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Where next for Local Government in Nottinghamshire?

by Leon Duveen on 1 August, 2018

Last month, the County Council voted to reorganise Local Government in Nottinghamshire  as a single Unitary Authority covering all of the County, i.e. the 7 current District & Borough Councils across the County would be abolished and County Council would assume control over all aspects of Local Government across the County, outside of the existing City Council area.  The rational for this, according Cllr. Kay Cutts, leader of the County Council, is to save money as it is more efficient for a single Council to do the work of the current 8 councils.

To be fair, she has a point.  Local democracy is not cheap.   Having 8 different Council, all with their own set of Council officials & Councillors cost money, money taken from us through the Council tax we pay.  However, centralising all the council services currently delivered by our District & Borough Councils to a single Authority, based in West Bridgford, will mean that for many across the county will no longer have direct access to the officials & Councillors who make decisions about their lives.

As could be predicted, the District & Borough Councils around the County have reacted with horror to the suggestion, partly out of self-preservation but also out of the need to defend local services.

Currently District & Borough Councils deliver a number of services that directly affect people’s lives such as, + Add New Category planning, housing, environment, waste collection, local sports facilities.  Here in Bassetlaw, there is a worry that by centralising all these services to West Bridgford, we in the more remote areas will lose out in the funding locally (as has happened with resources for Policing, Addiction Services, and Transport) as the needs of the larger population areas around Nottingham take precedent.

Thankfully, the attempt by Cllr Cutts to assume wider power over all of the County doesn’t depend just on the County Council.

 

At meeting with other Lib Dems from across the County & City a few weeks ago we discussed a way forward for Local Government in Nottinghamshire.  Here are some of our conclusions

  • We need to recognise that size does matter in Local Government and larger Unitary Authorities can be more effective and efficient in delivering services and many people (including some Councillors0 don’t understand the split in responsibility between County and the existing District & Borough Councils. Indeed, Central Government (under all parties) has been pushing towards Unitary Authorities for some time.
  • Our current councils were set up 45 years ago when the populations across the County (including the City) were very different and also commutations have changed amazingly across that time. The area people think of as Nottingham has expanded in that time and is now far bigger than the area covered by Nottingham City Council
  • People across the County need to be able to connect to their Council and democratic oversight means Councils should not be too big or remote.

With these points in mind, we thought the best solution would be to divide the County into 3 Unitary Authorities, each of around 330,000 residents.  One would be an expanded City and the other two would be either a North/South or an East/West split of the County (both splits have good points in favour of them but a number of disadvantages as well).  We also felt that more power should also be devolved down to Town & Parish Councils within the Unitary Authorities to help people have more control over local issues in their communities.

While the 7 local Lib Dem parties across the County have yet to agree a joint position on any reorganisation of Nottinghamshire’s local government, these conclusions have much to recommend them as each of the 3 new  Unitary Authorities would be big enough to provide the services needed while not too big to be remote from their residents.

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