By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
The Government has said it will end Nottingham City Council’s seven-week wait to hear if it will be taken over by commissioners ‘in due course’, without providing any further timescale.
The authority is currently being monitored by a Government-appointed board after the collapse of Robin Hood Energy in January 2020, costing the taxpayer around £38m.
But on June 23, former Secretary of State Michael Gove said he was ‘minded to intervene’ with commissioners after it was revealed that up to £40m of ringfenced cash from the council’s Housing Revenue Account had been misspent.
If commissioners are called in, financial decisions could be taken out of the hands of elected members and senior officers.
On August 3 leader of Nottingham City Council David Mellen (Lab) said he had not heard anything from the new Secretary of State Greg Clark, about if or when commissioners will be called in, and the council said this position was unchanged as of Tuesday (August 16).
At the time of the original announcement in June, the Government asked ‘all interested parties’ to make representations about the proposed interventions by July 7.
But turmoil in Westminister before Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood down, meant the two ministers involved in the decision – Michael Gove and Kemi Badenoch – were no longer with the Government department.
Now, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities says Mr Clark “is considering the representations and will take a decision on whether to intervene in Nottingham City Council in due course”.
“We are aware that the Council is currently operating with some uncertainty and we have encouraged them to engage closely with the Improvement and Assurance Board”, the government added.
The Labour-run council was already under the watchful eye of a Government-appointed improvement board, chaired by Sir Tony Redmond.
Sir Tony would also be appointed as Lead Commissioner if the Government made the call for them to be called in.
Leader of Nottingham City Council David Mellen (Lab) said Government ministers had received 25 letters supporting the city council.
Cllr Mellen previously appealed and asked the Government not to intervene.
Speaking on August 3, Cllr Mellen said: “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.”
Cllr Mellen said many improvements had been made during the last 18 months, including a culture change to ensure financial decisions are being properly scrutinised.