12 Feb 2015
Members of Aylesbury Vale District Council’s cabinet have voted to explore the possibility of creating a unitary authority to serve the whole district.
The cabinet believes it is in the public interest to explore the opportunities of unitary local government, which would mean merging district and county council services within a single cost-saving authority.
On 25 February, full council will be asked to give the go-ahead for a business model to be developed and set aside funding of up to £80,000 to cover this cost.
The cabinet believes a unitary authority, based around the current district boundary, would make decision-making more local and, therefore, would have greater potential to meet customer and business needs.
Members also believe a major shake-up of how county and district councils are structured is required to manage the cuts from central government and that the unitary option could be more affordable.
Other potential benefits include:
• Services currently provided by the different councils but which are related such as planning for major development and transport could be better coordinated
• Resources currently split between two councils would instead be combined to get the best deal for the district
• The duplication which exists in the current two-tier system, for example managerial positions, would be reduced
Councillor Neil Blake, Leader of the Council, said: “We have a significant role to play in delivering essential local services for the people of Aylesbury Vale and should do so in the most effective and efficient way. The intention is to develop a detailed business case for unitary status which will have at its core the interests of our residents and the long term viability of local government in Aylesbury Vale.
“Local government has significant savings to make and we expect that the public sector will be the subject of further austerity measures until 2020 at least. I therefore believe that unitary local government merits further exploration in the interests of Aylesbury Vale residents.”
Buckinghamshire is currently a two-tier local authority area. This means that some services are delivered by Buckinghamshire County Council, such as social care, highways and education, and others are delivered by the district councils, such as recycling and waste collections, food safety inspections and licensing alcohol or entertainment premises. This can cause confusion for the public in who is accountable and responsible for which service.
Aylesbury Vale is the second largest district in the country with a population of almost 182,000. There are already over 20 existing unitary councils with smaller populations including Reading and Bracknell Forest.