I think a single unitary would be more distant because of the nature of looking after a bigger patch with different priorities. I think that the bringing together of Chiltern, South Bucks and High Wycombe makes sense but that Aylesbury is a big, dynamic authority , which needs to be supported separately. These are two different economic areas which each need their own councils to help both areas to thrive for everyone.
I’m the Managing Director of Silverstone Circuit, the home of British motor racing and we at Silverstone are a major contributor to the economy in Buckinghamshire both in terms of investment, jobs and particularly visitor numbers around the Formula 1 British Grand Prix annually. We’ve enjoyed a great partnership with Aylesbury Vale over the years, our local council and they’ve helped us in our growth, our planning and expansion for growth also. And I’m concerned that this work that we’ve done to date and the significant potential for future could be adversely impacted if there was one large super council in Buckinghamshire. I say that because I believe our requirements are different to the businesses in the South of the county because the two ends of Buckinghamshire are really very different beasts. We won’t be the only organisation that will be affected like that, there will be many other businesses both large and small. And you know, I think I can speak for everybody in the county of Buckinghamshire to say that we want a thriving economy in our county but given that it is really such a diverse county, one single one-size fits all solution doesn’t sound like the answer to me, I believe that we need two unitary authorities in Buckinghamshire, one for the North and one for the South and that will be in the best interests of the county and all of those who are working in it. So, given that it is going to affect us all, I would encourage everybody to have their say by the 25 of May.
Sometimes we can go down the path of cost cutting and cost saving which in the short term may look good when you come to the end of your budget year but, actually, in terms of delivering what needs to be delivered to a community in the long term, is not sustainable. So I think it’s about actually being creative, and innovative with new ideas, working across councils and having shared services. That’s the way forward.
The two unitary option offers an ability for local focus on local needs, matching the aspirations of the north and south. It will mean each area can manage its own future growth needs and that services that can be tailored around the communities in a more focussed, accountable and accessible way.
For me, strategic planning and growth would be a disaster under a huge ‘super’ council. It seems their proposed area planning committees would be powerless when it comes to the big decisions and local residents would not end up being fairly represented.
Aylesbury is in the east west corridor, with new railways due to open in the next few years’ time, so a lot of growth managing… I would say quite exciting times for Aylesbury and the surrounding economy. But if I look at the south of the county I see quite a different situation: you’ve not got the one dominate town, you have a number of different towns suffering different problems - some of them very rich, some of them with certain economic problems. There is a lot of over crowding, there are a lot of infrastructure issues…also the basis of their economy is quite different, they are predominately commuter orientated towns to London.
Buckinghamshire is a diverse county with very different priorities in the north and south. In this case one size does not fit all. Two councils, each providing all services to residents and businesses in each area, would be much better for everybody and from what I’m hearing in my community, local people think the same.
I think two councils would provide the focus of what the region needs.
Just thinking about organisations like Queens Park Art Centre and any other voluntary groups that we have in Buckinghamshire, when it comes to dealing with local government I am quite sure they will find it easier to deal with slightly smaller organisations and that will apply to both north and south. So if we have two unitaries each of those will be able to look after those culture centres.
My own business experience has shown that if something works, you don’t rip it up and start from scratch – you build on it and improve it. The district councils are well run and are doing a great job. I understand why you might want fewer councils to save costs, but having just one isn’t a local council anymore. “It is the district councils – and the geography on which they are based - who are in a good position to support businesses and they need greater powers, such as control of roads, to make things happen more quickly. Which is why I am in favour of a more local unitary council for this area, in which my company is based, rather than one big council based in Aylesbury.
One single unitary authority covering all of the county, from Slough to Silverstone, from Berkhamsted to Brackley, simply cannot deliver local services to local communities. The reduction in the number of councillors, our elected representatives, will not facilitate the local voice being heard at county level. And if community hubs are such a great idea why have so many libraries, which used to be the community hub for so many people in this county, been closed or transferred to community and volunteer management? Yes, the quoted savings of the single model are higher, but I think that those savings, which have already been spent many times over, will come at a cost to our communities which will far outweigh any benefit.
Middle Claydon Parish Council takes the view that, based on the facts, the North and South of the County of Buckinghamshire are two separate economies with distinctive characteristics. Therefore the systems which need to be built to serve the two communities are different. This is recognised in the National Infrastructure Commission paper, the Housing Market Areas and in the Local Enterprise Partnerships, but not accepted in the County Council’s single unitary proposal. We will need local community leadership and the two Unitary model will, we believe, deliver this need. Two Unitary Councils, together with the well proven and successful Parish and Town Councils, provide genuine local accountability and reflect the geography of our area.