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Martin Tett: Single Bucks unitary would work better with regional and national players

Martin Tett
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Buckinghamshire has a thriving economy powered by a strong entrepreneurial spirit, low unemployment, outstanding schools and the stunning Chilterns countryside on its doorstep.

But despite our strengths, we can’t achieve all the outcomes our residents and businesses need in isolation.

Cooperation with our partners within the wider region is key to ensuring a joined-up approach to infrastructure and maximising our ability to secure funding from central government.

That’s why I’m proud to be chairman of England’s Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance.

It brings together nine county and unitary councils and three local enterprise partnerships, covering a population of 3.5 million people and 175,000 businesses that provide 1.6 million jobs. The rationale behind the alliance is simple: we have a shared ambition to improve the connectivity between the towns and cities across the Heartland area, which are among the fastest growing in the UK. The alliance provides the strategic leadership to get things done and it is of the right scale in terms of size and influence.

We are making the strongest possible case to the government for key infrastructure such as east-west rail from Oxford to Cambridge and an east-west expressway standard road: real business boosters ensuring the region’s economy grows. The National Infrastructure Commission’s advice to the government was that the Heartland area could be Britain’s answer to Silicon Valley and that there was a “once in a generation opportunity” to invest to deliver substantial national benefits.

It is important for Buckinghamshire to build on the work of the alliance and continue to be a main player at the regional and national table. That’s why I hope our case to replace the county council and Buckinghamshire’s four district councils with a single unitary will be approved.

One council would give Buckinghamshire a single, strategic voice, making it a powerful advocate for ensuring our opportunities and needs shape the emerging sub-national agenda and the commitment to address barriers to growth. Aligned to this would be a single vision for Bucks, supported by investment plans for transport infrastructure, regeneration and housing delivery, skills and jobs.

A unitary would provide the scale and governance for a future that will be connected to growth in the region and the UK as a whole, with the potential for developing strong integrated services across the public sector. With key partnerships such as the Buckinghamshire Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership and the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group Federation, it would have the strategic capability to reform services and make them fit for the 21st century. For those partners in the county such as police, health and voluntary organisations, it would be so much simpler to work with a single council.

With a single council, joined up planning and one, strong voice, the county can play an even greater role in ensuring future prosperity for Buckinghamshire and beyond.

Martin Tett (Con), leader, Buckinghamshire CC

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