The leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, Cllr Ben Bradley, has told Gedling Eye that he does not want to “permanently rule out things beyond my control” when asked if the authority would again revisit controversial plans to create a ‘Super Council’.
The idea of a joint ‘Super Council’ of local authorities – put forward by the Conservative county council in 2020 – would see all extra-city councils disbanded, including Gedling Borough Council.
A single body would represent approximately 828,000 people who would then also be part of the electorate electing a mayor of the East Midlands.
When asked if it was definitely off the table, Councillor Bradley said he does not know whether the Government will in future decide that local authorities should be restructured.
“Certainly in my mind… I don’t intend to revisit” it, but if structures are discussed again in the future, “so be it”.
When asked if he would rebut any future government proposals, Cllr Bradley suggested that the Government may “change their tune” and “decide in the future that they’re going to make all councils… unitary councils. In which case we’ll have to do it”.
“I’m not going to say that it’ll never happen because I’m not in control of that”.
“I certainly have no intention of bringing it forward at the minute”.
He said his focus is to rebuild the area after the pandemic.
Ashfield Independent, Cllr Tom Hollis, accused Cllr Bradley of trying to “ride both horses” on the issue during Thursday’s first county council assembly of the new term.
His group colleague, Cllr Zadrozny, said that the restructuring would make “a mockery” of local democracy.
Elsewhere, Cllr Bradley said that there will be a “full review” into the borough’s roads, focusing on which processes and equipment would best be utilised.
Conservative John Ogle emphasised Thursday’s council meeting that patching and rough tarmac would prove potentially hazardous for cyclists and vehicles.
Gedling’s Jim Creamer (Labour, Carlton West) highlighted how the state of pavements also needs to be considered as they are used by mobility scooters and push bikes.
Via the council’s control over land and highways, work with the East Midlands Chamber, and government money, Cllr Bradley also helps to aid investment into Arnold and Carlton’s local businesses.
With regards to lower business rates and rents for local firms, the council will “support where we can”.
Mr Bradley says he wants also to attract new businesses, changing the purpose of local buildings and making them “more attractive” – “where people want to spend more time”.
On the region’s fight against climate change, during Thursday’s council meeting, Ashfield Independents suggested that the will to combat the climate emergency was there but not the means.
When asked about this, Cllr Bradley told the Gedling Eye that “we have to get our head around exactly what it does mean”.
“Every major decision, every… development that we make” has to have “an element of looking at the environmental impact within it”.
Carlton’s Cllr Creamer has called for this consideration as of late within council committees.
Mr Bradley suggested “cutting the verges differently” at the side of local roads so that habitats are protected, or using more sustainable methods – e.g. planting trees and conserving grassland – in large scale investments like the Gedling access road.
With regards to the area’s young people and adult social and health services, including mental health, Mr Bradley said the council needs to be ‘more preventative and proactive’.
Dealing with issues “further up the chain” would “stop people needing these services wherever we can”.
Another issue, raised by Labour’s new leader in the county council, Kate Foale, on Thursday, was how local politics had become “nastier” of late.
When asked how this could be rectified and if any group in particular was responsible, Cllr Bradley talked about how “all parties” had been “guilty” of “personality clashes” recently.
The prospect of local authority reform had provoked “real differences in opinion”.
“It sometimes wasn’t handled well”, there were “some individuals that were quite childish”.
“I’ve made a big point over the last few weeks of reaching out to opposition members and parties”.
Yesterday’s meeting was “much nicer”.
Lastly, Cllr Bradley stated that he did not watch all of Dominic Cummings’s appearance in front of House of Commons select committees on Wednesday, but had “seen clips”.
On whether it was credible in his experience, Cllr Bradley suggested that “people’s views of the PM are pretty fixed”.
“What Cummings was saying will probably feed into people’s existing view”.
“If you’re predisposed to like the PM then you’ll disbelieve it. If you don’t like him then it probably proves you right”.
“In my mind”, “he’s [Cummings] not built himself up to be character worthy of a great deal of trust”.
Boris Johnson’s ex-right hand man claimed that the PM treated Covid-19 as a ”scare story” and was more concerned about damage to the economy.
Tens of thousands of deaths, he said, were ‘avoidable’.
The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, was also accused of lying to cabinet and the public about care home testing and NHS capacity, and should have been fired “15-20 times”.
When he was asked if he would like to see Cummings back in government under a potential future Michael Gove or Rishi Sunak premiership, Cllr Bradley replied, “I don’t think I’d like it at the minute”.
“People should probably learn and stop employing him”. A very Cameronian stance.