Milton Keynes Council has formally written to Buckinghamshire County Council with an offer to save Thrift Farm ahead of a meeting that could see Bucks agree to close the service.
Labour-run MK Council’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Hannah O’Neill, has written directly to her counterpart on Bucks County Council, Cllr Lin Hazell, setting out that MK Council is willing to keep the service open and take responsibility for the farm in the long-term, including making investment in the site, if Bucks CC transfers the ownership of land to MKC and commit to funding any overspend on the service for two years. MK Council say that transfer of the freehold is necessary to allow it to invest in the site, but would be happy to offer any guarantees the County requires about future use of the land.
Thrift Farm, on the edge of Milton Keynes but in Tory-run Buckinghamshire County Council’s local authority area, is threatened with closure as the County seeks to make drastic cuts to avoid a Northamptonshire-style meltdown. Last month it had to defend an overspend of £10m in their children’s services department that have been rated as “Inadequate” by OFSTED as recently as early January 2019.
Cllr O’Neill has requested that Bucks County Council withdraw the paper due to go to their Cabinet tonight to allow them to negotiate with MK Council to save the service.
Cllr Hannah O’Neill, MK Council Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing said: “Labour-run MK Council stands ready to help save Thrift Farm from closure by Tory-run Bucks County Council. We have now made them a serious offer and we hope they will listen.”
She continued: “We don’t believe Bucks CC are really committed to saving the service. Our primary concern is the well-being of our service users. The fact that Bucks CC told our service users of the threat to close the farm without discussion with us has caused vulnerable people a level of upset that was totally unnecessary. It could have so easily been avoided. We fully understand the pressure on local authority finances, and it must be especially hard as Buckinghamshire are seemingly unable to control their huge overspending in their children’s services, but we are putting a plan to them to save Thrift Farm.”
She concluded: “We have put a serious offer on the table. I am calling on Bucks CC to withdraw their paper to Cabinet and the threat to Thrift Farm, and work with us to save this valuable community service.”