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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Notts Super Council plans on hold until after May elections

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The leader of Nottinghamshire County Council has said putting the ‘super council’ plan on hold will allow better harmonisation between authorities.

Councillor Kay Cutts, who represents Radcliffe on Trent for the Conservatives, said the current system makes ‘no sense’, but she acknowledges her plan did not have ‘universal support’.

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Last week, a planned vote on whether to progress to the next phase of the consultation on the super council was postponed indefinitely.

It is now expected that the issue will be revisited after local council elections in May next year.

There are currently seven district and borough councils, and one county council, for all of Nottinghamshire.

The super council plan involved abolishing all of these, and setting up one new council for the whole of the county.

Supporters said it could save £27 million a year, and help to streamline services. However opponents feared it would erode local decision making, and would cost a lot in the short term to set up, at a time when budgets are under severe pressure.

Councillor Cutts said: “You will be aware that we have been looking very closely at future options for how local council services are provided in Nottinghamshire, with a view to deliver better value for money for taxpayers and a more joined-up approach to how we operate.

“I have believed, for many years, that the current two-tier system of local government is unsustainable. Having eight chief executives, eight management teams, eight sets of councillors, eight lots of back office functions, eight call centres and eight council headquarters for the county means too much of your council tax is not getting to the frontline services where it is needed.

“It makes no sense to have complementary services like bin collections and waste disposal, social care and housing, and local planning and strategic planning run by different councils, especially when this makes it more difficult for people to understand who does what.

“Over the last 12 months, more than 20,000 customers called the wrong council number in Nottinghamshire, contributing to longer waiting times for callers, delays, and frustration when they had to be directed elsewhere.

“We have carried out a detailed study into options for changing the structure of local government in the county. Our outline business case supports the view that there is a better way to plan and deliver services for local people.

“Running costs could be reduced by £27m every year by removing one tier of local government and having one council for the county, providing all the services you get now, but doing so more efficiently.

The business case is a compelling one and I would urge you to read it at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/futurenotts

“However, I appreciate that this does not currently have universal support – not least amongst some of the seven district councils. We had a productive meeting with leaders and chief executives of those councils earlier this month.

“They are willing to work with us on the delivery of local services and to explore other options to reduce running costs and make service delivery more effective within the two-tier system.

“So, we are pausing our plans to allow time for those options to be explored, rather than moving to the next stage of consultation at this time.

“Options could include harmonising bin collections for economies of scale, one organisation providing trading standards and environmental health services across the county, working more closely to ensure housing meets the needs of a growing elderly and disabled population, and possible council mergers.

“Unfortunately, it will not change the fact that significant savings still need to be made. Every effort will be made to protect those who rely on our most critical council services, but all other spending will have to be seriously reconsidered in both the shorter and longer term.

“The majority of county councillors are also district and borough councillors, so surely it makes sense for us to work together for the benefit of the people of Nottinghamshire. We will keep you updated as plans progress.”

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