Plans to abolish all top level councils in Nottinghamshire have moved to the next phase.
Conservative-controlled Nottinghamshire County Council will now write to the Government, asking for an invitation to progress with its plans.
The scheme, put forward by the Conservative-controlled county council, would see all the councils outside the city scrapped – including Gedling
They would be replaced with one super council, representing around 828,000 people.
There would then also be an elected mayor for the East Midlands.
Nottingham City Council has previously said it will put forward its own, rival proposal, which would see it expand into Rushcliffe, Gedling and Broxtowe.
Supporters of the county council’s plan today said it was the only way to bridge the gaps in council finances after years of Government cuts and now financial pressure from COVID.
But opponents said it could ‘spell the end of the historic county of Nottinghamshire’, and that it was an unwelcome distraction when the council should be concentrating on COVID.
Last week, a series of questions about the plan were put to the council by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, to which the county council replied: “no comment”.
The leader of the council today, September 16, was again repeatedly asked for answers to these questions during the meeting, but declined to answer.
Will council tax go up for areas like Rushcliffe which currently pay lower taxes than elsewhere?
Will residents be offered a local referendum on the plans?
Can the county council guarantee the city council won’t expand into Rushcliffe, Gedling and Broxtowe?
The plan passed by 11 votes to eight today, with all Conservative coalition members voting in support, and Labour and the Ashfield Independents voting against.
The leader of the council, Conservative Kay Cutts, said: “The current two-tier structure of the county, district and borough councils no longer serves the interests of the residents and taxpayers.
“The current structure is both wasteful and confusing, having eight separate council headquarters, executives, senior managers, and some duplicated back office functions is unnecessary and costs far too much.
“A unitary system of local government (a super council) would end this waste and free up money to be spent on improving and protecting services.
“The time is right for change, and we have a once in a generation opportunity to simplify services and save more than £27 million a year to improve the lives of people in Nottinghamshire.
“We are expecting the Government to make reorganisation (a super council) a condition for devolution of more funds and power from the national level.
“It is expected they would do this by combined authorities where several councils collaborate and make joint decisions.
“With leaders in Leicestershire and Derbyshire also working towards reform, we can unlock the possibility of a regional devolution deal, by establishing a mayoral combined authority for the East Midlands.
“Doing nothing isn’t an option.”
Councillor Alan Rhodes is the leader of the Labour group, and said: “We are in the midst of a Covid-19 pandemic and a second wave, and a further lockdown remains a very real possibility.
“There should be one and only one priority occupying the minds of the leader, the Chief Executive and senior team now, and that priority should be keeping our Nottinghamshire residents safe by working in partnership with the city council, our district and borough councils and other appropriate professionals.
“Anything else is a distraction.
“That is what these proposals are; a divisive, self-serving distraction.
“At a time when people in our county are falling ill, and more will fall ill, when people are dying, and more will die, the political and professional leadership of this county council will be facing inwards, debating the future structure of local government.
“It is often said that leadership is about making the right choices and setting the right priorities at the right time.
“Your opportunity to show good leadership is here today Kay.
“Withdraw this report and these proposals until this pandemic is over and our people are safe.
“Do the right thing by the people of Nottinghamshire, or forever be remembered as someone who put her own selfish ambitions and her own vanity before the health and welfare of the people she was elected to represent.”
Councillor Jason Zadrozny is the leader of the Ashfield Independents, and also the leader of Ashfield District Council.
He said: “Many of our brave council staff took a risk every day during the pandemic. They were heroes.
“How are they now rewarded? The Conservatives are after their jobs in an arrogant power grab.
“These ruthless plans are an attack on the staff who put their lives at risk. It’s an insult.
“The proposed new council would be bigger than the whole of Cyprus. It would be bigger than Malta, Luxembourg and the Seychelles put together.
“It makes an absolute mockery of ‘local’ democracy.”