Economy and Infrastructure

22.01.19

Buckinghamshire councils threaten legal action over unitary merger plans

Two Buckinghamshire district councils have threatened legal action over the plans to create a single unitary council for the county.

Wycombe and Chiltern DCs have written to James Brokenshire as a preliminary step towards legal proceedings against the way in which the plans to combine Buckinghamshire CC and its four district councils into a new unitary council in April 2020 are being carried out. 

The communities secretary announced that the five authorities were to be merged in November last year, stating “the right course of action is to establish a new single unitary district council for Buckinghamshire,” but the district councils did not consent to the modification orders or regulations. Because there is only consent from one of the five councils, the MHCLG would have to get these regulations through Parliament by the end of March. 

In a joint statement, Chiltern’s leader Isobel Darby and Wycombe’s leader Katrina Wood said: “We are doing this with great reluctance but feel that the MHCLG has left us with no alternative.

“We have obviously thought long and hard about whether to take this step. But in this case, we believe that it is in the best interests of our communities in Buckinghamshire to challenge the process being used.”

The letter raises concerns about the lack of local consent and criticises the recent changes to the proposals and the lack of reasons given for making them.

The statement added: “Our aim is not to hinder the creation of the new council but to ensure we get an excellent, new council, giving us the opportunity to start afresh and form a council that serves our residents and businesses well, and one we can be proud of.”

Under the proposals, Buckinghamshire CC and South Bucks, Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, and Wycombe district councils will be merged after Brokenshire said he acknowledged “the desire and thrust for change and innovation in Buckinghamshire.

He stated: “The five councils agree that the current structures are not sustainable, and the locally-led proposal for a single unitary is the only proposal that meets the three criteria - I am persuaded that the right course of action is to establish a new single unitary district council.”

Buckinghamshire County Council leader Martin Tett supported the plans, but speaking to PSE in late November he said he was “really struggling” with the proposals due to the logistics of a suggested surge in councillor numbers.

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