Open de­bate on change needed

Uni­tary au­thor­ity could save money

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - By Jo-Anne Rowney jo-anne.rowney@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

A BUSINESS leader has called for more dis­cus­sion on whether Bucks should have a uni­tary au­thor­ity say­ing there is an ap­petite for change.

Ear­lier this year, the group Buck­ing­hamshire Business First com­mis­sioned a re­port which said the county could save £58m if it be­came a uni­tary au­thor­ity. The group crowd-funded the £25,000 needed to pro­duce the in­de­pen­dent re­search pa­per look­ing at the cost of lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

Now, fol­low­ing its an­nual gen­eral meet­ing, Bucks Business First man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Philippa Bat­ting said there is now an ‘ap­petite for change’. She said: “The re­port has been widely cir­cu­lated and is on our web­site.

“We know the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in­clud­ing county have read it now. We have seen the col­umn inches taken up by let­ters of those en­gag­ing with it too.

“There’s a real ap­petite now for some fo­rum for the pub­lic to de­bate. I think most au­thor­i­ties are in agree­ment some­thing needs to be done that change is needed.”

The re­search con­ducted by Ernst & Young, con­cluded that an­nual sav­ings of £20.7m could be made, as well as a po­ten­tial five year net sav­ing of over £58m. The re­search cen­tred on four pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tives to the cur­rent sys­tem, in­clud­ing stream­lin­ing into two coun­cils.

The op­tion the re­port ar­gues de­liv­ers the largest sav­ing is that of one uni­tary au­thor­ity cov­er­ing Buck­ing­hamshire.

Ms Bat­ting added: “I think if we can now open this to pub­lic de­bate where we see both sides of the ar­gu­ment it would help.

“Though at the mo­ment I am yet to find any­one who wants it to stay the same. What we would say is dis­cus­sions about this need to be in the open not be­hind closed doors.”

The re­port claims £6.9m could be saved from a more ef­fi­cient ser­vice op­er­a­tion, £3m from cut­ting 30 se­nior man­agers, £2.1m in elec­tion sav­ings with 168 fewer mem­bers, up to £1m from ac­com­mo­da­tion sav­ings.

Chair­man of the Buck­ing­hamshire­Busi­ness Group Guy Lach­lan said pre­vi­ously: “He said: “It’s a case of get­ting rid of con­fu­sion.”

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