Today's special Cabinet meeting formally agreed the County Council's consent to the making of all the necessary legal regulations by the Government to create a single new unitary council for Buckinghamshire, on the basis of further details provided by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
In a letter to all five councils sent on January 7, Secretary of State, James Brokenshire sets out the key building blocks for the new 'Buckinghamshire Council' contained in the draft legislation. They include:
- the name of the new council will be ‘Buckinghamshire Council’ and it will have 147 councillors
- elections for the new council will take place in May 2020
- a temporary 'shadow' authority will be formed, with all current county and district councillors having a seat on this body; the shadow authority will set the 2020/21 council tax and budget. Leadership will be provided by a 17 seat shadow executive with the Leader of the County Council as its chairman
- an implementation team, led by the County Council Chief Executive and with a district Chief Executive as deputy, will be established to manage the smooth transfer of services and staff to the new Council.
Providing at least one of the five councils involved gives its consent, the regulations that allow the Secretary of State to accept a proposal for change can be laid before Parliament on 14 January 2019; the draft legislation that sets out the detail of how this will take place will then be laid before Parliament a few weeks later and will come into force later in the Spring, to allow the new unitary council to be up and running by April 2020.
Speaking after the meeting, County Council Leader Martin Tett said:
"This is an important step forward in the process to the creation of a new council for Buckinghamshire. Whilst these legal processes have to take place I want to remind everyone that this is absolutely about residents – improving services for the people we are elected to serve. This must not be about us. It’s about creating a simpler, better value, and more local council for residents, businesses and partners and being able to speak with a stronger single voice nationally; a council fit for the future.
Timing to get the new council up and running is tight, so I’m asking the District Councils to work with us on this for our residents and our staff to deliver the brand new Council that Buckinghamshire deserves and make the most of the opportunities for all from this historic change.”