Friday 23 February 2024
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Council making ‘good progress’ on improvements but still no announcement on Government intervention, minister says

Nottingham City Council is making “good progress” on its improvement plans but the final decision on whether Government commissioners will be sent in still has no clear timeframe.

Local Government Secretary Greg Clark is reading through submissions before deciding whether to intervene at the Labour-run authority.

The council is currently being monitored by a Government-appointed board after the collapse of Robin Hood Energy in January 2020, costing the taxpayer around £38m.

On June 23, then Secretary of State Michael Gove said he was ‘minded to intervene’ with commissioners after it was revealed up to £40m of ringfenced cash from the council’s housing revenue account had been misspent.

If commissioners are called in, financial decisions could be taken out of the hands of elected members and senior officers.

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At the time of the June announcement, the Government asked ‘all interested parties’ to make representations about the proposed interventions by July 7.

Councillor David Mellen (Lab), the city council’s leader, confirmed earlier this month ministers had received 25 letters supporting the city council.

He said he had also personally appealed for the Government not to intervene.

But upheaval in Westminister before Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood down means the two ministers involved in the decision – Michael Gove and Kemi Badenoch – left the Government department.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said earlier this month that it is “considering [the] representations” and will make a decision “in due course”.

And speaking on Tuesday (August 30) Mr Clark, Michael Gove’s successor, refused to rule out sending commissioners in – but also gave no firm timetable for a final decision.

However, he did praise the progress being made by senior leadership at the council.

Mr Clark said: “I want to think carefully about the reports I’ve had. I would say there are improvements being made in Nottingham and over the next few weeks, we will make an announcement.

“I want to reinforce the improvements that are being made under the current leader, and his work very collaboratively with colleagues across the region shows things are turning around.

“I’m looking very carefully at these representations. A lot of those have commented about good progress, especially in terms of jobs and investments across the city.”

The Labour-run council is already being monitored by a Government-appointed improvement board, chaired by Sir Tony Redmond.

Sir Tony would be appointed as lead commissioner if the Government makes the call for them to be called in.

But speaking at the signing of the East Midlands devolution deal, Cllr Mellen told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he doesn’t believe commissioners are necessary.

He said: “I’ve had conversations with Mr Clark and reassured him that our improvement journey is working.

“Our relationship with the improvement board is productive and, in my view, we don’t need commissioners. But, at the end of the day, that’s a Government decision.

“I think the fact that my council is working pragmatically with local authorities of different political colours shows a maturity and a willingness to move forward with what is best for our area.

“I’m hoping maybe there won’t be commissioners but I think that is still unlikely.”

An announcement on the commissioners is widely expected to take place after a new Government is formed under either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak – which could again lead to a change in leadership in Mr Clark’s department.

The new Prime Minister will be announced on Monday, September 5, following the end of a ballot of Conservative Party Members.

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