Council leader still not certain if Government commissioners will be called in to run the city

David-Mellen
City Council leader, David Mellen. Photo: Joe Raynor.
By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter

The leader of Nottingham City Council says he is still waiting to be told if Government commissioners will take over the running of the authority.

Cllr David Mellen (Lab) says Government ministers have received 25 letters supporting the city council, but did not disclose who they were from.

Speaking at an overview and scrutiny meeting in Loxley House on Wednesday, August 3, Cllr Mellen said he had been given no update on the situation.

He highlighted that two ministers who wanted to bring in commissioners  – Michael Gove and Kemi Badenoch – were no longer with the Government department.

And he had not heard from the new Secretary of State Greg Clark, about when or if commissioners would be called in.

Cllr Mellen told the meeting: “There has been some uncertainty. We are still waiting. Twenty-five letters in support of the council were sent to the minister but the minister has changed.

“If there are commissioners, we know they will come and work here for two years and not three and there will be two of them.”

In June, The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities wrote to the council over the way it had handled the unlawful spending of council tenants’ rent money.

The department said it was ‘minded’ to send in Government-appointed commissioners to take control, as has happened at a number of other struggling councils across the country.

If commissioners are called in, financial decisions could be taken out of the hands of elected members and senior officers.

The council sent an appeal letter to the Government asking them not to intervene. The council has not had a response.

At the time, Labour councillors described it as an “attack on a Labour city” and a “vindictive” act by the Government.

The Labour-run authority was already under the watchful eye of a Government-appointed improvement board, chaired by Sir Tony Redmond, following the collapse of Robin Hood Energy.

The council-owned company cost taxpayers an estimated £38m when it went bust in January 2020.

Cllr Mellen said many improvements had been made during the last 18 months,

These included a culture change to ensure financial decisions are being properly scrutinised.

In May it was found that up to £40m of ringfenced cash for council housing tenants had been spent on other services . This money must now be paid back.

Cllr Andrew Rule, opposition leader of the Conservative Group, asked Cllr Mellen on August 3: “One of the justifications for commissioners coming in is the lack of progress around company governance. How further forward are we in creating a governance framework?”

Cllr Mellen said cash was available to pay back into the Housing Revenue Account, but it needed approval by the Government before the transaction takes place.

He said the council had sold off civil engineering and road surfacing contractor, Thomas Bow Ltd, and taken Nottingham City Homes in-house.

“There is still work to be done on the framework – I accept that,” he said.

“The improvement board do not want this hiatus from central government to stop our improvement, so we are carrying on.”

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