Coun­cil's joint re­view faces funds criticism

Use of tax­payer cash to em­ploy con­sul­tants branded ‘re­gret­table’

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS - by Tom Her­bert tom.her­bert@trin­i­tymir­ Twit­ter: @TRHer­bert

THE LEADER of Bucks County Coun­cil (BCC) has slammed the four district coun­cils for spend­ing tax­pay­ers’ money on a lo­cal gov­ern­ment re­view and has said he feels ‘like a spurned date’.

Martin Tett has lashed out at a de­ci­sion made by Ayles­bury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wy­combe to com­mis­sion the in­de­pen­dent re­view brand­ing it ‘bizarre’ they had ‘re­fused’ an of­fer made by BCC to work to­gether.

Last month the four coun­cils an­nounced they had jointly com­mis­sioned a study into the fu­ture of lo­cal gov­ern­ment in Bucks, ar­gu­ing that by work­ing to­gether and shar­ing the costs each coun­cil will en­sure they of­fer value for money to lo­cal tax pay­ers.

But Mr Tett has ex­pressed an­noy­ance that the county coun­cil’s of­fer to ‘sit round the ta­ble’ was re­jected: “Why spend all that money on man­age­ment con­sul­tants?

“Why would you pay them when we could have done it as a team, which is what our res­i­dents expect?” He also crit­i­cised the length of time it took the coun­cils to re­spond to a let­ter he sent out in May and said he has had no com­mu­ni­ca­tion with any of the dis­tricts, call­ing it ‘strange’.

He added: “I feel like a spurned date – no­body’s writ­ten, no­body’s called.”

In a state­ment re­leased to the me­dia Mr Tett said: “We are dis­ap­pointed the four district coun­cils have ap­par­ently cho­sen to com­mit £200,000 of hard pressed tax­pay­ers’ money on ex­ter­nal man­age­ment con­sul­tants with­out dis­cussing their ideas with the county coun­cil.

“The county coun­cil took the de­ci­sion in early May to look at op­tions for mod­ernising lo­cal gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing de­vel­op­ing a busi­ness case for a new, sin­gle uni­tary coun­cil, and we in­vited the district coun­cils to work with us in eval­u­at­ing any other op­tions based on com­mon method­ol­ogy and shared ev­i­dence base.

“The fact that the district lead­ers have re­fused to work with us and in­deed have used tax­pay­ers’ money to fund ex­pen­sive man­age­ment con­sul­tants is re­gret­table.”

A spokesper­son for Chiltern and South Bucks said they are in the process of com­mis­sion­ing a con­sul­tancy but the cost will not be known un­til the pro­pos­als come in.

The spokesper­son added: “We are com­mis­sion­ing an in­de­pen­dent re­view so that a range of op­tions for mod­ernising lo­cal gov­ern­ment in Bucks can be con­sid­ered.

“We are seek­ing the best value for money we can and will share the costs across the dis­tricts. The fund­ing will not only cover the study but the equally im­por­tant work of en­gag­ing with our com­mu­ni­ties.

“We do not have the re­sources in-house to un­der­take this spe­cial­ist piece of work and we want to en­sure the re­view is in­de­pen­dent and ob­jec­tive.

“BCC were quite clear in their in­ten­tion of work­ing up a busi­ness case for a sin­gle uni­tary coun­cil for Bucks.

“The four district lead­ers con­sulted their mem­bers who ex­pressed con­cern at fund­ing a study in which the out­come ap­peared to be pre-de­ter­mined and they were in favour of an im­par­tial, ob­jec­tive and to­tally in­de­pen­dent study.”

“The [ BCC let­ter] came with­out ad­vance warn­ing and the four dis­tricts wanted to give the of­fer very care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion. This is an ex­tremely im­por­tant piece of work which will in­form how lo­cal gov­ern­ment in Bucks could look in the fu­ture.”

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