Business Eye: All for one and one for all...

Alex Pratt
Alex Pratt

A few weeks ago the Bucks Business Survey called for the creation of a single unitary authority for Bucks, which would mean the abolition of the five current councils in favour of the creation of a single new body.

Government is a bit like a huge holding company owned by you and me but with many local self-governing subsidiaries supplying services in particular areas.

Every business unit is run by its own independent board of elected directors with senior management teams, spending your money in the process.

Then there is the lower tier of micro, volunteer-packed parish enterprises.

Naturally most customers have no clue as to who provides which service.

Do you know who is responsible for the roads, the pavements or your street lights?

Times are hard and everyone agrees costs must be cut, so the national holding company encourages alliances and a few functions become shared in some places.

The directors of all the companies moan about how hard business now is and how tight money has become.

They pronounce on the austerity induced need to cut services and workforces, and a few make small reductions in the number of directors on their boards.

As the holding company’s cheques get ever smaller, some start to question the affordability and sense of so many separate companies when lots of services, facilities and staff are now shared.

Does the taxpayer really need all these boards, headquarters, logos and costs?

Would it not make sense to reduce the number of companies and bring all the services on offer together in one place with one dedicated elected board?

This all places the current directors in a quandary; to vote for Christmas or to argue that the costs of amalgamation would be high, the time is not quite right, or that local democracy would somehow be weakened by burning less of our money.

It’s therefore encouraging to hear that AVDC has shown the foresight and leadership to take a close look at the cost/benefit equation from a single Bucks Unitary Authority, just as Wycombe District Council is currently now also doing.

On the other hand, on something that surely involves all five of our councils, it doesn’t bode well that each one appears to be setting up its own separate team and cost structure to examine the same issue.

As Barack Obama suggests, we should be asking not whether we need big or small government, but how we can create smarter and better government.