Nottingham City Council is currently in the dark over whether government commissioners will take over the local authority.
The council is under the watchful eye of the government following the demise of Robin Hood Energy – a council-owned company which left taxpayers with an anticipated £38m bill.
The council was told it has until March to achieve ‘financial resilience’ or government commissioners could be called in to run the local authority in the future.
The council has created a medium-term financial plan which shows where £38m of savings will fall over the next four years. It will be approved by full council next week.
This includes closing five children’s centres and reducing its youth workers and community buildings across the city as part of plans to claw back £28m this year.
It has also adopted a transformation programme, which aims to save more than £30m, and includes changing the way the council runs its departments.
Following the collapse of Robin Hood Energy, the government set up an Improvement and Assurance Board chaired by former government ombudsman, Sir Tony Redmond.
Sir Tony reports back to the government quarterly on the council’s progress.
But a fourth report has yet to be signed off from government with a response on his findings. The last report from government was on November 2.
Cllr David Mellen (Lab), leader of the council, said Sir Tony is now in the process of writing his fifth report.
The council has always said it will continue to make the changes it needs to achieve and is in constant conversation with Sir Tony.
Speaking to councillors at an audit committee on Friday, 25 February, Cllr Mellen said:
“There has been a change of minister, but I don’t think that’s a good enough excuse.
“We are on time with our reports to them and they are very much not on time with their response to us. But we have been told this week the response has been agreed – it will probably be published before it is sent to us, and we will look at that in the next few days.”
Councillors asked the leader what the improvement board thought about the council’s transformation programme.
Cllr Mellen said: “They are holding us to account – but I do believe that they want us to succeed, even if they are being tough and being fair and complementary about the progress made.
“We are still part of a journey and not taking anything for granted. We hope the destiny of the council is run by this council and not by someone else like in other local authorities.”
Speaking about the council’s borrowing, which at one point sat at nearly £1bn, he said: “It gave us income and helped us have one of the best public transport (networks) outside of London like the tram.
“Every authority has borrowing but ours was probably too high and we are reducing it significantly. It does not mean we won’t borrow again.”
A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesman said:
“The Improvement and Assurance Board continues its work to ensure the council improves the services provided to Nottingham residents. The report will be published in due course.”