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Would you stomach a five per cent council tax rise? Councillor says survey should have option to call for councils to merge or share services
TAXPAYERS, who have been asked if they are willing to stomach a five per cent council tax rise, are being short changed, a councillor claims.
Bucks County Council has confirmed tax will be rising and has asked the public if it would accept either a two, four or five per cent increase, with varying levels of investment in areas such as road improvements offered in return.
But the Bucks County Council survey does not offer sharing or combining services with other councils as an alternative.
Cllr Gary Hall, independent, a leading campaigner for a merger, which proponents estimate will save tens of millions of pounds per year, said residents should have been given this as an option.
He said: "When I read they were consulting and said they have the power to put up the tax without asking us anyway I thought what a cheek that they're not giving us the opportunity to look at all the options.
"We're getting a limited choice which is a no win for the taxpayer.
"I think the survey is short changing the taxpayer yet again.
"People are very aware of the tight spot councils are in regarding future government funding and are aware that unitary authorities are one way of saving money which could be spent on local services.
"To not give people an option along these lines is very short sighted and they are treating the general public with contempt by doing that."
Cllr Hall welcomed moves by Aylesbury Vale District Council a fortnight ago to follow Wycombe District Council in setting up a task force to investigate a super council.
BCC Leader Martin Tett, Conservative, said while he supports the idea of a single unitary council the option was not specifically put forward because implementation could take years and would not address urgent budget issues for 2014/15.
Cllr Tett said: "It is strange that two district councils have set up separate studies of a ‘unitary council’.
"It is also disappointing that the county council as the provider of the overwhelming majority of services in the county has not been asked to be part of either study.
"Personally, I would rather have one project shared by all the councils in the county look at this than have potentially five different study groups, all with different objectives and conclusions."
He did not say however if he has approached the councils to set up such a joint investigation.
He said: "It does not enjoy the support of any of the executives of the four district councils in Buckinghamshire.
"All four councils as well as the county council would have to be in favour to allow an approach to central Government."
The survey does have a section for people to write other ideas and thoughts, such as a merger.
See the survey at www.buckscc.gov.uk/budget or from libraries, children’s centres, adult learning centres and county council offices in Aylesbury and Wycombe.
Closing date is November 18, with two £100 prizes offered.
THE Free Press asked readers online: What do you think of a council merger?
Nearly six in ten backed the proposal, with 28 per cent (189 votes) saying 'great idea, do it right away' and 31 per cent (212) saying 'good idea, but investigate it properly and don't rush'.
12 per cent said they still need to be convinced it's a good idea while eight thought it was nice in theory, but will not work.
21 per cent said it was a bad idea and not to waste time or money on it.
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