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Council merger moves a step forward
A CAMPAIGNER for a cost-saving council merger is delighted a council working group is being set up to explore the idea ahead of the threat of 'cataclysmic' funding cuts.
Wycombe District Councillor Gary Hall has long campaigned for a unitary authority in the county, which he believes will save millions of pounds for residents.
It was agreed by the Improvement and Review Commission at WDC last week that a task and finish group will be set up to look at the prospect of scaling down the number of councils running the county, after government grant cuts were announced at the meeting.
Cllr Hall said Wycombe will be losing around 30 per cent of its grant next year and after that possibly a further 15 per cent. The figures have not yet been confirmed by WDC.
Cllr Hall said: "WDC gets half of its total funding from grants and another half from council tax.
"The figures that are being talked about are a £60-80 million black hole. It is cataclysmic- that is the cut coming from Government.
"I then suggested to the committee that we should set up a task and finish group to look at the idea of a unitary authority in the area in the face of these central grant cuts."
A vote was held and his proposal was passed, despite stiff opposition.
A report in 2006 stated that rolling together the five existing district councils and Buckinghamshire County Council into one could have saved an estimated £35m a year.
In 2007 the council took a vote on unitary council status but instead pursued a 'Pathfinder' shared services initiative which proved to be unsuccessful.
The working group will look at pros and cons of a unitary authority, and will present a report to the commission, which could then go to WDC's cabinet.
Cllr Hall added: "I have known for years it is the most sensible way for the local area to go but now in the face of these whopping cuts to our income- this is the only way to go."
WDC spokesman, Nick Sykes, said: "A report will be presented to the next Improvement and Review Commission meeting in November, inviting the Commission to consider the terms of reference for the task and finish group, together with the group’s membership.
"The group would then commence its review, with its report and accompanying recommendations being presented to the I&R Commission on completion of its work. Timescales for the group’s work will emanate from the terms of reference that are agreed."
There is an ePetition on the Buckinghamshire Country Council website, which ends tomorrow, for residents to sign in support of a unitary authority . There are currently 32 signatures.
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