Business case on the way for Nottinghamshire ‘super council’

Nottinghamshire has decided to proceed with a formal business case setting out plans to replace the current two-tier system in the region with a unitary authority after a vote was passed in yesterday’s Full Council meeting.

By a slight margin of 35 to 30 votes, members at the meeting agreed to put forward a business case for a major reorganisation of the county council, which, if approved at a later meeting, will be passed on to communities secretary James Brokenshire – who has already signalled support for government reform.

Under current arrangements, services such as housing, waste collection, leisure and environmental health are provided by seven district and borough councils, while others – such as social care, schools, waste disposal, highways and libraries – are delivered by the county council.

A new unitary authority would bring together all those functions to help save an estimated £20-30m every year as a result of smaller running costs and less red tape.

Cllr Kay Cutts, Nottinghamshire County Council leader, who earlier this week reaffirmed her support for the plans, said: “The argument for a new, unitary council to deliver services in Nottinghamshire is a compelling one and I am pleased that the council has sanctioned this important step forward to develop a comprehensive business case.

“I hear a lot from residents who are fed-up with being passed from authority to authority, depending on the issue and frustrated by the lack of joined-up thinking which is an inevitable consequence of the current two-tier system, no matter how closely the two tiers of local government try to work together.”

As well as greater accountability and clarity around services, a new ‘super council’ would give Nottinghamshire a “much louder, more influential voice within national government,” thus ensuring the region has a bigger chance of attracting investment and infrastructure improvements that it currently misses out on.

It would also boost the chances of “meaningful closer working” with other East Midlands councils and, ultimately, devolution deals.

“The whole future of local public services in Nottinghamshire is at a crossroads,” continued Cutts. “With eight years of significant reductions in funding already behind us – and faced with the prospect of further reductions to come – the only option to fundamental change to the current two-tier system is significant cutbacks to the services we rely upon and cherish, coupled with punishing increases in council tax. I don’t think that is in the best interests of anyone.

“Under current arrangements, people are effectively paying for two sets of councillors, two senior management teams and two lots of back office functions. A unitary council for Nottinghamshire would enable us to pool our resources and make significant reductions in running costs.”

She assured members that her organisation is not proposing a county council takeover, but an entirely new council built on the best practice of existing district, borough and county authorities.

Cutts has also recently agreed to discuss a “strategic alliance” with other council leaders in an effort to unify the region’s voice, although any sort of devolution deal would be quite a way off.


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