A former mayor of High Wycombe who has campaigned for a local town council since 2018 has renewed his criticism of the town’s ‘toothless’ committee.

A new consultation recently launched by Buckinghamshire Council is giving residents until April 7 to have their say on how High Wycombe is governed – amid growing calls for hyper-local governance from a newly-created town council.  

Cllr Khalil Ahmed, who alongside fellow former mayor Trevor Snaith, has been a prominent voice calling for the creation of a Wycombe Town Council for years, has accused the committee of being “out of touch” and “immune to the needs of the town” in a new statement.

The committee is an advisory body formed of former Wycombe District councillors who oversee the functions normally looked after by a town council – though has no decision-making powers of its own.

It also possesses nearly £800,000 in reserve funds – money that Cllr Ahmed believes is not being used effectively or towards worthy causes.

He said: “The committee has thousands of pounds in reserves to be used for a rainy day, (but) has failed to realise that it has been raining in Wycombe for the last few years.

“Over the last few weeks, we have been talking to lots of people in the town about High Wycombe having its own town council. One of the major concerns that was on people’s minds was the likely increase in council tax.

“Yet the committee has an annual budget of £384,000 made up from a precept applied to council tax. That money is sitting in reserves that should be used for the betterment of this town.

“Before the creation of Buckinghamshire Council, Wycombe District Council had reserves of over £74 million, all of which went into the central pot for Buckinghamshire Council and what did Wycombe get? Nothing.

“Why not let Wycombe have its own town council, spend the reserves on its people and let them make it the great town it once was?”

However, Councillor Sarfaraz Khan Raja, chairman of the committee, has disputed Cllr Ahmed’s claims – particularly those that the committee has access to large sums of money it is refusing to spend on the town.

He said: “The reserve figure of £800,000 is a projection for 2024, and reserves are used for urgent and unforeseen events or capital investment projects.

“In the past, the committee has used its reserve to invest in the new Penn Road cemetery, to rescue Totteridge Social Club which was at risk of closure and to reinforce the War Memorial foundations when the land underneath it collapsed.”

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He also cast doubt upon the claim that Buckinghamshire Council has neglected Wycombe since its formation in 2020.

“Committee members are involved in the Buckinghamshire Regeneration Board, with funding for various regeneration schemes in Wycombe, and the council contributes £3 million to the £15 million Future High Street Fund, with the balance provided by the national government.”

Wycombe District Council was merged into Buckinghamshire Council in 2020, replacing other former local authorities including Buckinghamshire County Council and the Aylesbury Vale District Council.

The unitary authority is based on Gatehouse Road in Aylesbury.

Despite Cllr Raja’s assertions, calls for a new lower-rung of government in Wycombe were near-unanimous on the town’s High Street earlier this month.

Residents told the Free Press that “local people” should be at the forefront of “local democracy”, rather than the town's issues being dealt with by "people sitting far away in Aylesbury".

They also expressed a “lack of pride” in their local area, with Dimitri Matheou, owner of Cutler’s barbershop criticising the state of the town centre.

He said: “So many independent shops in Wycombe are dying because they only have two or three people coming in a day.

“People don’t want to come down here anymore. We’re hanging on by the skin of our teeth, and the council doesn’t seem to care.”

More information on the governance of High Wycombe and on how to have your say can be found here: https://yourvoicebucks.citizenspace.com/corporate-services/high-wycombe-cgr/.