Renewed calls to merge councils to save money

Councillor Steven Lambert
Councillor Steven Lambert
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A petition has been launched in a bid to adopt a unitary authority in Bucks which could save taxpayers £35 million a year.

Lib Dem councillors have set up the countywide petition and aim to get 2,000 signatures before it is debated at full council.

The petition calls for the principle of unitary structure to be agreed whether that be one, two or three councils serving Bucks, rather than the multiple district councils and county council which currently exist.

In 2010 county council said a unitary authority would save Bucks £35m a year through streamlining services and there have been frequent calls for it.

County and district councillor Steven Lambert said: “District council is responsible for rubbish collection but then it’s passed onto county council to dispose of.

“We’re asking why is there two councils which share services when they shouldn’t?

“It’s a huge saving, £35 million to the public purse every year. You could refurbish every community centre.

“We should be looking to do something different so they are more reactive and more reflective of customer needs.”

Mr Lambert said he would quite happily abolish one of his roles as a councillor if a unitary authority was adopted.

He added: “Bring on democracy. This is the first stage of it. It’s a joint effort across the whole group.”

The Lib Dem district leader said he was confident the petition would be well supported but that it will be difficult to pass with Conservative majorities in both authorities.

A motion to adopt a unitary authority by 2020 was brought to district council only to be defeated.

In that meeting Conservative councillor Pearl Lewis said secretary of state for communities Eric Pickles would like councils to take the lead on unitary authorities.

She said: “He thought districts were a big waste of money. He agreed the timing has to be right. Now is the worst time to do it but unitary is the right way forward, we shouldn’t write it off.”

Miss Lewis abstained from the vote on the motion along with fellow Tory councillor Alan Ward which drew applause from the opposition.

Mr Lambert said their abstentions proved there is a generational gap within the Conservative party.

He added: “The younger members have a different perspective, they can see there’s economic benefits to the public. For the others it’s about their career and not serving the public.”

District council leader John Cartwright told those supporting the unitary idea they would only waste time and money.