Monday 2 October 2023
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Government could send in commissioners to city council from next month if improvements not enough

The leader of Nottingham City Council says he still cannot be certain the authority will avoid stricter Government intervention if its progress is not deemed fast enough – and fears yet more power could be given to a board checking its performance.

The Improvement and Assurances Board (IAB), independently chaired by Sir Tony Redmond, was appointed by the Government following the collapse of Robin Hood Energy.

The board has been overseeing improvements at the Labour-run council and, should it fail to adequately improve, the Government could send in a team of commissioners to take full control.

The move is seen as a controversial last-ditch measure as it effectively means the authority is run by unelected Government officials, rather than locally-elected councillors.

So far the council has avoided commissioner intervention on two occasions, however, Sir Tony was given stronger powers to instruct the council to complete tasks by certain deadlines.

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In February this year, the council was given 39 instructions with deadlines ranging from September to March next year.

In July Sir Tony sent his report outlining the council’s progress to meet these to the Government for review, and a decision on any further intervention is now expected in October.

During a Corporate Scrutiny Committee meeting on September 13, council leader Cllr David Mellen (Lab), said: “Sir Tony wrote a report, which is not in the public arena yet, in July and that is being considered by ministers and there will be a response to that, we understand, next month.

“Although there are ones we are pretty confident we have kept, ones where Sir Tony has indicated well no, you are not completely there with that, you still need to concentrate on that, and ones that are not yet timed.”

Cllr Mellen was asked by committee members if any additional concerns had been raised over the council’s work to meet the instructions.

He replied to say: “Yes.”

Five instructions had a deadline of the end of September, including the finalising of historic accounts, including those relating to Robin Hood Energy.

The council was also tasked with outlining its progress to sell property assets to reduce debt, as well as developments in its workforce and improvements to Children’s Services following Ofsted’s ‘inadequate’ rating.

A group, called the Shareholder Unit, was also put together to look at council companies and their operational effectiveness, and a review of the group had to be completed by the end of September to see if it has been working as intended.

Cllr Mellen added: “I said to Sir Tony early on in this process, you know, will you get to the stage where you say: ‘Tick, that’s done’?

“He said no I will never do that, you will always need to concentrate on them.

“So it is kind of a never-ending thing.

“Can I predict what the Conservative minister is going to do next month? No, I can’t.

“There has been progress made, but if you had Sir Tony Redmond in the room he would say not fast enough, not enough.

“So we are working hard, we are trying hard, I can’t be sure to say ‘no, there is not going to be commissioners’.

“I think it might well be Sir Tony has more power to issue more instructions, I think that is quite likely.”

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