Buckinghamshire’s districts have all rejected the government order that would pave the way for a county unitary council.
The county council and Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Buckinghamshire and Wycombe DCs are due to be merged into a new unitary in 2020.
The districts’ opposition mean communities secretary James Brokenshire will have to legislate for the new council before the end of March unless he can win them round.
An Aylesbury Vale report explained that Mr Brokenshire can create the new unitary either under part of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016 that permits this if all councils agree, or by a different clause that requires the consent of only one council. The latter provision is though due to expire at the end of March.
Cabinet meetings at each district last week decided the changes as they stood were contrary to residents’ interests and that they would take legal advice.
One key dispute is over the number of councillors, with the county council pressing for 98 and the districts for 147 – three rather than two for each new ward.
The county council, which first made the unitary proposal, was alone in supporting the proposed order.
Leader Martin Tett (Con) said: “Timing to get the new council up and running is tight, so I’m asking the district councils to work with us on this for our residents and our staff to deliver the brand new council that Buckinghamshire deserves and make the most of the opportunities for all from this historic change.”