The leader of Bucks County Council (BCC) has slammed the four district councils for spending taxpayers’ money and has said he feels ‘like a spurned date’.
Martin Tett has lashed out at a decision made by Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe to commission an independent review of local government, branding it ‘bizarre’ they had ‘refused’ an offer by BCC to work together.
Last month the four councils announced they had jointly commissioned a study into the future of local government in Bucks, arguing that by working together and sharing the costs each council will ensure they offer value for money to local tax payers.
But Mr Tett has expressed annoyance that the county council’s offer to ‘sit round the table’ was rejected: “Why spend all that money on management consultants? Why would you pay them when we could have done it as a team, which is what our residents expect?”
He also criticised the length of time it took the councils to respond to a letter he sent out in May and said he has had no communication with any of the districts, calling it ‘strange’.
He added: “I feel like a spurned date - nobody’s written, nobody’s called.”
In a statement released to the media Mr Tett said: “We welcome the fact that the four district councils have all now recognised the need to modernise local government.
" But we have been clear for some time that local government can no longer afford the muddle and cost of having parish/town, district and county councils covering the same area.
"Why do we need so many chief executives, finance and personnel departments etc, when we should be spending this money on services for residents?
“We are disappointed that the four district councils have apparently chosen to commit £200,000 of hard pressed taxpayers’ money on external management consultants without discussing their ideas with the county council.
“The county council took the decision in early May to look at options for modernising local government in Buckinghamshire including developing a business case for a new, single unitary council, and we invited the district councils to work with us in evaluating any other options based on common methodology and shared evidence base.
“The fact that the district leaders have refused to work with us and indeed have used taxpayers’ money to fund expensive management consultants is regrettable.
“Our business case is still in development but one of the exciting parts of it is how we want to hand decision-making on local services back fully to local communities.
"This would really empower residents to decide what happens in their own local areas on the services that are important to them.
"We also know the massive financial savings that could be achieved by a new, single council through increased economies of scale.
“I urge the District Councils to come together with us, work together and evaluate all options objectively so that they can be presented to Government for a decision.”
A spokesperson for Chiltern and South Bucks said they are in the process of commissioning a consultancy but the cost will not be known until the proposals come in.
The spokesperson added: “We are commissioning an independent review so that a range of options for modernising local government in Bucks can be considered.
“We are seeking the best value for money we can and will share the costs across the districts. The funding will not only cover the study but the equally important work of engaging with our communities.
“We do not have the resources in-house to undertake this specialist piece of work and we want to ensure the review is independent and objective.
“BCC were quite clear in their intention of working up a business case for a single unitary council for Bucks.
“The four district leaders consulted their members who expressed concern at funding a study in which the outcome appeared to be pre-determined and they were in favour of an impartial, objective and totally independent study.”
“The [BCC letter] came without advance warning and the four districts wanted to give the offer very careful consideration. This is an extremely important piece of work which will inform how local government in Bucks could look in the future.”