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Third council joins unitary legal action

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A third council has joined in a judicial review of the government’s plan for a Buckinghamshire unitary council.

South Buckinghamshire DC has added its weight to moves by neighbours Chiltern and Wycombe DCs to challenge ministerial decisions on how the unitary would work.

The county’s fourth district, Aylesbury Vale DC, has not yet joined the legal fight but all four have refused to consent to the regulations for the reorganisation.

This means communities secretary James Brokenshire must get the legislation through Parliament before the end of March, when a legal provision allowing reorganisation with the consent of only one affected council lapses. After that he would need unanimous agreement.

The main dispute concerns the government’s designation of Buckinghamshire CC leader Martin Tett (Con) as chair of the shadow executive, handing the county a majority on a body with eight of its members and eight from districts.

Districts want the chair elected by the 236-strong shadow authority, which comprises all current councillors.

There has also been a row over whether the new unitary should have 98 or 147 members.

Mr Brokenshire has agreed to the districts’ demand for 147 – making the new Buckinghamshire considerably larger than Birmingham City Council, which has only 101.

South Buckinghamshire leader Nick Naylor (Con) said: “Our aim is not to hinder the creation of the new council.

“The challenge is about getting the structure right for the future, doing what is right for Bucks, and not slavishly following other councils’ unitary models around the country which may not be appropriate or up to date for what we are currently working towards in Buckinghamshire.

Aylesbury Vale’s acting leader Steve Bowles (Con) said: “We continue to have meetings with [the Ministery of Housing, Communities & Local Government] to resolve the matters of disagreement and further meetings are planned to resolve these in the next week or so. Hence this is why we are not engaging in a judicial review at this time.”

 

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