A county councillor has backed the outgoing chief executive’s calls for the two-tier council system to be scrapped in favour of a unitary council, saying the county “cannot afford” to have five councils any longer.

Cllr Peter Hardy, who has held top jobs in the county council including a cabinet role for finance and resources and transport, as well as being former leader of South Bucks District Council, said Chief Executive Chris Williams’ calls for a “wholesale shake-up” of the “prehistoric” system in an open letter released yesterday should be taken “absolutely seriously.”

He said: “I think this is an old argument, an old proposal, but I think it is something we should take very seriously at this moment.

“The county council, and I believe the district councils, are struggling very much to provide the services that they are required to do within the budgets we have.

“Simply, we cannot afford to have five councils in Bucks any longer. We need to amalgamate them. I think Chris is absolutely right to call for that.”

Speaking to town councillors in Gerrards Cross last night, Cllr Hardy warned that Bucks could become “fragmented” in a similar way to Oxfordshire, which is faced with proposals to abolish the county council, splitting the county into four unitary authorities and encompassing parts of Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire, if they do not think about the possibility of changing the council structure now.

He said: “Unless we have a proposal for a coherent structure for Buckinghamshire, we are in danger of being fragmented into other authorities across the border, with serious consequences for the policies we hold most dear, including protecting the green belt and keeping Buckinghamshire special.

“The structure of local government is changing very quickly beneath our feet. I think we need to take this future structure very seriously because it will impact on all of our lives quite a lot. It is not an abstract discussion anymore.

“A single Buckinghamshire would be the best option for everybody. I fully back Chris Williams’ letter and hope colleagues in districts and county will take his proposals very seriously.”

Chris Williams will leave his £214k role on Thursday, after announcing his retirement in December.