County Councillors are to begin detailed analysis of the options available to modernise the way Council services are run in Nottinghamshire, potentially paving the way for the biggest change to local government in the county in more than 40 years.
Senior politicians will meet at County Hall on 6 September for the first of a series of top-level, cross-party advisory meetings to consider the business case for replacing the current two tier structure, with a new unitary council system which would cost less to run, be less confusing for residents and ensure the standard of the services are of the same, high standard, regardless of where in the county you live.
The new working group, chaired by the Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, Councillor Kay Cutts MBE, will include county councillors nominated by all the major political groups at County Hall, including the majority Conservative and Mansfield Independent Forum, Labour, and the Ashfield Independents.
It comes as a new report is published for consideration by the County Council’s Policy Committee, which will meet on 12 September to discuss the process of preparing and submitting a formal business case to Government, supporting the case for a less bureaucratic system of local government in Nottinghamshire.
The report - Local Government Reorganisation development of the case for change - sets out the work involved in preparing the top level ‘case for change’ document required to support the review of local government administration in Nottinghamshire.
Councillor Kay Cutts MBE, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council said: “We believe that there is a pressing case for change in the way local government is organised in Nottinghamshire to deliver significant savings and to improve the quality of service local people will receive. We are faced with significant financial challenges and the need to live within our means, so it is only right that we do our bit to eliminate waste, bureaucracy and inefficiency in the provision of local government services.
“Having a confusing two tier structure of local government is outdated, unnecessary and is no longer fit for purpose. The county, district and borough councils all serve the same electorate and we must focus on what is best for them. Status quo is no longer a realistic option, we must change if services are to survive.
“The new working group will bring together representatives nominated by all the political groups at the County Council, including some of those with senior roles at several of Nottinghamshire's district and borough councils.
“It stands to reason that we can make the biggest savings in our management structures, the use and number of public buildings and improve our buying power with businesses by creating one unitary council for Nottinghamshire. 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 the services we offer. However, the working group will scrutinise the evidence for and against all the options available, including a single unitary council and various options for two unitary councils covering the county."
Major steps involved in the preparation of the case for change document include:
- stakeholder and community consultation with businesses and local public sector organisations
- focus groups involving members of the public to test and refine the approach to create a new local government structure across the county
- a formal public consultation about the proposals
- a detailed financial analysis about the opportunities to make savings which would be reviewed by externally appointed financial experts to impartially check and validate the figures.
The report recommends a two-phased approach to the project to make sure the case for change in local government administration can be proven. Phase one, between September and November this year, would involve detailed financial analysis, focus groups and stakeholder consultation, before reporting back on the findings to Full Council in December.
Subject to the agreement of County Councillors and satisfactory evidence to support the case for change, a major public consultation would be held between January and March next year, before a final report on the case for change being considered by Full Council in May 2019.
The total cost to prepare the case for change document is expected to be £270,000 of which £190,000 would be spent on community consultation and engagement. The total project costs represent just 0.05% of the County Council’s overall £495.9m total budget and are a fraction of the estimated savings local government reorganisation could deliver.
In July, the County Council formally supported plans to develop a business case for Government to create a new single unitary council for Nottinghamshire to provide all local government services. Under current arrangements for local government in Nottinghamshire, services like housing, waste collection, leisure and environmental health are provided by the seven district and borough councils, with other services such as adult and children's social care, schools, waste disposal, highways and libraries provided by the County Council. District and Borough Council provide around 9% of local services, with the County Council responsible for approximately 91%.
Nottinghamshire County Council believes that one council providing all local government services across the county will bring a number of significant benefits including:
- more cost effective services, offering better value for money with lower overheads, generating expected savings of up to £28m to reinvest in important frontline services
- easier access for the public, with one website and phone number making it simpler for people to get in touch and ending confusion about who does what
- better services to meet the specific needs of local communities, ending the postcode lottery that affects the quality of your local services, depending on where you live in the county
- improved local democracy by empowering councillors to influence the delivery of all services in their community and ensuring people always know who to turn to in their local area for help and advice
- one voice to speak up for and champion Nottinghamshire more effectively and to lobby for major new investment in the County from Government and industry.