Nottinghamshire County Council structure reshuffle halted in face of criticism

Plans to reorganise the structure of Nottinghamshire County Council into a unitary authority have been shelved, the council’s leader has announced today.

Cllr Kay Cutts, leader of the authority, previously threw her support behind the proposals that would see the existing two-tier structure — comprised of seven district and borough councils and one county council — abolished in favour of one single unitary council as Nottinghamshire looks to cut costs and tackle the £27m savings target at the end of each financial year.

However, the proposals were met with fierce criticism from leaders and councillors of the local district and borough councils in the area, who labelled the plans “an unwelcome and disappointing decision” and argued that the county council lacked transparency and should lobby central government for fairer funding.

Speaking to PSE in September, Cllr Cutts hit back at critics who were concerned about the lack of communication between the county council and district councils, with the authority leader arguing that Notts CC is the “most open and transparent council there is.”

Today, Cllr Cutts announced that the plans would go on hold whilst the council takes “more time to reflect.”

“Everyone knows I believe that the current system of local government is unsustainable,” read the statement from Cllr Cutts.

“Our outline business case supports my view that there is a better way to plan and deliver services for local people who pay for them out of their taxes.

"However, I accept that my view is not universally supported. After meeting with district council leaders and chief executives and after much reflection, I have decided to withdraw the outline business case from Thursday’s county council meeting.

"I have listened to all the voices on my own and opposition benches and decided to pause and take more time to reflect.

"Nonetheless there is no simple solution to the significant financial challenges we face and savings will still have to be made to close the funding gap. We will need to consider radical solutions and not just look at back office functions.”

Cllr Cutts suggested that the council consider different options such as one organisation providing trading standards and environmental health services across the county, harmonising bin collections for economies of scale; and any other potential merger routes, such as creating multiple smaller unitary councils.

The Notts CC leader went on to say that “every effort will be made to protect those who rely on council services,” but all other spending will be seriously considered in both the short and long term.

"I know I can rely on colleagues from all sides to help find the way through the current financial situation, which is not of this council’s making, in the interests of the people we were all elected to serve,” she concluded.

In November, when discussing how the council would deal with surging pressures on children’s services, Cllr Cutts argued that she “cannot magic money out of the air.”

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