DON’T GET STUCK IN OUT­DATED TRA­DI­TION

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - OPINION - MERVYN ILES Amer­sham

I have read re­cent ar­ti­cles and let­ters in lo­cal news­pa­pers with some de­gree of dis­may, pri­mar­ily be­cause of the fail­ure of most of the au­thors to look at so­lu­tions through a 21st cen­tury lens.

As far as lo­cal gov­ern­ment is con­cerned, county bound­aries date back many cen­turies and pre-date canals, rail­ways and mod­ern roads so in most cases have lit­tle rel­e­vance to cur­rent day eco­nomic, trans­port and de­mo­graphic fac­tors.

Buck­ing­hamshire is a prime ex­am­ple with the south east of the county bor­der­ing Lon­don and hav­ing three sta­tions on the Lon­don Un­der­ground yet the north west of the county is around 50 miles away in a very ru­ral lo­ca­tion.

Mil­ton Keynes wisely went its own way as a uni­tary author­ity in 1997 and if we look at the re­main­ing area cov­ered by Buck­ing­hamshire County Coun­cil and the four dis­trict coun­cils, it is in ball­park fig­ures a tale of two halves namely Ayles­bury Vale cov­er­ing just over half of the area but with only 35 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion and the south­ern part (Chiltern, Wy­combe and South Buck­ing­hamshire) con­tain­ing 65 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion. It is time for change in my view. Buck­ing­hamshire is no longer an op­tion for lo­cal gov­ern­ment in any form although I don’t mind such re­main­ing purely for cer­e­mo­nial rea­sons.

Ayles­bury as the County Town is as re­dun­dant to­day as was Buck­ing­ham which it usurped around two hun­dred years ago, iron­i­cally be­cause of the lat­ter’s re­mote­ness.

We also have our main hos­pi­tal and A&E de­part­ment in the wrong place; not where the bulk of the county’s pop­u­la­tion re­sides yet Wy­combe Hos­pi­tal con­tin­ues to be down­graded.

As far as the fu­ture of lo­cal gov­ern­ment is con­cerned any no­tion of a uni­tary author­ity for Buck­ing­hamshire is out­dated and will serve only those politi­cians and lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials who like the idea of em­pire build­ing and lo­cat­ing the cen­tre of ac­tiv­ity in Ayles­bury. In­stead, the res­i­dents and lead­ers of Chiltern, South Buck­ing­hamshire and Wy­combe Coun­cils ought to be look­ing at how best ser­vices can be de­liv­ered for the pop­u­lous south, in­clud­ing work­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion with ad­join­ing coun­cils with sim­i­lar needs, such as Three Rivers and Wind­sor & Maiden­head and not be hide­bound by his­toric bound­aries.

As far as hos­pi­tals are con­cerned, we des­per­ately need to build a new fully fledged hos­pi­tal in the south of the county.

Stoke Man­dev­ille is no lo­ca­tion for our main hos­pi­tal given our de­mo­graph­ics.

Peo­ple in Ger­rards Cross for ex­am­ple, are some 22 miles from Stoke Man­dev­ille, fur­ther than it is to the Houses of Par­lia­ment.

For such a vi­tal and much needed fa­cil­ity I am sure most peo­ple would ac­cept the need for lo­cal plan­ners to per­mit build­ing on green belt land if nec­es­sary.

It is time to start think­ing imag­i­na­tively and not be led by those stuck in out­dated and mis­placed tra­di­tion.

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