Leaked report show seven options for Nottinghamshire super-council if district and borough authorities are axed
The name on your bins, how much council tax you pay, and who runs your parks could all be about to change.
Leaked plans show the seven different options currently being investigated for the future of how Nottinghamshire’s councils are run, and even whether some exist at all.
The Conservative-run Nottinghamshire County Council is working on a plan to abolish itself, as well as all district and borough councils such as Rushcliffe, Gedling and Broxtowe.
It would then create a brand new council, or two new councils, which would cover all of Nottinghamshire apart from the city.
The key supporter of the scheme is the leader of the county council, Conservative councillor Kay Cutts.
She says it could streamline and simplify council services, and save as much as £20 million to £30 million a year, which could then be invested in front-line services.
But vocal critics, including the leaders of several district and borough councils which could be dissolved, have said they will fight to protect their councils.
They say it would remove local decision making and end up costing more in the long-run.
Nottingham City Council has also retaliated to the county council’s plan, saying it would submit its own bid to the Government to expand the boundaries of the city into parts of West Bridgford, Stapleford, Beeston, Arnold and Carlton.
It said the current city boundaries are too small, and the crisis in local government funding which has led to the calls for council re-organisation has been caused by cuts from the central Conservative Government.
Now, leaked documents have revealed there are seven different options being debated by the county council.
The documents were discussed at a meeting which the media was denied access to.
None of the county council’s plans take an expanded city into account.
Councillor Cutts, who represents the Radcliffe-on-Trent ward for the Conservatives said: “Our working group is looking in detail at all options for better local government in Nottinghamshire.
“It’s clear we can give the best value-for-money, be more accountable to local people and improve services with a unitary system.
“By replacing eight senior management teams with one, reducing the number of councillors and having one point of contact we can make significant savings, end confusion and ensure you get the best services, no matter where you live in the county.
“We look forward to sharing our business case with local people when it is fully developed.”
The seven options:
Option One – preserve the status quo.
Keep with seven district and borough councils, and the county and city councils.
Option Two – One unitary authority for Nottinghamshire.
It would have a population of around 817,000. The headquarters would likely be County Hall, in West Bridgford, and it could be called simply Nottinghamshire Council.
Option Three – Divide the country into two unitary councils (north and south)
In the north would be Ashfield, Bassetlaw, Mansfield and Newark and Sherwood. This would have a population of 472,000.
In the south, with a population of 345,000, would be Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe.
Option Four – Divide the country into two unitary councils (north and south)
In the north would be Bassetlaw, Mansfield and Newark and Sherwood, with a population of 345,000.
In the south would be Ashfield, Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe, with a population of 472,000.
Option Five – Divide the country into two unitary councils (east and west)
Bassetlaw, Newark and Sherwood, and Rushcliffe would be in the east, with a population of 353,000.
Ashfield, Broxtowe, Gedling and Mansfield would be in the west, with a population of 464,000.
Option Six – Divide the country into two unitary councils (urban/rural mix to roughly equalise population density)
The north west would have Ashfield, Bassetlaw and Mansfield, with 351,000 people.
The south east would have Broxtowe, Gedling, Newark and Sherwood, and Rushcliffe. This would have 466,000 residents.
Option Seven – Two unitary councils
This would see Ashfield, Broxtowe and Mansfield in one area and Bassetlaw, Gedling, Newark and Sherwood and Rushcliffe in the other.
We have attempted to contact the leaders of all district and borough councils, as well as the county and city councils, to hear what their preferred option is.
Councillor Jason Zadrozny, leader of Ashfield District Council, Ashfield Independent Party – “I don’t think there’s any need for change. I think if it isn’t broken – don’t fix it.
“If we absolutely had to go down that line, I would prefer Ashfield, Mansfield and Bassetlaw (option four) but I’m genuinely concerned that any new council would not be able serve residents as well as we do now.
“My fundamental political belief is that decisions have to be made as close as possible to the people they are affecting. This does the opposite of that.”
Councillor Simon Greaves, leader of Bassetlaw District Council, Labour Party – “I see no compelling reason for change. The county council is just trying to shift its financial problems caused by itself and the Conservative Government. The real solution to the problems they’re facing is having the right level of funding from central government.
“This plan appears to be on its hospital bed. It’s quite clear that there isn’t the broad support for it in Nottinghamshire, and I don’t think it will get very far. It’s like a car crash unfolding very slowly.”
Councillor Richard Jackson, leader of Broxtowe Borough Council, Conservative – Was not available for comment.
Councillor John Clarke, leader of Gedling Borough Council, Labour Party – “We want nothing to do with it. We’ve already seen £270,000 spent, plus a huge amount of office time.
“We’re fighting for Gedling. We have had so much response to it from right across the board – people who have never voted Labour in their lives are saying they support us on it. No one wants it. People want councils to stay local.”
Executive Mayor Kate Allsop, Mansfield District Council, Mansfield Independent Forum – “Let’s be very clear what this is about – it is not about residents, it is not about serving our communities, it is not about looking after the most venerable in our district, it’s not about providing decent housing.
“It’s a smash and grab, it’s bullying at its worst, the big boys pushing around the smaller boys to snatch their milk money.
“My mail bag and email inbox have had letters from residents who are afraid of losing the services we provide. I have not had one letter in favour of a unitary authority.”
Councillor David Lloyd, leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council, Conservative – Was not available for comment
Councillor Jon Collins, leader of Nottingham City Council, Labour – “We will only look to expand the city’s borders if the county council goes ahead with its proposals. Precisely how they decide to rearrange the deckchairs doesn’t matter to us unless they’re prepared to consider expanded city boundaries.
“If they put forward any proposals to re-organise local government, we will respond with our own plans for Government to consider alongside theirs, which would see the city extend into the built-up areas which most people would recognise as Nottingham.
“We’d much prefer not to have this distraction from continuing to find ways to provide vital local services while the Government pulls the plug on our funding.”
Councillor Simon Robinson, Rushcliffe Borough Council, Conservative – “We’re waiting to look at the full business plan to see what will be in the best financial interest of Rushcliffe.
“From a financial point of view, the capital costs of setting up a single unitary authority would be huge. From an operational point of view, two unitaries would make sense, but we’ll have to wait to look at whether the north south or east west split would work best for the people of Rushcliffe.”
How can a new council be created?
Under Government regulations, a new council area has to have at least 300,000 residents.
It also has to have ‘co-terminus boundaries’, meaning the districts or boroughs have to currently share a border. This is to avoid creating ‘doughnut options’.
There is some dispute over whether the new councils have to be based on current district and borough council boundaries. The county council states they do, but the city council believes they do not, and that its proposal would still be considered by the Government.
They also need to maintain ‘reasonable levels’ of population density.
Kit Sandeman , Local Democracy Reporting Service