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Pathfinder bid for Buckinghamshire

Archived press release

Date Published: 26/01/07

Buckinghamshire’s five councils could soon be working more closely together to become a state-of-the-art ‘Pathfinder’ partnership, delivering services to the county’s residents in “innovative and creative” ways,...

Buckinghamshire’s five councils could soon be working more closely together to become a state-of-the-art ‘Pathfinder’ partnership, delivering services to the county’s residents in “innovative and creative” ways, if a joint bid to Government is successful.

The bid for Pathfinder status is being submitted to the Government after all five councils voted within the past week to support enhanced two-tier working arrangements.
Bid documents have to be submitted by the end of today (25 January) and the five councils should find out whether their Pathfinder bid has been successful in March.

The document is the councils’ joint response to the Government’s White Paper ‘Strong and Prosperous Communities’. It shows how the county and district councils see themselves moving towards a coherent Buckinghamshire public service, with co-ordinated policy making, whilst retaining their own identity, local democratic strength and decision-making.

Under a Pathfinder agreement signed by the leaders of all five councils, savings will be made through better connecting council services across the county. Opportunities for front line services to come together to, for example, provide combined local access points such as one stop shops, will be part of the programme.

The councils will aim to cut costs and improve services by jointly purchasing services and products, and bringing together ‘back office’ services; examples include finance, legal and IT services. The five organisations have also agreed to work together to improve the efficiency and bring down the cost of how they work with communities, who will themselves have new decision-making powers to tailor services to local need. All five partners will be working to avoid duplication, confusion and cost.                                                                              

A Joint Improvement Board, made up of representatives from each of the five councils, will be set up to commission the review of current arrangements and oversee the delivery of the proposals for new ways of working.

And a Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee, consisting of councillors from the five authorities, will provide an independent check on the partnership’s joint improvement work.

The councils intend to combine and build on their existing strengths - the county council’s Getting Close to Communities (GC2C) approach and the district councils’ local community-based arrangements.

Cllr John Cartwright, Leader of Aylesbury Vale District Council, said: “This is a golden opportunity to build on the successful joint working that we already undertake with the County Council and some of our District Council partners. The opening of the one stop shop in Buckingham is a good example of how we can improve services to our customers in a more cost effective way. AVDC already provides the pay roll services for some of the other District Councils and I am very confident that by all five councils working together, we will identify many more examples of how we can achieve both financial benefits and better services.”  

Cllr David Shakespeare, Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, said: “The agreement that the County Council has signed with our District Council partners will give the opportunity of not only making significant savings for our council taxpayers, but should also lead to better quality services for the public. We have the chance of developing a seamless service to our residents by joining up our systems and integrating services. Now that the agreement is signed, all councils have the responsibility of delivering the promises that we have made. I look forward to us all achieving those aims.”

Cllr Tom Dodd, Leader of Chiltern District Council, said: “This joint agreement, which is in response to the Government’s requirement that local authorities have to drastically reduce spending, is right for Buckinghamshire residents.  It builds on existing good practice and extends areas of co-operation and partnership.  We have preserved the sovereignty of the Councils and have avoided a great deal of disruption to residents and to employees. The timescale of the proposal is initially five years and this will facilitate the introduction of a wide range of changes without undue harshness.”                                       

Cllr Peter Hardy, Leader of South Bucks District Council, said: "This is an excellent agreement for the residents of South Bucks. It will reduce costs but at the same time retain local decision making to meet local needs."

Cllr Lesley Clarke, Leader of Wycombe District Council, said: “Historically we have a good track record of partnership between all the Councils and this is a real opportunity to make further progress.  The new arrangements we are proposing to the Government will help us to move forward, develop better local services for our residents and provide better value for money. We have set ourselves some challenging targets, however, I am very optimistic about our ability to work together to achieve them.”

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