Parishes sign devolution deal

  |  Published: Apr 12th 2015
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Five parishes in the Risborough area became the first consortium to sign a deal to take over responsibility for a raft of County Council jobs, such as grass cutting, road sign cleaning, weeding and hedge trimming.

From Wednesday April 1 parishes across Buckinghamshire can opt to take on a raft of devolved highways tasks locally. So far 27 individual parishes have committed to the devolution scheme, and 21 parishes have signed agreements.

The Princes Risborough consortium - the Town Council and parish councils of Bledlow-cum-Saunderton, Bradenham, Lacey Green, and Longwick-cum-Ilmer - became the first group to formally sign, meeting Martin Phillips, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement at County Hall Wednesday March 25.
The consortium has been given £28,282 of Buckinghamshie County Council's £908,894 urban transport budget, which is available to parishes to cut grass, maintain and repair bollards, signs and village 'gates', oversee hedge trimming, weeding footways, rights-of-way clearing, and illegal sign removal.

Neil Gibson, Managing Director, Buckinghamshire County Council Transport, Economy and Environment, said there were many things parishes and towns were better placed to do locally than principal authorities, such as the County Council.

'The partnerships so many towns and parishes are developing add value to their local communities,' he said. 'At a time all our budgets are under extreme pressure they're playing a crucial role in doing things more efficiently and more economically at neighbourhood level.' 

Princes Risborough Town Councillor Matthew Walsh said the consortium were looking forward to having greater local control and flexibility.

'The devolution arrangement makes us much lighter on our feet,' said Matthew. 'For example, if a village wants the grass cut just before its grand fete, it can be done more easily. It's about allowing parishes to do what suits them, when it suits them.'  

Among the early consortia of parishes to sign-up are Aylesbury, which has £123,752 of the urban transport budget, and Amersham, £43,400, to provide devolved services. Buckingham and Winslow Town Councils are intending to sign their own devolution agreements with the County Council.

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