Rushcliffe Borough Council to set out best options for future of local government after Nottinghamshire County Council pushes for unitary authority once again
Rushcliffe Borough Council is to set out what it thinks the best options are for the future of local government, should it be restructured.
The Conservative-controlled borough council has approved a £60,000 plan to work collectively with other local authority partners to identify and consult on the best options, if there is to be a local government restructure.
It is because the county council — also Conservative-controlled — favours a controversial plan that would see all borough and district councils in Nottinghamshire scrapped along with the county council, and replaced with one authority for the whole county, excluding the city.
The county council said it could save millions every year, and would improve services.
However, critics fear it could erode local decision-making, and that a council for around 800,000 people would make it the second largest in the country, meaning it could be too large to make decisions effectively.
Rushcliffe Borough Council leader Simon Robinson has joined all other district and borough councils in writing a letter to government minister Luke Hall, requesting support for councils to develop alternative plans to a single, county-wide authority.
He said: “We wish to debate and work with fellow authorities on the shape any local government reorganisation may take for the continued benefit of our residents.
“It’s important as a proactive high-performing district council, we positively play any part in the format of the future.
“A cabinet report on Tuesday passed recommendations on how we will now look to positively engage in the wider process and work collectively to identify and consult with partner councils on the best options going forward.
“A single unitary council suggested by the county council as the only option on the table is not acceptable.
“The failure to engage by the authority to date on any wholescale change is not the open-minded approach required to deliver high-quality services.
“We wish to work with the county council, city council and fellow districts on meaningful engagement as part of a collaborative and strategic approach to properly identify and appraise options.”
The report discussed at Rushcliffe’s cabinet on Tuesday said: “Rushcliffe Borough Council should be part of any debate around local government reorganisation and play its part in shaping the new future of local government.
“(With) proper public consultation with all affected parties, and following a clear timescale to be agreed, which allows due consideration for affected parties and respects local democracy.
“Nottinghamshire County Council’s previous business case (which was shelved in December 2018) was not endorsed by Rushcliffe and the council was not formally consulted on any part of the business case, nor was it engaged in developing any financial models.
“A single county unitary would surround Nottingham City Council, which is a tightly-bounded city with a population of around 300,000.
“General verbal guidance from government officials suggests new unitaries should look to have a population size of 300,000-600,000 but the devolution white paper may provide some clarity on this.
“Any review of local government in Nottinghamshire that will stand the test of time and be fit for the next 40 years should include meaningful engagement with Nottingham City Council.
“Whilst consensus is largely welcomed in any local government reorganisation plans, it is not always required by government from all parties and Rushcliffe Borough Council should avoid being a bystander whilst decisions and proposals are pushed forward by other local authorities.”
Rushcliffe’s move follows a similar survey in Gedling, which found an overwhelming majority of residents wanted to keep its borough council in its current form.
A government white paper is coming in Autumn, and is expected to make it easier for councils to reorganise authority areas.
The county council was approached for comment.