Former AVDC leader Neil Blake changes party over Unitary council discord

Neil Blake, the former Conservative and leader of Aylesbury Vale District Council has changed political party over "The lack of appetite to fight the undemocratic handling of the move to a new authority."
Former leader of AVDC, Neil Blake has changed political partiesFormer leader of AVDC, Neil Blake has changed political parties
Former leader of AVDC, Neil Blake has changed political parties

He is now listed on Aylesbury Vale District Council's website as 'Independent Conservative'.

And he’s not the only one who has joined the chorus of discontent on how things are shaping up.

Wycombe, Chiltern, South Bucks district councils have all launched legal proceedings against The Government for their handling of the transition period, which will see Buckinghamshire County Council Leader Martin Tett installed as the ‘interim leader’ of the new super council.

Neil says AVDC have abdicated responsibility by not joining the legal challenge.

Neil said: “Now that more details have emerged, it’s clear that control of the new authority will be with the county [council] who will have the majority of elected members on the ‘transitional board’ and be able to out-vote the districts at every step of the way.”

Neil fears that this will undo all the hard work of the district council - specifically relating to the area of digital transformation which he says ‘leads the way’.

Neil added: "My decision to leave the Conservative party is not sour grapes at losing the unitary argument with the Government, but the absence of any appetite to fight the undemocratic handling of the move to a new authority.”

A joint statement said the district councils were ‘very disappointed’ by the Secretary of State’s decision to create one unitary council which we be called ‘The Buckinghamshire Council’.

Concerns raised include the ‘lack of local consent’ and changes to the proposed democratic arrangements - with a shortage of reasons given for making those.

They say the proposed orders will result in a lack of ‘democratic oversight’. The three councils add they are ‘working with colleagues at the county council to take forward the decision’.

Buckinghamshire CC, together with Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Buckinghamshire and Wycombe DCs, are due to be merged into a new unitary in 2020.

However, the plan has been rejected by all four district councils, meaning housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire must legislate for the merger by the end of March.

A Statement from Aylesbury Vale District Council at the time read:

"The district councils in Buckinghamshire were very disappointed with the recent decision of the Secretary of State regarding the way in which the new unitary council will be set up.

"All four district councils decided at recent meetings of their Cabinet not to consent to the Regulations, which were laid before Parliament on 14 January.

"Chiltern District Council and Wycombe District Council have now taken their concerns further and written to the Secretary of State as a preliminary step to legal proceedings.

"At AVDC, we continue to hold the view that unitary local government would be the most efficient and cost-effective way to deliver high quality services to residents and stakeholders within Buckinghamshire.

"However, it was unanimously agreed by the Cabinets of all four district councils that this should not be at the cost of losing the traditional and properly-established processes of local democracy.

"In particular, we take issue with the makeup of the Shadow Executive, which will be empowered to create the new unitary council, and the imposition of the leader of Buckinghamshire County Council as its leader.

"Such arrangements would be totally contrary to the long-accepted principles of maintaining local sovereignty, democracy, transparency and accountability and are therefore completely unacceptable.

"Aylesbury Vale and South Bucks District Councils await the outcome of the action initiated by Chiltern and Wycombe District Councils with interest."