Talks are under way to look into creating a new ‘super-council’ to cover the whole of Nottinghamshire and replace the current two-tier system of local government.
At present, the county is served by Nottinghamshire County Council and a cluster of district and borough councils, such as Mansfield District Council.
The ‘supercouncil’ would be the biggest change to local government in Nottinghamshire for more than 40 years, but detailed analysis of the options has been drawn up and talks have begun in the first of a series of top-level meetings attended by all political parties.
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However, the idea has recently attracted critisism, as the media were not permitted to attend a cross- party working group involving leaders of all the political parties who sit on the counc
It was later revealed that at least £250,000 is being spent on drawing up the plans, and a final vote on the plan would be held by councillors in May.
A spokesman for the Conservative-led county council said: “The meeting is not open to the public as it will discuss confidential information privy only to elected representatives.”Councillor Jason Zadrozny,leader of Ashfield District Council, and county councillor said: “I’m genuinely angry about this. It’s a huge decision that affects hundreds of thousands of people, but they are refusing to have a proper debate in public. I don’t know what they’ve got to hide.
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“If we’re having a genuine debate about this, it shouldn’t be done in smoke-filled rooms.
“You have got seven or eight people in the room and almost a million people outside it, and those are the people who pay the council tax to keep us in a job.
“This has massive ramifications on a huge number of things.”
Michael Payne, deputy leader of Gedling Borough Council, and is also a Labour county councillor said: “It’s outrageous that the media is being denied entry, but it’s hardly surprising.
“The whole thing is being done behind closed doors.
“A discussion as important as this needs to be done in public, openly and transparently, so that the claims they make can be checked and scrutinised by the media.
“The residents need to feel part of the discussion, but instead they are having this imposed on them from up high without any accountability.
“The public has a right to know, but instead they are doing it in the dark.”
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A new working group is being chaired by Coun Kay Cutts, leader of Nottinghamshire County Council.
She said: “We believe there is a pressing case for change in the way local government is organised, so that we can deliver significant savings and improve the quality of services local people will receive.
“Having a confusing two-tier structure of local government is outdated, unnecessary and is no longer fit for purpose.
“By having one senior management team, one council headquarters, one website and one contact phone number, we can make significant savings and improve the quality of services.
“However, the working group will scrutinise the evidence for and against all the options available.”
If the case for change is agreed, a major public consultation would begin early next year.