Letters: Former county council boss Chris Williams welcomes unitary debate - and why Bedgrove councillor Mark Winn is backing Brexit
In this week's round-up of the Herald letters page, former Bucks County Council chief executive Chris Williams has welcomed a study into going unitary.
It is long overdue
I was pleased that Bucks County Council has finally decided to commission a business case for a single authority for the whole of Buckinghamshire.
Whilst your report suggests that this proposal would effectively scrap all District Councils it should be recognised that it would also scrap the County Council in favour of creating a wholly new council for the whole of Bucks.
This would provide an opportunity to take the best features of both the existing District and County Councils and create the cabinet of “the talents” with District and County Members working together for the benefit of residents whilst saving huge sums of money.
This is something that is long overdue.
I also find it ironic that the leaders of Chiltern and South Bucks are reported as now favouring a combined authority as an alternative to a single unitary council.
Last September I put forward proposals for a combined authority for Bucks, inviting close cooperation between not only the County and District Councils but also the Police, Fire and Rescue and all of the health bodies, as part of a package of wider public service reform.
However this was effectively vetoed by the two Leaders of the southern Bucks District Councils.
The time is now right to modernise our system of local government to provide a better service for residents; to reduce costs caused by unnecessary duplication and bickering and create a system that is fit for the future.
Chris Williams, former chief executive to Bucks County Council
Listen to the public
It is very interesting to note in today’s (11th May) edition of the Herald that AVDC have welcomed the County Councils decision to evaluate how a single unitary council for Bucks might work.
Some may argue that much work on this has already been done, if not in 2007 then by the work of the Bucks Business group.
Of course if this extra effort results in an agreed proposal for action then that is all to the good but history does not give rise to much confidence that this is a likely outcome.
The front page article by the previous Chief Executive of BCC described why the attempt in 2007 failed but so far your readers would be hard put to see how thinking has moved on in those 9 years.
It should also be remembered that the 2007 proposal was a recommendation that would have only triggered a full consultation with the people of Bucks NOT the creation of a Unitary Council.
Additionally an analysis of national policy would be hard put to identify any clear thinking about the future role of local government.
If anything, current initiatives such as the proposed compulsory creation of academies suggest that Conservative party policy is at best muddled if not altogether confused.
If rumours are to be believed the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whilst not opposed to the creation of Unitary Councils is not doing anything to oppose them as long as there is a viable business case.
It seems to me therefore that at the very least there is something of a vacuum into which any joint initiative has to work.
Yet if Government are taking a laissez faire approach there is a golden opportunity for Local Government to take a lead and help define its own future as long as it is soundly based on a sound understanding of what will best serve the interests of local people.
So far we have only heard a lot about what will best serve the political interests local authorities.
In Bucks there are already 248 elected members in all five authorities yet I have not heard any discussion about how many are actually needed to run and be accountable for the services the public actually need.
AVDC have a view that a two unitary option is best. Neat it may be, but I question its validity if value for money and operational efficiency are taken as key drivers.
Lets hope that the decision by BCC Cabinet will encourage all councils to join in this debate.
Any joint work should avoid a leap to structural options and be based on a set of mutually agreed criteria which will help identify the best option(s) and how it/they might be delivered.
I happen to think that a single Unitary Council for Buckinghamshire is likely to be not only the most economic but also the most effective choice given the back drop of diminishing resources in the face of increased demand.
However this option needs to be tested primarily with the public so that electors can contribute to the debate which after all is being conducted in their name.
We need to get out
This week I learned that due to the national rules on purdah, as a councillor if I nailed my name to the mast over which side I stand on the EU referendum that I would not see my name mentioned in any publicity issued by the council to which I have been elected until after the referendum.
No criticism for AVDC, but it seems strange that these national rules are in place when we consider that Cabinet ministers whatever side of the argument, in or out of the EU, are not subject to the same rules, but mere local councillors, are.
Despite this restriction on my democratic right to speak I will nail my name to the mast, as I think for residents of Bedgrove, the ward I represent, and for the residents of Aylesbury Vale, the EU really does affect their daily lives and I would urge them to vote that the UK should leave the EU.
Just last year the Prime Minister David Cameron said “our population is set to reach over 70 million in the next decades and we are forecast to become the most populous country in the EU by 2050.
At the same time, our net migration is running at over 300,000 a year.
That is not sustainable. We need to be able to exert greater control on arrivals from inside the EU too”.
I agreed with the PM then, and he personally deserves a lot of credit now, for giving us all the chance to have our say in an historic EU referendum.
In fact, one of the things of which I am proudest of in my country is how accommodating we are to people of all races, creeds and cultures, and of how it provides sanctuary for those being oppressed in their own countries, and long may that continue.
But there are limits on numbers, and I feel they have been breached.
This week we read that the net immigration figures based not on surveys conducted at arrival points, but based on new National Insurance numbers issued over the last five years, were not 900,000, but 2.4 million.
About half of these numbers were issued for people from the EU and are still active a year later.
Therefore, the volume of immigration is even greater by 1 and a half times the already large official figures.
This is important as these official figures are used for planning the demand for services we all use, such as the NHS, housing, transport infrastructure, school places etc etc.
In Aylesbury Vale over the next 20 years we are going to have to build at least 31,000 houses to meet demand.
It is impossible, and downright dishonest to detach immigration as a major reason for housing demand, especially to those seeing house prices become ever more unaffordable, and rents rise, at a time when the population of London is expending to its greatest ever size in history.
