Time is running out if you want to share your views on significant changes that could be made to the way council services are provided in Nottinghamshire.
People living in the county are currently served by at least two councils – a district or borough council providing services like refuse collection, leisure centres and council tax collection and Nottinghamshire County Council which is responsible for larger scale services such as social care, highways and education.
Nottinghamshire County Council is gathering evidence about the impact of switching from the current two-tier system of local government in the county, to a single tier, known as a unitary council which would be responsible for providing all local services.
The Council believes that replacing the eight existing District, Borough and County Councils with one or two unitary councils could lead to significant financial savings and more effective, joined-up, consistent services across the county.
Throughout October, independent social research company, ORS is working on behalf of the County Council to gather the views of residents, businesses, councils and other stakeholders . Almost 1,600 responses have already been received to a questionnaire – significantly higher than had been anticipated.
The questionnaire will be available to complete online at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/futurenotts or in hard copy format at all Nottinghamshire libraries until Wednesday 31 October.
This first phase of the public engagement work has also included focus groups with members of the public from across the county and meetings with district councils, parish councils, businesses and the voluntary sector.
This initial gathering of evidence is not a formal consultation – but the views of local people and organisations are extremely important, as they will help to shape any potential future plans for re-structuring in the future.
Councillors will consider responses to this first phase of public engagement alongside a raft of other evidence at the Full Council meeting on 13 December, when they will decide whether or not to pursue a preferred option for change. If the Council agrees to proceed with a preferred option for change, it would formally consult the public on the proposal next year.
Councillor Kay Cutts, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “Aside from Nottingham City Council’s switch to a unitary council system in 1998, the current structure of local government has been unchanged since 1974, so a serious review of that structure and how it could be improved for the benefit of our residents is long overdue. Although this is being driven by the financial predicament local councils are in, in truth it is a conversation we should have been having anyway.
“There have been substantial reductions in the funding we receive from Government to provide services, combined with increasing demand for our social care services. This means we are facing the prospect of huge cuts to frontline services and significant increases in council tax, every year – unless there is a fundamental change in the way we currently operate.
“A change to a unitary system of local government would bring Nottinghamshire into line with most areas of the UK and appears to be a sustainable alternative to the unpalatable cuts we are facing. It would certainly improve services, make them more streamlined and more accessible for our residents.
“Through the public engagement we are open to listening to other options and I would encourage those that oppose change to the current system to engage with us and bring forward viable, alternative options which address the £54m budget gap our services face.
“If you haven’t already taken part in the initial public engagement, I would urge you to do so. Local government services affect us all, so this is a very important conversation. Please read the Future Nottinghamshire document which sets out the current position and let us know your views.”
The public engagement work is being carried out by independent social research company, ORS, whose findings will be reported back to the County Council alongside financial studies and other evidence on the potential options for change to local government in Nottinghamshire.
ORS have extensive experience of public engagement work across the public sector, including work to seek the views of the public on local government reorganisation in Dorset, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire.
Further details, including the Future Nottinghamshire public engagement document which contains comprehensive background information, are available from all 60 Nottinghamshire libraries or online at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/futurenottsfuturenottinghamshireengagement