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Despite opposition, Nottinghamshire submits case for new unitary authority

Plans for the creation of a new unitary authority responsible for providing all public services in Nottinghamshire have been published by the county council as it looks to deliver £27m annual savings.

Nottinghamshire CC will decide next week whether to press ahead with a formal public consultation regarding the change from the current two-tier system to a single unitary authority in a move that would abolish the county’s seven borough and district councils.

The council conducted a detailed study of the potential options for the local government reorganisation, and found that one unitary authority would support better services, improved health and wellbeing for local communities, and a more prosperous Nottinghamshire.

The report, which will be considered by the county council on 13 December, states that £27m of annual savings would be made by reducing senior management, support services, the total number of councillors in the region, and spend on elections and buildings.

It says aligning services will also allow the authority to draw on best practice from all current councils in the county, and the move would provide a “single, strategic voice speaking up for the area.”

Its estimated that the new authority will cost around £19m over two years to set up, and would see “ultra-local services” delivered by town and parish councils in a new devolution deal.

Kay Cutts, leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, who recently spoke to PSE about local government reform in her area, commented: “All local authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, plus 55 areas of England are unitary councils.

“And while a growing number of two-tier areas are exploring options to follow suit, no unitary authorities are contemplating bringing in another, unnecessary layer of local government, with the additional bureaucracy that goes with it.”

Nottinghamshire has had to make savings of £120m over the last five years due to reductions in government funding, against a backdrop of rising demand for public services such as social care.

Cutts added: “Aside from addressing the financial climate Nottinghamshire councils are operating within, the study shows that a unitary authority could deliver significant improvements to services, blending best practice from all eight councils to ensure you receive access to the highest-quality services, regardless of where you live in Nottinghamshire.

“The Outline Case for Change document is a detailed, reasoned assessment of the current challenges facing local government in Nottinghamshire and offers an opportunity to significantly improve our ability to grow the local economy and deliver better outcomes for all our residents.”

Nottinghamshire decided to proceed with a formal business case for the unitary authority in July,  and the plans were considered by the county council in September after councillors met in a series of cross-party discussions considering the reorganisation.

But earlier in the year, Gedling Borough Council voted to oppose the ‘mega-merger’ and called on Cllr Cutts to “re-engage with leaders of all councils, work transparently and to lobby central government for fairer funding in the region instead of attempting to redraw council boundaries.”

Image credit - John Jennings

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