The issue of immigration and the fact that we cannot do a thing about EU migration after the failed negotiations conducted by the Prime Minister is a major problem that we, and all our children will face now and in the future.
Other issues about the EU that are damaging to Britain are the constant meddling into each and every facet of our lives.
For example, this week we learned that after the referendum items such as the kettle and toaster would be subject to regulatory action, in other words the EU aims to attack the great British breakfast.
The failed negotiations that David Cameron conducted on the EU finally convinced me that it was unchangeable and I like others should campaign to leave the EU.
Otherwise whether we liked it or not we will find more and more of the decisions about the things in our everyday life decided by unelected officials in Brussels.
Following these failed negotiations, the remain camp it seems have been left with few options but to just concentrate on fear, such as that the economy would go through the floor if we left the EU.
These arguments are based on predictions and opinions, not facts.
Europe wouldn’t want to trade with us they say, despite the fact that the trade gap between what EU countries export to the UK and what we export to the EU is vast and growing.
Could you seriously imagine Angela Merkel wanting to damage the German economy by making BMW, Mercedes Benz Volkswagen cars more expensive to import to the UK?
The remain camp think you should, and many of them predicted the same economic armageddon if we didn’t join the Euro, and look at what happened to that project.
This is a prediction from the very same people who failed to predict the last economic recession.
Look how the young especially in countries such as Spain with 45 to 50% youth unemployment have been damaged by listening to these establishment figures on the Euro.
In a farcical intervention this week we were even warned that leaving the EU would lead to war, seriously insulting to history and NATO that have largely kept the peace, and continue to keep the peace, despite sabre rattling from President Putin.
The most insulting claim that the remain campaign make is that it is that we should fear the unknown, this is galling because it is not the unknown, it’s our country, Great Britain.
It’s a country that stood alone against tyranny in Europe, it’s the fifth largest world economy, equipped to expand into emerging markets such as China, India South America, and to continue to trade with Europe.
We consistently punch above our weight militarily and rightly have a permanent place on the UN Security Council.
We can and should exist without the EU straight jacket.
So whether you have been convinced to vote leave or not on June 23rd you have a historic chance to mold this country’s future on a decision that affects us all, so however you wish to vote, leave or remain, please do vote.
If you do wish to get involved in the leave campaign call 01296 615 499 or send a message via the facebook page-Aylesbury Vote leave EU Campaigners.
Conservative district councillor for Bedgrove
I wonder if you could publish this letter in your correspondence section.
I am involved in arranging a school reunion for ex pupils of Wellesbourne Secondary School, High Wycombe, which, unfortunately, no longer exists.
This summer it will be 50 years since our year left the school and as we are all around 66 years old, a few of us thought it would be a good idea to meet up again.
So, I am looking for anyone who was at the school between 1961 and 1966 and who was born between 1st September 1949 and 31st August 1950.
If any of your readers know of anyone who meets the above criteria would you get them to either email me at [email protected] or write to me at Crow Trees, Setch Road, Blackborough End, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, PE32 1S, or phone me on 01553 849881
The reunion is being held at a pub near to the Wellesbourne site on 15th July 2016.
Lynne Rackstraw (nee Jarvis)
Rich list link?
Further to the recent correspondence in respect of the shop units on the ground floor of Brooke House, Aylesbury.
Michael Robbins (Letters, 6th April) gave an interesting account of the history of some of these units, including mention of Mr & Mrs Leslau and their son setting up one of them as a jewellers shop for a time.
Nobody seems to know what became of the Leslaus and their business, but I was intrigued to discover that a certain Nick Leslau, a 56-year-old property magnate, appears on the recently published Sunday Times Rich List.
Leslau is an unusual name so I wonder if this gentleman might be connected to the erstwhile Leslau jewellery business in Aylesbury all those years ago?
Photo of Mr Selfe
My great great grandfather was Alfred Selfe.
From 1839 to 1876, he was the Manager of the London and County bank in Market Square Aylesbury.
In your newspaper archives there are countless references to him, Education Board, etc.
In 1859 he enrolled in the 4th Bucks Rifle Volunteers, eventually becoming their Captain.His last house was Ardenham House.
I have no photos of him. Would there be a chance of asking your readers if anyone has any 4th Bucks Rifle Volunteer photos , 1859 to 1877 period that might show him.
Make tax fairer
I believe in a progressive tax system that is fit for purpose in the 21st Century and the country needs a system that exempts the first £26,500 of earnings from income tax because the economy will not expand unless the Family has disposable income to spend.
In 2013/2014 the median earnings for a Scottish Family were £26,500 according to official Scottish Government statistics and this is the threshold I have decided to incorporate into the English Income Tax Rate.
Why Should the Bottom 50% of the population pay more in taxation than the rich 50%. In implementing the English Income Tax there would be a combination of personal tax allowance increases these would increase by £2,500 per year. In addition to this the basic rate of tax would be reduced from 20% to 10%. These would be funded by Aviation Fuel Tax £7bn extra year on year in revenue.
I have identified the savings that would be made to finance these common sense tax reductions:
Foreign Aid £11.5bn
EU membership fees
Aviation Fuel Tax
Whitehall Civil Service Reductions
If Tax Cuts are not saved by the individual and by the Family they are most often spent and that means that the money will boomerang back in the form of higher VAT income for the state the actual cost of these tax cuts is minimal.