent about what the Government said about their plans – that they are unlikely to work, make enough savings or be sustainable. On April 26, the Government re-iterated that new unitary councils need to have a population 'as a minimum substantially in excess of 300,000'. Even with planned housing growth, an Aylesbury Vale council would fall below that figure.

Two councils are not a credible alternative. The reality is, we can either have one new county-wide council which has real plans to make things local, or the status quo of this out-dated, confusing system. Please let the Secretary of State know your views by May 25, by emailing james.brokenshire@communities.gsi.gov.uk