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New Bucks council system could 'save £57m over five years'

James Harrison

Plans to save more than £50m of council tax payers’ money by changing the county’s councils system will be presented to the government after being waved through by councillors.

The proposals, debated by Wycombe District Council (WDC) and South Bucks District Council (SBDC) on Monday, are set to see the current two-tier system in Buckinghamshire scrapped and replaced with a single layer of ‘unitary’ local government.

The scheme would see the creation of one council for the areas covered by WDC, SBDC and Chiltern District Council (SDS) and another to replace Aylesbury Vale District Council (AYDC).

Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) and the four district councils would be abolished and all their services and responsibilities taken over by the two new bodies. This would lead to savings of £57.4m over five years, according to a report on the planned reforms.

Speaking on Monday, Cllr Katrina Wood (Con, Tylers Green and Loudwater), leader of WDC, made much of the differences between north and south Bucks, saying: “Two new unitary authorities will allow each council to pursue its own economic goals.

“It will allow more local involvement in decision making and that decision making will be sensitive to the needs of local communities.”

This view was echoed by Cllr Ralph Bagge (Con, Stoke Poges), leader of SBDC.

However, the decision looks set to leave the four authorities on a collision course with Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC), which is pushing its own model.

While BCC is also in favour of moving to a unitary structure, its policy is for a single council for the whole of the county.

The district councils have conceded this would be the cheaper option, generating savings of £72.9m over five years – £15.5m more than the dual authority scheme.

However, it was argued that two distinct councils would provide ‘better value for money’ through ‘increased revenue from economic growth’.

Cllr Martin Tett, leader of BCC, said: “All parties accept that a single unitary council would save the most money, protecting frontline services at a time when Buckinghamshire’s councils are facing severe financial challenges and better representing our residents’ interests locally and nationally.”

Both proposals will now be referred to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for consideration.

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