UNITARY CAMPAIGN: MP Lidington: “Councils need to work together on unitary bid”

David Lidington MP
David Lidington MP

MP David Lidington has called for councils to work together on a unitary proposal – but admitted that it may be difficult for them all to see eye to eye.

Speaking this week, Mr Lidington expressed his support for the Bucks Herald Unitary Campaign, which is calling for all district councils and the county to explore joining forces to save taxpayers’ money.

He said: “If you are a member of the public you should be able to phone one phone number and go to one office, it should be a one stop shop. It should be one council that makes sure that the right council deals with the customer. If the county and district councils think about the customer, that is the way for them to get the right focus.”

And Mr Lidington outlined what he believes are the keys to unitary success.

He said: “There are two key issues, the first is that this needs to be done in a way that delivers good services at the lowest possible cost, and so far as is possible is future proof.

“We don’t want to find that we go for a unitary solution and then have to go through another upheaval in 10 years time because we haven’t fully thought it through.”

He added: “Secondly, if humanly possible the plan needs to have a ‘buy in’ from all the local authorities in Buckinghamshire.

“There is a very clear message from (local government minister) Greg Clark that all plans must be agreed on by the councils, and that the government is not interested in trying to arbitrate in a civil war between councils.”

And speaking about Aylesbury Vale District Council signalling it’s intention to look into providing services as a unitary authority, Mr Lidington said: “In Greater Manchester it took some very hard 
decisions and local council had to accept some things that they weren’t happy with because they thought that the end result was a prize worth having.

“We can’t simply say that we will have a unitary for Aylesbury Vale and forget what happens in the rest of the county.

“There are consequences and there will be a knock of effect, we have to have a reform that is coherent.”

And Mr Lidington said that personally, he would like to see some tradition retained in any shake-up.

He said: “My instincts as a Conservative with a small c would be to lean towards saying that it should be something based on the historic county, because that is something that people are familiar with. There is a value to having that common identity.”

He added: “But what I think the AVDC idea does have is that it identifies that things are changing and services 
can be effectively delivered online and we don’t need as many offices.”