The four district councils in Buckinghamshire have said they will make the “strongest possible recommendations” in order to challenge the housing and communities secretary’s backing for a single unitary spanning the county.
Yesterday Sajid Javid said he is “minded to” approve the proposal from Buckinghamshire CC and said a two-unitary proposal submitted by Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Buckinghamshire and Wycombe DCs was “unlikely to improve local government”.
In a strongly worded joint statement in response to the announcement, the districts said: “While we are extremely disappointed, the ‘minded to’ decision is not set in stone and, as the process allows, we will be making the strongest possible representations to the secretary of state that this decision is not the right one.
“We don’t believe that this decision is in the best interest of our local residents, businesses, community groups, parish councils and various other stakeholders across the county and, based on our own engagement, we don’t believe it has strong local support.”
Mr Javid yesterday said “further steps are needed” to secure local consent for the single unitary proposal, adding he hopes the “minded to” decision would “facilitate the necessary discussions to deliver this local agreement”.
Buckinghamshire CC leader Martin Tett (Con) yesterday said there is “widespread support” for a single unitary and pledged to work closely with the district councils and other partners.
He added: “There is consensus amongst all our local councils about the need for change, and that our current two-tier system requires modernisation.
“Now is the time to work together and put any differences to one side to ensure that we can give our residents a far simpler system by offering better value and more joined-up services.”
District Councils’ Network chair John Fuller (Con) said Mr Javid’s decision “would appear inconsistent” with his recent approval of a plan to replace nine councils in Dorset with two unitary authorities.
He added there was “broad agreement and substantial consensus” for such a proposal and added: “It must be remembered that there were two different visions for the future of local government in Buckinghamshire and if the new proposals are to go ahead then full consensus must be reached during the consultation period.”
Mr Javid has set a deadline of 25 May for potential modifications to the proposal.