The new council will ‘unlock local democracy’ for Buckinghamshire says County Council leader
Last week, Buckinghamshire County Council met with town and parish councils to talk about how a single unitary council will improve local democracy and give town and parish councils a real opportunity to shape a more local council for the future.
Members of the Buckinghamshire Milton Keynes Association of Local Councils met with members and seniors officers on Wednesday 28 November during which a key part of the discussion focused on the proposals in the County Council’s business case for a more local single unitary council.
The council’s business case commits that the new council would provide services at a very local level for residents, through improving local access to services via a network of community hubs in locations across the county. It also aims to put real decision making power in the hands of local councillors, empowering them to meet the differing needs of local communities, and increase opportunities for devolution of services to town and parish councils who want it. Therefore the development of a strong locality offer must be be an integral part of the new council, complementing the strategic role the new authority will have as it replaces the five existing councils.
Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, Martin Tett, who updated attendees at the meeting and outlined the key elements of the business case for a more local council, said:
“This is an exciting time of change for Buckinghamshire. Unitary cannot be about creating a remote, centralised new council. We have a once in a lifetime chance to unlock local democracy, giving more power and decision making to ambitious town and parish councils who want it. It’s important to me that, alongside a seamless transition and continuity of services for residents, we deliver on the commitments we made in our business case which the minister has now approved. This includes increasing real decision making at a local level, and improving opportunities for those town and parish councils who want to deliver enhanced local services.
This is not a one size fits all approach and involving town and parish councils is essential to the future success of a more local council; the importance of which is echoed by the Secretary of State himself in his ministerial statement.
I fundamentally believe that developing a strong locality offer sits right alongside the strategic development of the new council for the benefit of our local communities.”
Carole Burslem, county officer of Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Association of Local Councils said:
“We welcome the opportunity to work closely with the new single unitary council to ensure the voices and views of our parish and town councils are heard and taken into account in shaping the future of the new council.”
The council’s business case for a single unitary council for Buckinghamshire included the following highlights for developing a more local council:
The new Buckinghamshire Council would bring access to local services, accountability and decision-making direct to people’s doorsteps.
The business case includes plans for:
- Community Boards
Up to nineteen Community Boards would serve Buckinghamshire’s towns and villages, enabling local councillors to take decisions on issues such as funding for community groups and local roads maintenance. They would meet regularly in each area and the public would be encouraged to attend alongside town and parish councils, police, fire, and health organisations.
- Community Hubs
Community Hubs in up to 19 Community Board areas would provide a base for a number of public services, including the new Buckinghamshire Council. It means residents, particularly vulnerable people who might be unable to travel very far, would be able to access a wide range of services from a place that is local to them – all under one roof. There would be opportunities for co -location of town and parish councils and other public sector services.
- Parish/ Town Delivery Partnership
Parish and Town Councils would have the opportunity to take on more services and community assets if they choose to, from public toilets and parks to support for the isolated and footpath repairs.
More details on the county council's proposals for a single unitary council can be found here www.futurebucks.co.uk