The north and south of Buckinghamshire are very different functional economic areas, with distinctive characteristics, challenges and opportunities. Two new unitaries in Buckinghamshire would allow each Council to pursue its own economic goals focused in just one direction.
Aylesbury Vale and Milton Keynes are part of the Cambridge to Oxford Corridor identified by the NIC as a priority area for national growth. By contrast, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe are part of the Thames Valley and West of London economy. National infrastructure investments such as Crossrail and the expansion of Heathrow in the south, and East West Rail between Cambridge and Oxford - along with the potential expressway, will further intensify this functional difference.
Buckinghamshire has been punching below its weight in terms of economic growth. In particular the key urban centres of Aylesbury and Wycombe have been significantly underperforming in terms of productivity and growth indices. Compared to the Thames Valley NUTS2 sub-region, growth across Buckinghamshire GVA was £1.4 billion lower from 1997 to 2014 missing out on 15,000 new jobs. Had it performed to the level of Milton Keynes it would have delivered additional GVA of £4.6 billion, 35,000 jobs and 5,000 businesses. Milton Keynes, separated from the County to become a unitary in 1997, is now consistently one of the most successful, fastest growing and sustainable cities.
The confusion of the LEP geographies would be resolved by two new unitaries, allowing the LEPs to support and drive growth with a clear focus and direction. At present, the administrative geography of the LEP boundaries hinders this clarity of thought and action. Bucks Thames Valley LEP (BTVLEP) was the last LEP to be formed in 2012. Aylesbury Vale had two years previously joined the South East Midlands LEP (SEMLEP) - itself a natural evolution from the Milton Keynes South Midlands (MKSM) growth area. The Thames Valley Berkshire LEP would better reflect the Thames Valley economic area if it were to include the Chiltern Thames Valley - and offer real prospects for strong partnership working with Enterprise M3 LEP. This arrangement may also provide more sustainable and agile building blocks for future devolution deals based around real issues such as the NIC Cambridge to Oxford Corridor and Thames Valley / Heathrow hub.