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Note: Special Council
Declarations of Interest
Councillors I Darby and P Martin declared personal interests in agenda item 4 as Members of Buckinghamshire County Council.
Buckinghamshire County Council submitted a case for a single unitary model of governance for Buckinghamshire to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government in September 2016. At the Full Council meeting held on 16 January 2017, Members agreed to submit a unitary bid to the Secretary of State to deliver a two unitary model. On 12 March 2018, the Secretary of State issued a â€˜minded toâ€™ decision in favour of the single unitary model proposed by Buckinghamshire County Council.
The Leader of the Council, Councillor I Darby, presented Members with a report asking Members to consider next steps, including the approach to making representations to the Secretary of State following his announcement on unitary governance in Buckinghamshire. It was noted that the period for representations to the Secretary of State would expire 25 May 2018. The Leader stressed the continued lack of support for a single unitary authority by the four district councils, and consequently for the Secretary of Stateâ€™s minded to decision. The Leader emphasised the fact that this was a minded to decision and not a final decision. It was then proposed by Councillor I Darby and seconded by Councillor M Stannard:
Members debated the recommendations. A question was raised as to whether the redevelopment of Chiltern Pools leisure centre could be progressed in light of the Councilâ€™s uncertain future, the Leader advised that until a final decision had been made by the Secretary of State, the project would be progressed and reviewed in due course in light of what the Secretary of State decides. Unlike the future of local government in Buckinghamshire, the community need for a new leisure and community facility was certain, and it was hoped that any future authority or authorities would recognise this.
Councillor P Jones continued to oppose the proposal for two unitary councils for the reasons highlighted at the meeting of Full Council 16 January 2017 and therefore could not support the recommendations. He felt that residents identify with Buckinghamshire as a whole and not any one specific area of local administration e.g., the Chiltern District, and urged Members to view the new council as a completely new structure and a fresh beginning.
Councillor N Rose spoke in favour of the districtsâ€™ proposal and advised Members that the north and south of Buckinghamshire faced different issues, and that the different needs of the communities should be reflected in the structure of local government in Bucks. He supported the recommendations as per the report but felt that a budget of Â£20,000 may not be sufficient. It was then proposed by Councillor N Rose and seconded by Councillor C Jones that recommendation 5 of the motion be amended to read â€œto agree an initial budget of up to Â£40,000 for the Councilâ€ rather than â€œto agree an initial budget of Â£20,000 for each Councilâ€.
Councillor H Wallace entered the meeting 18:53.
Councillor A Bacon supported Councillor P Jones in favour of a single unitary model and could not support the recommendations to Full Council, particularly the proposed increase in the budget figure. He felt that there were no new arguments to present to the Secretary of State and that the money could be spent on other areas of need.Â
A number of members made the point that it was the quality of services to local residents that was important, as the financial savings in the context of the total budget of any new organisation were not massive.Â Points were made about the County Councilâ€™s poor management track record, and that their proposal lacked vision and imagination.
In general, Members supported the motion as amended and wanted to ensure that appropriate resources were made available so that residents could make informed representations to the Secretary of State. Councillor Darby exercised her right of reply and summarised that the creation of two unitary councils would make key savings whilst ensuring more effective localised services in the best interests of the people of Buckinghamshire. The proposal to amend recommendation 5 was put to the vote and the amendment was carried. As such, Full Council was asked to agree the motion, as recommended by the Chiltern and South Bucks Joint Committee and as amended by Full Council.
The motion as amended was put to the meeting, CARRIED and it was therefore