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25.09.18

Exclusive: Notts leader rejects calls for council merger referendum, public decision due in May

The leader of Nottinghamshire County Council has rejected calls from opposing councillors to put potential merger plans to a referendum, arguing that it could lead to opposing organisations attempting to railroad the vote.

Speaking exclusively to PSE, leader Cllr Kay Cutts argued that a local referendum was “a very expensive way of doing a consultation” and clarified that the council aims to have an independent company come in and conduct the consultation in a bid to take in every local’s views on the merger proposals.

Cllr Cutts reaffirmed her support for the current two-tier structure to be changed into a unitary structure, and said today that the business case is being formulated for the proposals to be taken to a public consultation in December, with a final decision to be made in May.

The Notts CC leader backed plans to abolish the current structure of seven district/borough councils within Nottinghamshire and combine them with Nottinghamshire County Council in proposals that could lead to up to £28m in savings. The county council needs to make £54m in savings in total.

Opposing councillors, including leader of Ashfield Independents Cllr Jason Zadrozny, suggested that the plans should be taken to the people in the form of a referendum— yet Cllr Cutts argued that a referendum is expensive and could be impacted by contrasting sides of the debate.

“I think that’s a very expensive way of doing a consultation,” she said. “Our plans are to have a consultation with an independent company coming in— they will carry out face-to-face interviews which will include the usual sort of 1,000-selection places which will have card copies of the questions in the libraries. We will try to get to as many people in Notts to hear their point of view—no one is going to be excluded.”

She added: “Running a referendum is a sort of ticket for some organisations to go out there and to railroad the vote in one particular way. You and I both lived through the Brexit vote; the one that they [the politicians] thought was going to win did not win, and we got the result that the people wanted. I hope that this way we’re going to get the result that the people want, and not the politicians want.”

The Nottinghamshire local authority leader added that councillors have a “moral duty” to try and make the necessary savings out of a “loyalty to the people who pay for them; that’s the public.”

“They’re our electorate; that’s our first role in life and we have to do that. I’m disappointed if some of my colleagues in other parties don’t see that that’s what our first duty is, but that’s where my duties lie,” she added.

In July, Gedling Borough Council outlined its challenge against the merger, claiming that the proposal was a “ridiculous, ill-thought-through attempt at a takeover.”

 

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