History in the making for Buckinghamshire

Today sees the start of a new future for Buckinghamshire councils as the final piece of legislation that seals the deal for a new unitary authority is passed by government.

For the people and businesses of Buckinghamshire, this will mean one, brand new council from April 2020, delivering all local government services. The new council will replace the current five councils – Aylesbury Vale District Council, Buckinghamshire County Council, Chiltern District Council, South Bucks District Council and Wycombe District Council – which will cease to exist on 31 March 2020.

The legislation from government, known as the Buckinghamshire Structural Changes Order, sets out the details of the new council and how the current five councils will come together to create it over the next year. In summary:

• The new council will be known as Buckinghamshire Council
• It will have 147 elected members; elections to the new council will take place in May 2020
• A temporary Shadow Authority will be formed, with all current county and district councillors having a seat on this body
• Leadership will be provided by a 17 seat Shadow Executive of county and district members
• An implementation team, led by the County Council Chief Executive and with a district Chief Executive as deputy, will be established to manage the smooth transfer of services and staff to the new council

Now the Order has been approved, all county and district councillors from the five councils will come together to create a Shadow Authority that will oversee the move to the new council. The Shadow Authority comprises 236 seats, filled by 202 individuals taking into account those councillors who are both a county and district councillor. The date of the first meeting of the Shadow Authority will be confirmed tomorrow.

At its first meeting, the Shadow Authority is consulted on the appointment of the statutory officers on an interim basis; the head of paid service, monitoring officer and chief finance officer. They will also appoint members to relevant committees and confirm the nominated county and district members to the Shadow Executive.

The Shadow Executive will oversee the implementation plan for the new council, and will consist of 17 county and district councillors; eight from the county council, eight from the four district councils, and the Leader of the County Council as the Leader of this group, supported by a district councillor as the Deputy Leader.

The Shadow Authority will also be responsible for setting the 2020/21 council tax and first budget of the new unitary council which will take place in the new year.

The Shadow Authority will run alongside the current five councils until April 2020, and it is the responsibility of the current councils to continue to deliver services as usual until they transfer to the new council on 1 April 2020.

The five Buckinghamshire council leaders, Cllr Angela Macpherson – Leader of Aylesbury Vale District Council, Cllr Martin Tett – Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, Cllr Isobel Darby – Leader of Chiltern District Council, Cllr John Read – Deputy Leader of South Bucks District Council and Cllr Katrina Wood – Leader of Wycombe District Council said:

“There’s no doubt that this is the biggest change in the county’s local government history, and our goal now is to use this once in a lifetime opportunity to bring the best of the current five councils together to create an even better new council for the people of Buckinghamshire.

“We’re committed to working together to deliver a brand new council that will be simpler, focused on improving and supporting our communities and champion issues close to the heart of our people.

“One council will reduce duplication and running costs of five councils so we will be better able to protect local services for the future and focus on spending council tax payers’ money on services we know are important to our communities such as road repairs, adults and children’s services, housing, recycling and waste.

“Also, as the second largest non-metropolitan unitary council in the country*, we will have a stronger voice to speak up on behalf of the county at a national level with government, on issues that we know are important to our residents and businesses, as well as bidding for investment and funding to improve the county.”