Councillors will decide next week whether to press ahead with a formal public consultation on plans to create a new unitary authority which would be responsible for providing all council services in Nottinghamshire and deliver annual savings of £27 million on the current two-tier system.
A detailed study of the potential options for local government reorganisation in the area, published today (Wednesday 4 December), has concluded that one unitary council for Nottinghamshire would be best placed to deliver five key aims:
- A stronger local voice for residents
- A single, strategic voice speaking up for the area
- A more prosperous Nottinghamshire
- Improved health and wellbeing for local communities
- Better services, drawing on best practice from all current authorities in the county
- Councillors will consider the report and decide on next steps at the Full Council meeting on 13 December.
Under the preferred option, the current two-tier system of a county council and seven district and borough councils serving Nottinghamshire – which has been in place since 1974 – would be replaced by one new council covering the whole area.
A detailed financial assessment of the proposal shows that the change would save £27 million PER YEAR in running costs through reductions in senior management positions, support services, the overall number of councillors, the amount spent on elections and buildings and by aligning similar services. The estimated cost setting up the new authority would be £19m, paid off over two years.
The financial analysis has been independently verified by Deloitte’s, who described the financial modelling work carried out as ‘robust’.
To protect and enhance local democracy, the proposals would include an increase in the number of councillors serving every community compared to the current number of county councillors, the introduction of area planning committees to consider local planning applications and a new devolution offer to town and parish councils to deliver ‘ultra-local’ services.
Councillor Kay Cutts MBE, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council said: “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.
“Over the last five years, councils in Nottinghamshire have seen a £120 million reduction in their main source of government funding, at a time when there is increasing demand on services with population growth and an increasing need of older people requiring care.
“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.
“I hope members of the Council will join me in progressing these proposals to the next stage and give local people the opportunity to give their views on our vision for 21st-century local government services for Nottinghamshire, a place which is vibrant and inclusive, aspirational and ambitious.”
The strengths and weaknesses of five options for the future shape of local government are analysed in the document, including retaining the status quo and three variations of two new unitary councils covering Nottinghamshire.
The first stage of public engagement work, which gave residents, businesses and other stakeholders the opportunity to give their opinion on the prospect of potential changes to the current system of local government in the county produced a mixed response. But a consistent theme from all groups asked was the need for more information on specific models to help form an informed opinion.
It is proposed that the phase two consultation will be a formal exercise, providing more detail on the preferred option and other potential alternatives.
A copy of the outline case for change documents, plus other detailed background documents, such as the financial analysis and full consultation report by the independent polling company, ORS, is available to download from the website www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/futurenotts