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March 2015
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By County Councillor Tricia Birchley

2015 is off to a good start for Buckinghamshire’s economy with Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities signing the new Bucks Growth Deal at Westcott Venture Park in late January, which means £73 million of new investment into the county.

This embraces investment into new roads connecting development areas with the main road network in Aylesbury, opening new employment sites in High Wycombe, transforming the Amersham and Wycombe College estate, supporting innovative new broadband and mobile technologies and improving connectivity to Cross Rail and East West Rail. The Bucks Local Enterprise Partnership punches well above its weight!

Unitary benefits?
Aylesbury Vale District Council is energetically pursuing a unitary authority in the north of the county. However when the business community first raised the idea, the overwhelming benefit to local council tax-payers came from proposals for one unitary authority to cover the whole county. Nearly 40% of BCC’s budget is spent on adult social care and public health and I cannot imagine what benefits there would be for vulnerable people if this activity was split in two.

Aylesbury Vale has a proposed budget for 2015/16 of just under £21 million whereas we will be spending almost £200 million on services for older and disabled people. The old Primary Care Trust, now the Clinical Commissioning Groups, are split into one for the north and Chiltern in the south and this sort of duplication is something we would seek to avoid.

Meanwhile we know that the number of people requiring social care is set to rise by over 30% in the next 12 years and the number of expensive learning disability placements is also predicted to increase. You will know already that the County Council drives a hard bargain with really excellent bench-marking, showing that if our social care costs were at the same level as other local authorities we would need a £6 million budget increase.

Roads and rail
Throughout the cold weather the roads have been regularly gritted and the gritting team has been out and about listening to local concerns and explaining its role at local area forums. A lot of patching work has been carried out on our rural roads this winter. With new money likely to be available from government for local roads, I continue to press for resurfacing the roads which are now worn out after years of patching.

It will be interesting to see whether the government softens its stance on HS2 in the weeks leading up to the general election; news of a tunnel now would be very welcome.

Through Nick Rose and local councillors,’s work in providing plans for a viable tunnel continues. We also hope the Need to Sell Scheme will be more generous and widely available to affected residents than the Exceptional Hardship Scheme.

No doubt a decision will be made after the election on future runway capacity and then it would be more appropriate to re-consider the route for a high speed train. Please let me know if I can raise your concerns with officers at County Hall. Email: pbirchley@buckscc.gov.uk

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