The Government has announced today that it has decided not to appoint Commissioners at Nottingham City Council, which it had previously indicated it was minded do back in June, but will instead strengthen the powers of the independent Improvement and Assurance Board currently overseeing progress on improvements at the council.
The decision has been welcomed by the council which sent a formal letter of representation to the Government last month outlining why it believed the current support arrangements in place through the IAB had been working well and that its preference was for these to remain in place.
In practice the Government’s decision will mean that recommendations from the IAB in relation to the council’s ‘Together for Nottingham’ improvement plan will now have the weight of Statutory Direction. In short, the IAB will have the power to direct the council in relation to its improvement programme, in addition to offering advice.
The Chair of the IAB, Sir Tony Redmond, will be required to provide a formal review of progress in three months’ time which will be considered by the Secretary of State.
Working with the IAB, the council has made significant progress on improvements over the last 18 months, which include:
- Agreeing a balanced Medium-Term Financial Plan for the next four years, a key requirement of the non-statutory review, and within that a balanced budget for this year without the need for any other financial support or intervention
- Reducing debt levels and taking a strategic approach to disposing of property assets to bring an income to the council
- Carrying out a review of council-owned companies including bringing Enviroenergy in-house; selling Thomas Bow and transferring housing services back to the council
- Identifying and responding to issues with unlawful HRA misallocation – commissioning and implementing recommendations from two independent reports
- Working with bodies such as the Local Government Association and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy on implementing best practices at the council
- Implementing a modernised Council Constitution, including a new Councillor-Officer protocol
The Government’s announcement follows the council’s own discovery – as part of its ongoing improvement work – that it had unlawfully allocated Housing Revenue Account (HRA) funds to its General Fund. Action is being taken to remedy this issue, including placing funds back in the HRA and bringing the council’s housing management function back in-house.
City Council Leader, Councillor David Mellen, said: “The decision not to appoint Commissioners shows that our representations about the positive progress we were making with the current Improvement and Assurance Board have been listened to and taken into account by the Government.
“I would like to thank the significant number of partners and stakeholders who wrote to the Government in support of the council and the progress we were making. This was acknowledged by the Secretary of State who said that he wants to offer help not punishment.
“We know there is a lot more work to do but we have demonstrated our determination to address the issues which led to the non-statutory review and I am confident we will continue to work well with the Board to make the progress needed to emerge a better council.”
Chief Executive, Mel Barrett said: “We have had a positive relationship with Sir Tony Redmond and the Improvement and Assurance Board and have valued their support and challenge as part of our improvement journey. I have no doubt this will continue as we work together in the interest of providing services in the best possible way for Nottingham residents.
“It is reassuring that Government has identified that our Together for Nottingham recovery and improvement plan remains the basis of the council’s required improvement, but we understand the pace of improvement needs to increase and that the plan will need to be reappraised to ensure we continue to head in the right direction.
“We will continue to support our dedicated and committed staff in the highly valued work they do to provide vital services to city residents and continue to engage constructively with partners.”
In addition to its Chair, Sir Tony Redmond, the IAB also includes Sean Nolan as finance lead; Robin Hughes as companies lead and City Council Leader, Cllr David Mellen.