Friday 14 June 2024
15.2 C

New Nottingham City Council leader says ‘mistakes of the past won’t be repeated’

The new leader of Nottingham City Council says the collapse of Robin Hood Energy “taught us a lesson” and believes she is now the best person for the job.

Cllr Neghat Khan will take the mantle from her fellow Dales ward councillor David Mellen, who had led the Labour-run authority for five years.

She was formally appointed as leader during a Full Council meeting on Monday, May 20, alongside her new deputy, Cllr Ethan Radford, and other members of the executive.

The 43-year-old described her appointment as a “very proud moment”.

She was born in Sneinton and became the first British-Pakistani councillor on the council in 2013.

- Advertisement -

Before entering politics, she said she worked from the age of 16 in numerous jobs, including at a laundrette, in customer services and for Boots.

Leader of the council Cllr Neghat Khan right and deputy leader Cllr Ethan Radford
Leader of the council, Cllr Neghat Khan (right) and deputy leader Cllr Ethan Radford

Later she went on to obtain a degree in IT from the University of Derby and has a 12-year-old son.

Outside of politics Cllr Khan follows Manchester United, but now keenly follows Nottingham Forest. She says she also plays cricket and came eleventh in a Fantasy Football league out of over 20 fellow Labour members.

“When I joined politics just over ten years ago my son was about 18 months old and it was an opportunity that came about because the Labour Party were looking for more women to step into politics.”

Cllr Khan is only the second woman to hold the role after Betty Higgins, but she becomes leader at a tumultuous time for the council.

In November the authority declared it was effectively bankrupt and a few months later in February, the Government appointed commissioners to help run the authority.

The financial challenges have not only been put down to soaring demand and costs of services – as well as reduced Government funding by around £100m a year over the last decade – but also the council’s past mistakes.

Its energy firm Robin Hood Energy (RHE), set up in 2015 to take on the ‘Big Six’ firms such as British Gas, collapsed in 2020.

A damning public interest report accused the council of “institutional blindness” and its demise ended up costing taxpayers an estimated £38m.

Cllr Khan was on the board of RHE as a director, and took over as chairwoman in 2019.

“Within 11 days I realised things were not as we were being told,” she said when asked about her role.

“I played a key role in closing down the company. Everything in life teaches you something.

“That experience has now taught me things that I now look at with a problem-solving approach and it is relying on experts.

“There were lots of things that played into the unfortunate demise of Robin Hood Energy, but it obviously taught us a lesson and I believe in looking forward rather than back and not repeating the mistakes of the past.

“I was on the board [before becoming chair], but when you are the chair you are closer to the decisions, and you need to sign-off things and you get more up-to-date updates from officers.

“I realised the company needed more financial support than it was actually letting on and we were being told.”

Cllr Khan’s selection as leader also differed from previous leaders.

A Nottingham Labour Group meeting to choose a leader was due to take place in April. However, the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) stepped in to oversee the election.

The NEC interviewed potential candidates, and suitable applicants were due to be presented to the Labour Group to choose from at a meeting at the start of May.

However, the NEC selected Cllr Khan as the only suitable candidate and she was installed as the new leader ahead of the meeting.

The lack of an election left some Labour members unhappy.

Asked about her mandate, she said: “We went to the local elections last year and 60 per cent of people voted Labour.

“I was elected and have been through four elections and obviously have a mandate.

“I am accountable to the people of Nottingham. Before the NEC intervened I put my name in to run and I was running a successful campaign.

“I believed then and I do today that I am the best person for the job. I did an interview with the NEC and they agreed with that.”

Looking ahead, Cllr Khan said she will differ from her predecessor because she is “very problem-solving” and will seek to bring partners round the table to discuss how to get the best outcome for the city.

Cllr Ethan Radford, the new deputy who will take over from Cllr Audra Wynter, was born in New Basford and today lives in Bulwell.

Before he went into politics he worked in alternative education with children living with autism.

“At the moment we feel quite prepared,” he added.

“Before the party intervened, Neghat and I have been planning on running for leadership since January and February time and we made it clear to colleagues.

“It wasn’t an open election to the group but obviously we have been on the executive for a number of years together and we know what the challenges are facing the city. We are going into this with our eyes open.

“We are quite prepared. We have a good level of grip on the problems we are facing.

“Moving forward in the next coming year we are in a unique position, Neghat and I are in place for three years, we will outlive the commissioners and really we need to get to a place where we don’t just look at this year, but look at the year after and the year after that.”

•  Outgoing Nottingham City Council leader Cllr David Mellen shares message to city residents

•  Cllr Neghat Khan: Nottingham City Council’ss new leader announced

Follow The Wire on TikTok, Facebook, X, Instagram. Send your story to or via WhatsApp on 0115 772 0418