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'Taxpayers losing out over Tory unitary refusal', says Cllr
TAXPAYERS are the ones losing out as Conservatives cling to power by ignoring calls for council mergers, according to a councillor in favour of the plan.
Wycombe District Councillor Gary Hall has accused leader Richard Scott and his Conservative colleagues of deliberately blocking a council-led study into the potential savings of forming unitary authorities in Bucks.
It comes after business interest group Bucks Business First announced it is crowdfunding a study into the pros and cons of abolishing layers of local government.
Cllr Hall says the announcement puts pressure on the WDC leadership to re-open the debate after voting down proposals to set up a task force on the issue.
And the independent member for Princes Risborough says with recent council cuts across the board, including the controversial county council grass cutting, those in charge cannot wait any longer to look at saving taxpayers’ cash.
He said: "There are some (Conservatives) that are in favour and will say it openly but the leadership blocks it at every possible opportunity.
"They do not want to lose power, that’s what it boils down to. The Conservatives are in power (at WDC) and they do not want to relinquish that.
"There is no money now, so we need to look at ways of saving money right now so we can start putting some of these services back.
"I totally support BBF’s study. Someone (at WDC) is playing silly beggars and the only people losing out are the council tax payers.
"The grass cutting problem is proof of this and a very visible indicator to people that something needs to be done."
The current council system comprises Bucks County Council, with four district councils (Wycombe, South Bucks, Chiltern and Aylesbury Vale) beneath it and also number of town and parish councils.
A unitary system would see county and district councils merge - although there are several possible ways such a move could take place.
Supporters speculate the move which some speculate could save as much as £25 million per year of public money.
BBF, which is currently funding an independent study, claims a conversation cannot be had on the subject until the evidence is clear.
Cllr Hall claims he was prevented from donating part of his allocated ward budget to help fund the study, as investigating unitary authorities is against council policy.
WDC’s own ‘task and finish’ group was voted down in January, with opponents citing the expense, lack of government support and unwillingness of other district councils to get involved.
And council leader Richard Scott says the council’s position has not changed, claiming the issue should be considered after the next council elections in May.
He said: "We are not in favour of looking at unitary authorities at this time, and our position has not changed.
"Next year we have got council elections but more importantly three of four years ago the government funded costs and transition which is not currently available.
"All councils, county and the four district in Bucks have kept council tax low and made savings in delivering services. There is no government support and that is something we must consider.
"I think today a full and comprehensive exercise looking at a number of alternatives will be quite expensive, and the cost will need to be borne by the authorities."
This year, Cllr Scott also ruled out a referendum to gauge support for unitary councils due to the expense.
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