Council plans to close farm slammed by neighbouring council

Bucks County Council - County Hall

Published by Dan Gooding with contributions by Local Democracy Reporter Jasmine Rapson at 5:36am 6th February 2019.

Plans to close a farm where adults with learning difficulties work in Buckinghamshire have been called 'incompetent' by a Milton Keynes councillor.

Thrift Farm sits on the border with MK and BCC have just announced a consultation on closing it to save £124k.

The councillor in MK wants to work with the County Council on this, but leader Martin Tett said he feels the relationship has been damaged by the comments.

In a statement published by Milton Keynes Labour, councillor O’Neill said BCC “is another by-word for Tory incompetence and maladministration” and urged the council to work with the Labour-run authority to save Thrift Farm.

She said:

“They are yet another Tory county on the verge of bankruptcy. Their children’s services are inadequate, they are overspending on substandard social care services and their highways are amongst the worst in the country.

“Now they are threatening to close a much-loved community service and attacking some of the most vulnerable people in society.

“While parents like me see Thrift Farm as a family friendly day out, to others it’s a vital lifeline in the world of work.

“Milton Keynes already pays for social care places at the farm, so closure has an impact on our most vulnerable too. We will not sit back and let that happen.”

She added that “with the right deal” MKC could run the farm – however BCC cabinet members said the neighbouring authority has not come forward with any appropriate plans.

Martin Tett, Leader BCC
Martin Tett wasn't impressed with the comments made

During a meeting of BCC’s cabinet yesterday (January 4) Cllr Tett said the authorities rely “on a good working relationship” – however he now fears it has been “severely damaged”.

He said:

“I think [the comments] were irresponsible, inappropriate and wholly inaccurate and I have never, to my knowledge or recollection, criticised a colleague council, whatever its party-political colours, neighbouring us.

“I think that has done severe damage to what has always been a good relationship we have had between BCC and MKC.

“They need to think really carefully before they, as a council, attack a fellow council, on its borders, where we rely on a good working relationship.”

Cabinet member for health and wellbeing at BCC, Lin Hazell, added:

“We have approached Milton Keynes on numerous occasions.

“They have commented, they have come back to the officers over a period of time, but most of the time it is revolving around the purchase of the land, but that’s not what we are looking for.

“We are looking for people to take on the leasehold of the land. I don’t think it would be viable to sell the land at the moment.”

Cabinet members were told during the meeting that the opportunity to express an interest in Thrift Farm had been advertised twice on the South East Business Portal - but had not produced a viable option.

Recent publicity has already prompted six organisations interested in the offer to run Thrift Farm to contact the council.

Anyone else interested in submitting an expression of interest can do so via the SE Business Portal here which will be live when the consultation starts on 16 February 2019.

The consultation on the future of Thrift Farm is scheduled to start on 16 February 2019.

It was also agreed that any further decisions on the future of Thrift Farm, following consultation, will be taken by the full Cabinet.

Further information about Thrift Farm, the consultation and how to give you views can be found here.

The report and a recording of the meeting can be found here.

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