Cut bureaucracy and save taxpayers millions, urges independent politician

Peter Cooper
Peter Cooper

A politician will tonight urge that district and county councils in Bucks are streamlined into one large authority, saving taxpayers millions of pounds.

Independent district councillor Peter Cooper wants Aylesbury Vale District Council to examine whether the two-tier council structure be scrapped and a unitary authority set up in the county.

Currently there are four district councils in Bucks alongside the county council, together with hundreds of parish and town councils.

There were moves back in 2006 to create a unitary authority in Bucks, but the plans – which were calculated to save county ratepayers at least £6.2 million a year – were scrapped because of infighting between councils.

But Mr Cooper said the issue should be urgently revisited given the huge cutbacks due to government austerity measures.

This evening he will address the district council’s finance and services scrutiny committee and urge AVDC to begin prepatory work on becoming unitary.

He will tell the committee: “In recent years our local councils, political parties and individuals have found themselves in a long running, sometimes acrimonious debate over the future of local government in Bucks.

“The time bomb of government austerity is charged, the clock is ticking and early intervention is required to prevent the otherwise inevitable bloody mess.

“The five Bucks authorities should now consider re-visiting the principles put forward by the 2006 exercise in order to prevent the impending crash of service delivery. The time for tinkering with old inefficient structures is gone and a radical restructure must be carefully planned and implemented.

“There remains a danger that, as in 2006, the exercise could be derailed by individuals being precious about their own positions or attempting to protect the status quo.

“The fact is that if we were designing the local government management structure from scratch, I doubt it would consist of the five separate councils we see today.”

Mr Cooper wants Aylesbury Vale District Council to start joint discussions with other Bucks authorities, produce a timeline for change, fully evaluate the impact of cuts up to 2020, update the predicted savings last calculated in 2006 and consult with the public on going unitary.

If unitary does happen, Mr Cooper wants a bigger role for parish councils.

He said: “Talking of unitary local government tends to ignore the role of town and parish councils.

“With county and districts being replaced by a single authority there is an opportunity to substantially strengthen the role of our town and parish councils. “Their single point of contact through a unitary councillor and their ability to be a local government centre in every community makes them a vital link between individuals and local government.

“The role of town and parish councils will need re-defining and there is a very good case for expanding their powers.”

Aylesbury Vale District Council leader Neil Blake is ‘sympathetic’ to the idea but believes now is not the time for the debate. County council boss Martin Tett is also known to be in favour.

However, when Mr Cooper approached Chiltern District Council he was told they didn’t have enough in common with Aylesbury Vale to join forces.