By Kit Sandeman, Local Democracy Reporter
Detailed plans for how a new ‘super-council’ in Nottinghamshire would work have been published, including what the proposed council tax could be alongside results of a survey of public opinion on the idea.
Provisional estimates made by Nottinghamshire County Council say 85.5 percent of households could pay less council tax, although the actual final rate would have to be set by the new council.
The report published today (December 5) also shows a majority of the 2,926 people who replied to the initial consultation do not support becoming a unitary authority.
The proposal, which has been put forward by the Conservative-led Nottinghamshire County Council, would involve scrapping seven district and borough councils, and the county council, and setting up one new authority for the whole of the county, outside the city.
In total, seven different options were initially considered, with some involving a North / South split, but now one single council has been chosen as the preferred outcome.
The report, published by external company ORS, said: “Only three in ten individual respondents agreed with the principle of replacing the two-tier local government with a unitary (super council) system, while more than six in 10 disagreed.
“There was more support than average in Newark and Sherwood and Rushcliffe, but only about a quarter were favourable in the remaining districts.”
Of those who responded to the council’s open questionnaire, two thirds of people favoured having two unitary authorities, while a third favoured having one.
However there was more support for a unitary authority among smaller town and parish councils, and the “great majority” of a focus group with businesses favoured a ‘super-council’.
Leaked documents seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service showed the council had planned to write to every household in the county to ask for their opinions on the plan.
However it now appears this will not be the case, and instead people will be invited to complete an online questionnaire.
Speaking in support of the plan, the leader of the council, Councillor Kay Cutts, who represents the Radcliffe-on-Trent ward for the Conservatives, said: “We shall save in the first year £27 million, and in every year after that we will save £27 million.
“The set up costs are probably between £19 and £20 million. Those figures have been verified, and we will make that saving in the first year.”
When asked why having just one super council was her preferred option of the seven initially considered, she said: “It delivers better services. It allows us to deliver the services more evenly and it’s straight forward. We haven’t got to break anything up, because if we went with, let’s say, two unitary authorities, we would have to start breaking up all the things we do now, and that’s quite a difficult thing to do, so this allows us to carry on delivering the services.
“The savings we will make are important, but I think it’s more so that people will know which council to go to if they have an issue.”
But Councillor Alan Rhodes, the Labour group leader, who represents the Worksop North ward said: “I’m very disappointed.
“We were told every household in Notts would be asked for their opinion, but it now transpires it’s going to be a representative questionnaire, so only some people will be sent it. I think that’s wrong.
“For me they haven’t learned anything. They have disrespected districts and they have now disrespected the residents. They are all ratepayers and they should all have their say, it shouldn’t be just a handful of households.
“This has been mismanaged from day one and it continues to be so. I think the people of Notts are going to be let down as a result of the mismanagement, and to exclude council tax payers from the discussion is not only undemocratic but it’s outrageous.
“The consultation shows a clear majority are against the plan, so they have asked for the public’s opinion and then completely disregarded it. That’s a very disrespectful thing to do.”
Councillor Rhodes also said the report failed to address the social and economic impact which would come from making hundreds of council staff across the county redundant.
The plan will now be voted on next week on Thursday, December 13. The Conservatives have a very slim majority on the county council, and the vote is expected to be won or lost by just one or two votes.
Band D council tax charges – current and proposed
Note – levels of council tax would be decided by the new council. These are a notional prediction.
Ashfield – Current – £1,262.03 – Proposed – £1, 238.08
Bassetlaw – Current – £1,305.62 – Proposed – £1,294.54
Broxtowe – Current – £1,329.93 – Proposed – £1,324.17
Gedling – Current – £1,392.81 – Proposed – £1,385.70
Mansfield – Current – £1,242.69 – Proposed – £1,219.66
Newark and Sherwood – Current £1,382.32 – Proposed – £1,369.05
Rushcliffe – Current – £1,585.77 – Proposed – £1,608.41