Almost 1,600 people have so far had their say on the plan to set up a new council for Nottinghamshire, which would result in Gedling Borough Council and other authorities being abolished.
With one week left to go until the first part of the consultation closes, Nottinghamshire County Council is urging people to make their views known.
The plan, which has been put forward by the Conservative-run county council, would see all seven district and borough councils, and the county council itself, abolished.
One, or two new ‘super councils’ would then be set up. These would either cover all of Nottinghamshire (apart from Nottingham City) or there would be one for the North and one for the South of the county.
The leader of the council, Conservative Kay Cutts, says this would significantly improve council services by removing duplication, and could save around £20 to £30 million a year, which would help protect front-line services.
But critics, including Labour and many of the district councils, say it would erode local decision making which would leave people feeling removed from their communities. They also say it would end up costing a huge amount to set up.
Throughout October, an independent social research company, ORS is working on behalf of the county council to gather the views of residents, businesses, councils and other interested parties.
Almost 1,600 responses have already been received to a questionnaire – significantly higher than the county council anticipated.
This current gathering of evidence is not a formal consultation – but the council says the views of local people and organisations are extremely important, and will help to shape any potential future plans for re-structuring in the future.
The council will consider responses to this first phase of public engagement at a full council meeting on December 13, when they will decide whether or not to pursue a preferred option for change.
If the council goes ahead with the super council proposal, it would then formally consult the public on the proposal next year.
Councillor Kay Cutts is the leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, and represents the Radcliffe-on-Trent ward for the Conservatives.
She 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 the 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 questionnaire will be available to complete online at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/futurenotts or in hard copy format at all Nottinghamshire libraries until Wednesday, October 31.