Unitary proposal agreed by council leaders

The district council’s cabinet has voted to explore whether the Vale should break away from Bucks County Council and carry out all services on its own.
AVDC headquartersAVDC headquarters
AVDC headquarters

It is now up to councillors to decide whether to give the go-ahead for a business model to be developed when full council meets on February 25.

The council has set aside £80,000 for this process.

Aylesbury Vale District Council’s cabinet believes it is ‘in the public interest to explore the opportunities of unitary local government’, which would mean merging district and county council services within a single authority.

It says a unitary authority, based around the current district boundary, would ‘make decision-making more local and, therefore, would have greater potential to meet customer and business needs’, while also reducing costs at a time of major cuts to their budgets.

According to AVDC’s leadership, other potential benefits include:

• Services currently provided by the different councils but which are related such as planning for major development and transport could be better coordinated

• Resources currently split between two councils would instead be combined to get the best deal for the district

• The duplication which exists in the current two-tier system, for example managerial positions, would be reduced

Councillor Neil Blake, leader of the council, said: “We have a significant role to play in delivering essential local services for the people of Aylesbury Vale and should do so in the most effective and efficient way.

“The intention is to develop a detailed business case for unitary status which will have at its core the interests of our residents and the long term viability of local government in Aylesbury Vale.

“Local government has significant savings to make and we expect that the public sector will be the subject of further austerity measures until 2020 at least. I therefore believe that unitary local government merits further exploration in the interests of Aylesbury Vale residents.”

Buckinghamshire is currently a two-tier local authority area. This means that some services are delivered by Buckinghamshire County Council, such as social care, highways and education, and others are delivered by the district councils, such as recycling and waste collections, food safety inspections and licensing alcohol or entertainment premises.

This, say those backing unitary, can cause confusion for the public in who is accountable and responsible for which service.

Aylesbury Vale is the second largest district in the country with a population of almost 182,000. There are already over 20 existing unitary councils with smaller populations including Reading and Bracknell Forest.