Today the Bucks Free Press launches a campaign to finally give High Wycombe its voice back, as fears grow for the future of our great town.

For years councillors and residents have called for a council to be launched in the historic market town – with critics slamming the current High Wycombe town committee as a “toothless con”.

And the government’s approval of a super council in Bucks has sparked fresh fears the town will be left without any form of democracy – as Wycombe District Council will be scrapped by 2020.

Last week secretary of state James Brokenshire gave the green light to plans to abolish the main councils in Bucks and replace them with a unitary authority.

Councillors say residents are disadvantaged because they do not have a town council like other surrounding towns in Marlow and Princes Risborough.

Instead, High Wycombe has a town committee, made up of all High Wycombe councillors, which can only advise the council, cabinet and other committees on issues affecting the town.

The Free Press campaign has been backed by numerous politicians, with former mayor of High Wycombe and councillor for Booker and Cressex, Brian Pearce, saying a town council would have the power to revitalise the town.

He said: “I am so glad the Bucks Free Press has launched this campaign – for some reason we don’t have a town council and no one understands why.

“People complain it is going to cost money, of course it will, but you will get value for money and you get things done, which would attract business to the town. If it can be done everywhere else in the country, then why not High Wycombe? It’s ludicrous.”

The approval of a ‘super council’ provides a an opportunity to remedy the town’s “democratic deficit”, according to councillor for Totteridge, Julia Wassell.

She said: “I fully support the Bucks Free Press campaign to have a town council. There is a great opportunity to revitalise the outer and inner town areas. The decision on a unitary authority provides impetus to remedy this democratic deficit.

“The town committee which reports to cabinet has been incapable of halting the decline of the town amenities.”

“Launching a town council would put High Wycombe “on an even footing” with the rest of the county, according to councillor Khalil Ahmed – who called for the authority to be set up before the new unitary council is implemented in May 2020.

He said: "A town council provides really solid representative democracy because councillors act on local issues and on behalf of a smaller number of people. This means that they can really listen to each individual in a ward and make sure their view is taken in to account.

"Without ward level representation we all face a democratic deficit but Wycombe Town Council will have the power to make the best decisions for our town, and also ensure that Wycombe, the biggest unparished area in the whole of the UK, is not left out of democratic decision making under a new unitary authority. It would put our town on an even footing with the rest of Buckinghamshire."

Leader of WDC, Katrina Wood, said there will be “many discussions and decisions” over the coming weeks regarding the unitary council, which will include the potential for a town council.

There are “three options” for High Wycombe, according to leader of BCC, Martin Tett.

He said the area could remain a charter town, with unitary councillors sitting on the town committee, a town council could be created or the area could be divided into smaller parishes.

The next move would be to consult with councillors on the issue and hold a referendum to establish residents' views.

Cllr Tett said: “I am personally completely agnostic on the situation. I think there are three options, broadly. One is keep things as they are, just with new unitary councillors rather than district councillors, and keep it as a charter trustee town.

“You could make it a High Wycombe town council, which I know is what some people want. Or you could have smaller parishes covering the same area in the normal way that parish council do. So you would maybe have two or three parish councils rather than one big town council.

“Clearly every part of the county will elect new councillors for the unitary council. So everybody will have a vote and everybody will vote for their elected representatives, so there is no question of anybody being disenfranchised. That’s not going to happen.”

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