Let's cut waste and confusion, not services
The Leader of the County Council explains the potential benefits of scrapping the current two-tier system of local government in Nottinghamshire with a new unitary council, which provide better accountability, more efficiency and cut bureaucracy.
The County Council is developing a business case for replacing the current two-tier system of local government in Nottinghamshire with one new Council, responsible for providing all services.
Under current arrangements, your local district or borough council provides services such as council housing, bin collections and leisure, adding up to £83m (9%) of council services in your area, while the County Council delivers the ‘big ticket’ services like adult and children's social care, schools and highways, worth a total of more than £888m (91%).
The seven district / borough councils and Nottinghamshire County Council all have elected councillors and senior management teams, chief executives and back office functions to ensure they run smoothly - but this means you are effectively paying twice for people to do a similar job for you.
And people are often left fed-up at being passed from authority to authority and frustrated by the lack of joined-up thinking - a consequence of the current system, no matter how closely the two tiers of local government try to work together.
There is a better way.
A unitary council for Nottinghamshire would enable us to pool resources and bring together best practice from existing councils. You would still have local councillors to represent you, locally-based services and local people delivering them – just as you do now.
But it would mean better services being provided consistently across our whole area and an end to the disparity in the type and quality of services you receive, depending on where you live.
Having bin collections and waste disposal working as one, for instance, would bring obvious improvements to the service you get, as would closer working between social care, housing and benefits.
By doing away with unnecessary duplication, we estimate that we could save up to £30 million in annual running costs and bureaucracy without impacting frontline services.
Government Revenue Support Grant funding to the County Council has fallen by almost £100 million, from £122.1 million to £22.6 million over the past five years and will disappear altogether by 2020, leaving a projected budget deficit of £55 million over the next three years.
The savings achievable from forming a unitary authority would make a huge difference in protecting services and ensuring a secure future for local government in this county. It’s in all our best interests to make savings in this way, as opposed to cuts, closures and council tax increases which will happen without fundamental change.
My own position - and the County Council as we know it - would be dissolved under these proposals, so I certainly cannot be accused of acting out of self-interest or of wanting to seize control.
In fact, my support for a unitary council is borne out of my passion for delivering good quality, value-for-money services to Nottinghamshire residents. Local people would decide who is in charge of the new authority through the ballot box.
There are numerous good examples of how unitary councils are working well throughout the country.
The business case we are working up will provide much more clarity about how this system could work for the people of Nottinghamshire. I look forward to sharing this with you and hearing your views when it is fully developed.
Councillor Kay Cutts
Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council
Councillor Kay Cutts, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council