Controversial plans to scrap local councils have been met with no communication to the media.
The proposals – put forward by the leadership of Nottinghamshire County Council – are due to be approved next week, despite opposition from the leader of every other council in Nottinghamshire.
There are fears thousands of council key workers could be made redundant.
A moratorium on speaking to the county’s media outlets about the scheme has been imposed by those at the top of the council.
A detailed list of questions about the plan today has been met with: “No comment”.
It comes after an interview which had been planned at the start of this week was abruptly cancelled.
It means that questions – about a plan which would have serious implications for thousands of lives and livelihoods – are going unanswered by Nottinghamshire’s elected politicians.
While opposition leaders are queueing up to attack the proposals, no one is being put forward to defend them.
One opposition leader said the refusal to answer any questions showed ‘sheer arrogance’ from the Conservative leader of the council, Kay Cutts.
They say it would simplify services and save £27 million a year at a time when council finances are under pressure.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Mrs Kay Cutts MBE, said: “I believe that unitary local government for our great County will deliver better services that everyone will be able to access more easily; better value for money for every Council Taxpayer, and more prosperity for all. Government policy is certainly moving in that direction and recognises that to aid our recovery from the COVID pandemic, structural reform to unlock investment is vital.
“The current system of local government in Nottinghamshire is out-dated, cumbersome, wasteful and costly. We have a unique opportunity now to build a new way of delivering modern, integrated public services that works for every resident.”
Critics say a global pandemic is not the right time to be embarking on such a complex and disruptive project, and that it would erode decision making.
The leaders of every other council in Nottinghamshire signed a letter this week to the Government opposing the plan.
The leaders of councils which might be axed altogether have said they were not even informed of the plans ahead of the event.
A public consultation held two years ago found only three in 10 Notts respondents supported the plan, and 42 percent of council staff thought it should happen.
Now, the public is not being given answers about how the plan would affect them.
These are the questions we would like to give the 828,000 Nottinghamshire residents, and the 11,000 council employees, some answers to:
-Will council tax go up in places like Rushcliffe, which has lower tax than other parts of the county?
-Will the approximately 11,000 people who work for different councils in Notts be made redundant during a recession?
-Will the taxpayers be allowed to decide whether they want the scheme to go ahead, via a local referendum?
-The city council has previously said it would seek to expand into Gedling, Rushcliffe and Broxtowe. Can the county council guarantee this won’t happen?
-Will residents in northern parts of the county be well-served by a council so distant from them?
-Is a pandemic the right time to be focusing on local government reorganisation?
-How much will the new scheme cost?
-How long will the changes take?
When questions were put to the county council, on behalf of the residents of Nottinghamshire, they replied: “No comment”.
Councillor Jason Zadrozny is the leader of Ashfield District Council, and a county councillor for the Ashfield Independent party.
He said: “Nottinghamshire County Council’s silence is staggering. During the pandemic our council worked its socks off for local people.
“Front-line workers at Ashfield District Council put their lives at risk to continue to provide services.
“We were the only council in Nottinghamshire to provide a full bin collection service. How are our workers rewarded?
“By being informed second hand that their jobs are at risk.
“Kay Cutts is showing sheer arrogance and quite frankly a disrespectful refusal to answer key questions to the 11,000 council workers across the county.”
Councillor Alan Rhodes is the leader of the Labour group on the council and said: “Good leadership involves having a clear vision.
“It also involves the ability to listen to other views, act in a collegiate way and behave pragmatically to achieve a satisfactory objective.
“Unfortunately the approach being taken by the Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council is not good leadership.”
Asked how much of the decision not to engage with the media or other councils had been made by Kay Cutts, he replied: “All of it.”
The current plan was shelved at the last minute in 2018. At the time, key meetings about the proposed super council were held behind closed doors, until details of the meetings were leaked to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
The county council is now expected to approve a plan on Wednesday, September 16 to write to the Government asking to proceed.