Blake: A Vale unitary council will not destroy Buckinghamshire, Mr Tett
I refer to Cllr Martin Tett’s column in which he criticises the announcement by Aylesbury Vale District Council that it seeks permission to look into the possibility of becoming a Unitary authority.
I was born, and live, in Buckinghamshire and was elected to provide the best possible services, as economically as possible, to the residents of Aylesbury Vale. I strongly believe that, given the size of our District, a Unitary authority will be the most effective, and cost-efficient, vehicle to achieve that aim.
This proposal is not a whim, it’s a common sense approach intended to safeguard the services to which our residents are entitled.
Bucks CC’s idea of devolving services to towns and parishes will only be beneficial to residents if there is a reduction in council tax from the County equal to the cost of carrying out those services locally.
I reject the accusation that an AVDC Unitary will break up, and destroy Buckinghamshire.
It may have escaped Cllr Tett’s notice that up in the north-east of the County there is a Unitary authority called Milton Keynes.
Its formation didn’t destroy Bucks and the ceremonial jurisdiction of the Lord Lieutenant and High Sheriff have not been affected.
The “tried and tested” County is, presumably, the one that Cllr Tett has publicly described as being “broke”.
What better reason, then, to change the status quo so the efficiency savings that have been introduced by AVDC can be applied to the services currently provided by the County Council.
I agree with Cllr Tett’s view that the 40 year old model of local government in Bucks can’t survive for much longer.
However, the longer that model is allowed to run, the more in debt the County will become and that view is supported by the Ernst & Young report commissioned by Bucks Business First.
That’s why we have to do something now.
Local government is complex and we need to simplify service provision, make it more efficient and give our residents a single point of contact.
The savings figure of £20m, to which Cllr Tett referred, appeared in the report that also pointed out the County’s annual deficit in the next couple of years being in the region of £39m; there won’t be £20m to spend – that money will be absorbed by the deficit and there’ll still be the same amount to be found in order to balance the books.
Unfortunately, like several other Councillors, Cllr Tett is asking questions that will only be answered once permission has been granted to go to the next stage so it wouldn’t be prudent for me to speculate on what those answers might be.
We’ll be seeking independent advice during the preparation of business cases and the results will provide the answers.
Let me be absolutely clear, an AVDC Unitary is not a done deal.
If those business cases don’t stack up then we won’t go forward and that rationale will, of course, need to apply to any authority seeking to pursue a Unitary option.