1. Overview

On 1 April 2020, a new Buckinghamshire Council replaced the existing county and district councils serving Buckinghamshire.

The needs of our local community are at the heart of what we do. We want to make it easy for everyone in Buckinghamshire to participate and engage in their community and influence decisions that will affect their lives and local communities.

As a result we are making a large commitment to building strong links with residents and key partners such as town and parish councils, voluntary and community groups, police, housing associations and health professionals. We want to create channels for real dialogue so that we can listen to, and respond to, the different needs of our communities.

There are a number of initiatives we have taken to help us develop and strengthen these local links, including:

  • 16 community boards with devolved local spending budgets
  • devolution offer - inviting town and parish councils to take control of local services or amenities
  • building strong links with key local voluntary and charity organisations

2. Community boards

Community boards are an exciting initiative from the new Buckinghamshire Council. They are a key part of our commitment to keep it local, ensuring local voices are heard and helping people work with the Council, local agencies and other community organisations to make a difference in their communities.

By working in partnership community boards will help the new council understand and respond to local needs more effectively. Together they will help solve local issues and shape local places and services.

In total there will be 16 boards which we plan to have up and running after the election in May. This will be the start of our journey, as we will continue to co-design these locality arrangements with our local partners. Whilst there will be some common approaches each board will have its own unique look and feel to reflect the needs of the local area. There will be a mixture of formal and informal meetings.

Each board will engage key local stakeholders such as town and parish councils, voluntary and community groups, police, housing associations, health professionals and residents to ensure that local communities have a voice and an opportunity to influence service delivery.

Improving partnership working and links within communities, community boards will provide valuable intelligence on what is needed in local communities and will help the new council understand and respond to local needs more effectively, for example by improving facilities for young people, tackling social isolation of older people or helping to set up a community bus.

Individual projects and priorities will be decided by local communities, and as part of the new Council’s commitment to local working, £4 million has been made available to be devolved to community boards, giving them the resources needed to effect real change, according to local needs.

The boards will enable local conversations between key stakeholders about local priorities, areas of interest or issues with the aim of finding collaborative ways to resolve them. They will creatively utilising people’s expertise, skills, knowledge and passions to make real difference in people’s lives.

Each board has a named Community Board Manager, who will be the driving force with local members to this new style of collaborative working. They will be the energy behind the board. They will be acting as a connector to engage local partners, residents and other stakeholders to ensure that local communities have a voice and an opportunity to influence service delivery.

Community boards will:

  • represent the voice of local people
  • influence decision making
  • bring people together to strengthen communities
  • focus discussion on key issues for local residents
  • identify needs and creative solutions

3. Town and parish councils

The 169 town and parish councils across Buckinghamshire are the most local tier of government in the county. They have powers and duties laid down in law, and the ability to shape the decisions that affect communities at a local level.

Local councils in Buckinghamshire range from town councils with tens of thousands of residents and budgets in the hundreds of thousands, to parish meetings with under 100 residents and in many cases no budget at all. We are committed to working with all town and parish councils, and their representative bodies, in the most effective way possible so that together we can improve services and outcomes for all our residents.

We are also developing a new charter which sets out the relationship between the new Buckinghamshire Council and the 169 town and parish councils in Buckinghamshire. 

The charter sets out the joint principles and respective roles, responsibilities and expectations including an agreement to:

  • work together to promote the best interests of the communities we serve
  • provide quality, value for money public services
  • promote opportunities for greater public participation and involvement in public life


4. Devolution

We recognise that enabling town and parish councils to take on ownership or management of local assets or services can play an important part in empowering local communities and enable them to be stronger, more resilient and sustainable.

Devolution can take several forms, ranging from devolved local management arrangements, to the freehold transfer of a property or open space, through to full devolution of the responsibility for a service. We are committed to pro-actively seeking to transfer appropriate community assets and service devolution in order to provide benefits to local communities.

We support local people, town and parish councils and the voluntary and community sector who are keen to play an active role in making decisions that affect them and in delivering what their community needs.

Buckinghamshire’s many towns and villages are all different and they need different approaches to suit their needs. A ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work. A positive and productive relationship between Buckinghamshire Council and the town and parish councils is vital to the successful and effective local governance of Buckinghamshire.

The Shadow Authority, preparing the way for the new Buckinghamshire Council, adopted the service devolution and assets transfer policy in November 2019. Since then staff have been developing the detail of the devolution work programme, and established the criteria we will use to prioritise the large number of proposals we expect to receive. Officers are now working with many town and parish councils and community groups on the delivery of the programme.

If your organisation is considering how devolution of a council asset or service could benefit your community you will find the information below helpful.