Lib Dems have reacted furiously today to the Conservative leaders of Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire announcing plans to form a "combined authority" for the three counties.
"Everything we have seen from this County Council in the last few years has been a dogmatic move away from democracy and away from accountability" commented Cllr. Brendan Glynane (Lib Dem, Delapre and Rushmere), leader of the Lib Dems at County Hall. "Already the towns of our County suffer under the leadership of rural Tories with different priorities and different beliefs. This move will silence the voice of the towns, especially Northampton and Corby, even further."
"The logistics of this Council are getting completely farcical. We are burying our town and our County in a pile of red tape, dead weight and old-world Tory dogma. Yes we need collaborative working so that there is a strategic view, but we need less organisations not more, and they should be local, and they should be democratic."
Northamptonshire has two "Local Enterprise Partnerships", one covering Northamptonshire alone (NEP), and another working with Milton Keynes and Bedford (SEMLEP), The "Local Government Shared Services" body, which is a partnership with Cambridgeshire and Norwich (LGSS), a County Council, 7 district Councils, parishes and now, to top it all, a further, separate alliance with Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. All of them have a brief regarding economic development or procurement. Further more, this announcement comes ahead of a national debate on Devolution of powers in England, which could end up creating even more bodies of authority.
Cllr. Glynane concluded "The whole thing is utterly absurd, reactive idiocy born of complete panic. The bankruptcy of the County Council is just over the hill, and the Tories can't deny any longer that their blind, short sighted leadership has led us to the brink of disaster. Now they are trying to throw out any lifeline that pops into their heads. People want less Councils, less layers of bureaucracy, less meetings and better services. This keeps Harker and his counterpart cronies in charge, but offers no benefit and less power for local people."