Super-council proposal set to be put forward to Nottinghamshire County Council
The case for a super-council that would see the abolition of two tiers of local government recommends the creation of one unitary authority in their place.
The Conservative-led Nottinghamshire County Council will present a business case to full council next week, which, if approved, will be followed by a ten-week public consultation period.
The document says a single unitary council could achieve annual expenditure savings of £27.1m, in comparison to the two-tier arrangement that Nottinghamshire currently operates.
The county council is responsible for 91% of local government spending available to Nottinghamshire, excluding the city, and the district and borough councils the remaining 9%.
A unitary council would mean scrapping the seven district and borough councils as well as the county council, and replacing them with a single authority responsible for all local services.
This is the preferred option of county council leader Kay Cutts.
The other options remaining on the table are to maintain the status quo or to split Nottinghamshire, excluding the city, into two, with a council responsible for the delivery of all local services in their area.
There are three north/south and east/west options for splitting Nottinghamshire in two.
The business case suggests the two unitary councils’ proposal could result in savings of £16.4m, when compared with the existing make-up.
The cost of implementing a single unitary council would be £20m, while two unitary councils would be £19.2m.
The council needs £64m to bridge a funding gap before 2021.
Mrs Cutts, who represents Radcliffe, said something drastic had to be done before the three years were up.
“We have to take drastic action before then,” she said. “We cannot go bankrupt.”
“We have to find savings in the next three financial years.
“We would have to deliver statutory services but we would not have to provide children centres, local authority grants, libraries. They would all have to go.
“We would be cutting down to the bare bones.”
Mrs Cutts said any changes would mean an equalisation in council tax across the county, which for some people meant savings.
If the plans for a unitary council were to go ahead then estimates suggest households of every district or borough, other than Rushcliffe, would pay less.
Newark and Sherwood’s current council tax average for households per annum is £1,382.32, but would go down to £1,369.05 under a unitary authority.
Rushcliffe households pay £1,585.77 on average in council tax per annum, which would increase to £1,608.41 under a unitary authority.
Mrs Cutts emphasised parish and town councils would remain and communities without them would be urged to set them up.
They would continue to receive funding.
“The lowest level will continue so people will still get street-sweeping, and grass-cutting. That’s what people want,” she said.
The business case said Newark Town Council received a budget of £400,000 a year from the district council to deliver a range of local services including carparks, street-cleaning and the maintenance of Newark market, public parks and public toilets.
The town council has the power to decide how its delegated budget is spent.
The business case says this would remain under a unitary authority.
A consultation on the options received a mixed response from residents.
Mrs Cutts said those in focus groups who had the situation explained to them were more positive.
An open questionnaire found three in ten individual respondents agreed with replacing the two-tier local government structure with a unitary system.
There was more support than average in Newark and Sherwood and in Rushcliffe.
A formal public consultation exercise, beginning in January, will take place if the recommendation is passed next week.
A third phase would see a formal case for change being presented to the county council in the summer of 2019.
Currently, until March any council or group of councils can submit a bid to become a unitary authority.
But after March, councils will only be allowed to submit a bid if they are invited to do so by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Mr James Brokenshire or if there is unanimous support.
Nottinghamshire’s plan is expected to be completed after March, meaning the plan would be subject to the new criteria.
There is opposition to the proposals at County Hall, who say scrapping district and borough councils would erode local decision making and end up costing a huge amount to set up the super-council.