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Two Bucks district councils starting legal action over unitary

They say the government hasn't been clear enough with its decision.

Published by Dan Gooding at 11:34am 21st January 2019. (Updated at 4:12pm 21st January 2019) 4-minute read.

Two Bucks district councils starting legal action over unitary

Two of Buckinghamshire's district councils are moving towards taking legal action, over the unitary process.

Chiltern and Wycombe are unhappy with how the government's handled the new council process.

They say they don't want to hinder the plans, but 'to ensure we get an excellent, new Council'.

All four District Councils decided at recent meetings of their Cabinet not to consent to the Regulations which were laid before Parliament last Monday.

Now, Chiltern District Council and Wycombe District Council have taken their concerns further and written to the Secretary of State as a preliminary step to legal proceedings.

The letter raises specific concerns about the lack of local consent, the recent changes to what was proposed and the lack of reasons given for making them as well as failure to ensure appropriate checks and balances.

The Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, made his announcement on 1 November 2018 that 'the right course of action is to establish a new single unitary district council for Buckinghamshire."

In a joint statement, Councillor Isobel Darby, Leader of Chiltern District Council and Councillor Katrina Wood, Leader of Wycombe District Council, said:

"We are doing this with great reluctance but feel that the MHCLG has left us with no alternative.

"We have obviously thought long and hard about whether to take this step. But in this case we believe that it is in the best interests of our communities in Buckinghamshire to challenge the process being used.

"Our aim is not to hinder the creation of the new Council but to ensure we get an excellent, new Council, giving us the opportunity to start afresh and form a Council that serves our residents and businesses well, and one we can be proud of."

AVDC also responds to unitary

The district councils in Buckinghamshire were very disappointed with the recent decision of the Secretary of State regarding the way in which the new unitary council will be set up.

All four district councils decided at recent meetings of their Cabinet not to consent to the Regulations, which were laid before Parliament on 14 January.

Chiltern District Council and Wycombe District Council have now taken their concerns further and written to the Secretary of State as a preliminary step to legal proceedings.

At AVDC, we continue to hold the view that unitary local government would be the most efficient and cost-effective way to deliver high quality services to residents and stakeholders within Buckinghamshire.

However, it was unanimously agreed by the Cabinets of all four district councils  that this should not be at the cost of losing the traditional and properly-established processes of local democracy.

In particular, we take issue with the makeup of the Shadow Executive, which will be empowered to create the new unitary council, and the imposition of the leader of Buckinghamshire County Council as its leader.

Such arrangements would be totally contrary to the long-accepted principles of maintaining local sovereignty, democracy, transparency and accountability and are therefore completely unacceptable.

Aylesbury Vale and South Bucks District Councils await the outcome of the action initiated by Chiltern and Wycombe District Councils with interest.

Councillor Steve Bowles, AVDC Deputy Leader, said:

"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform local government and it is essential that the arrangements are done properly and thoroughly.

"As local leaders it is beholden on us to ensure that transparent and fair democracy is a fundamental building block for this exciting opportunity for our local government arrangements.

"We're focusing on making sure the brand new council represents the very best of the five authorities it will replace to provide the best outcomes for residents and staff."

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