Critics say super council plans could be ‘dead in the water’

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PICTURED: County Hall

Critics of the plan to scrap district and borough councils in Nottinghamshire say the Secretary of State for local government has ‘poured cold water’ over the ‘super-council’ idea.

The Conservative-led county council is part way through consulting on a plan which would see seven district and borough councils – and the county council – abolished.

One or two new councils would then be set up to cover the whole of the county, excluding the city.

Supporters say it would help streamline services, and could save between £20 million and £30 million a year.

But opponents fear it would mean decisions were made too far from the people they affect, and would cost a huge amount to set up.

The scheme has proved controversial, with several councils voting to formally oppose the plan.

Now, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, has said he will soon be laying out criteria for who will be allowed to set up a ‘super-council’.

He was speaking at a meeting of the County Councils Network.

Currently, until March any council or group of councils can submit a bid to become a super-council, also known as a unitary authority.

But after March, councils will only be allowed to submit a bid if they are invited to do so by Mr Brokenshire, or if there is unanimous support.



Nottinghamshire’s plan is currently expected to be completed after March, meaning the plan would be subject to the new criteria.

Local Government trade journal the MJ has reported that one of the criteria Mr Brokenshire will set will be that there needs to be unanimous support from the councils which would be affected.

It comes after a super council was granted permission in Buckinghamshire, despite strong opposition from borough and district councils, and the threat of a legal challenge.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government said: “We are open to innovative, locally led proposals which will improve services for local people, enhance accountability and deliver financial sustainability.

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“After March 2019, there will be two routes for local authorities that wish to become unitary – one where there is unanimous support from all councils, or alternatively on a formal invitation from the Secretary of State, and in due course we will be setting out details about when such invitations may be issued.”

The Conservative leader of the county council, Kay Cutts, said she had not been given specific instructions from the Government, and that she would be pressing ahead with creating a ‘compelling’ business case.

Councillor Cutts, who represents the Radcliffe-on-Trent ward said: “I was a member of the audience at the County Council’s Network meeting where the Minister made reference to local government reorganisation.

“He confirmed our understanding from the outset, that the ‘sunset clause’ period would end on March 31 and that he could still invite local government reorganisation in areas where he believed there was a compelling case.

“I believe we are developing a compelling case – one will not only benefit taxpayers by making local government in the county more financially sustainable, but one which will also lead to better-run services and allow Nottinghamshire to benefit economically from speaking as one voice.

“We await more information about the criteria for invitations with interest.”

But the Labour leader at the county council, Alan Rhodes, said the criteria would be the ‘nail in the coffin’ of the plan.

Councillor Rhodes, who represents the Worksop North ward, said: “James Brokenshire is saying all the things Kay Cutts doesn’t want to hear.

“It amounts to the death of the plan, I think it’s already dead in the water.

“If the criteria is that this needs to be unanimously supported then that really will be the nail in the coffin.”

2 Comments

  1. If the Government put a stop to this it would be an odd move. You cant take billions out of local councils one minute, then, we they come up with a way of saving money to protect what services are left, tell them they’re not allowed to do it.

  2. Why can’t there be three councils for Nottinghamshire (Nottingham (Existing boundary, Gedling, Rushcliffe, Broxtowe and Ashfield); Mansfield (Mansfield and Newark) and then Bassetlaw.

    By doing so then the councils would get an increased budget and then more money and dedication could be spent on opportunities and healthcare.

    At the moment there are three A&E Hospitals in the county and I think each boundary should be built in which its residents are dependent on that Hospital.
    The QMC is the fourth biggest in the UK so it can still cope with the added Gedling, Broxtowe, Rushcliffe and Ashfield to add to the city of Nottingham and increase the population for Nottingham to 800,000 people which would make it the third biggest city in the UK after London and Birmingham.
    Then the Kingsmill Hospital that is big and new enough to provide for the excess Ashfield north, Mansfield and Newark. And finally Bassetlaw Hospital, which could concentrate on its own Borough.

    I do think it is odd that the county has 8 boroughs with Nottingham as the only city, and Nottingham providing transport and educational facilities for its surrounding boroughs, mass employment in Nottingham, retail in Nottingham and even policing from Nottingham based police stations.

    Post Brexit would make it very hard to find investors as a disunited 8 boroughs or according to the Radcliffe councillor to have a super council that relies on basic facilities from the excluded city boundary as well as the city boundary having two top Universities with the 4th largest University student population.

    International Investors would simply overlook the county and move into the unified West Yorkshire or Birmingham as C4 did recently.

    Building three councils would make the county more influential, a bigger city of Nottingham with no major changes and more eyes on Nottinghamshire as a whole.

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