Modernising local government
Why is this happening?
By 2020 your local councils will receive no funding from central government, whilst still being expected to provide frontline services such as bin collection, social care and road maintenance. In 2013/14 Bucks councils received a total of £71.5m from central government. This year that number dropped to £27.6m and by 2019/20 the figure will be £0.
The population of the county is set to steadily rise in the coming years. This means demands on services will also rise, so as the funding to councils disappears their expenditure increases. If councils don’t change to tackle this funding deficit, services will suffer as a result.
Why are there two separate reports?
The four district councils were asked by Bucks County Council to work with them on their report into a single authority for the whole county. However, there are multiple options for the future of local government in Bucks and the districts decided to commission their own report to make sure all options, not just a single unitary, were properly reviewed.
What are the differences between the reports?
The districts’ report provides a broad analysis of all the available options, highlighting the need for change to how services are delivered to ensure long-term sustainability. The county council’s report focuses on one option, the implementation of a single unitary authority for the whole county, and it provides a blueprint for a new council.
How will this affect me?
Your local councils manage a huge range a services which affect every day life such as collecting your bins, maintaining the roads, dealing with planning applications and providing social care. Doing nothing to tackle the financial pressures on local government is not an option as the quality of services would be seriously hit. Modernising local government is all about simplifying council services, making them more efficient and cost effective whilst streamlining local decision making and ensuring vital services are maintained for residents.
What happens now?
The district councils are in discussion with Bucks County Council and other stakeholders around the county to fully inform and complete the districts’ report. Central government are yet to comment but any decision on the future of local government in Bucks will need consensus between the county and district councils.
When will change come into effect?
We’re very much at the initial stages of the debate and have yet to decide what form the change will take. However, if agreed, a two or three unitary model could be in place by 2021 and Bucks County Council predict their one unitary model would be ready by 2019.
Why don’t we just merge all Bucks councils into one?
Short-term cost savings are important, but long-term sustainability, the quality of services and the strength of local decision making also need addressing. Any reorganisation of local government should fit in with wider public sector reform and transformation.
Without this, an inward-focused reorganisation will get in the way of much-needed transformation, and any savings achieved will be lost if growing financial pressures haven’t been properly addressed.