Opposition leaders say ‘bleak times’ ahead for city residents over commissioners plan

Cllr Kevin Clarke, opposition leader of Nottingham Independents, outside some of homes in Clifton he believes need urgent work
By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter

Opposition leaders say they fear ‘bleak times’ are ahead for Nottingham following the Government’s plan to bring in commissioners to run parts of the city council.

Concerns have also been raised over the future of city projects such as the former Broadmarsh shopping centre, as commissioners work at sorting out the council’s financial situation.

Under a plan backed by Secretary of State Michael Gove, a team of Government-appointed commissioners could have the power to amend council budgets and pay close attention to where money is being spent.

The planned intervention follows up to £40m of ringfenced money from the council’s Housing Revenue Account was spent on the wrong services.

The council housing tenants’ rent – which should have been pumped into council housing and repairs – was put into general council services instead.

A report found the local authority has misspent up to around £22.8m since 2014/15 while Nottingham City Homes, which manages the council housing stock on behalf of the authority, misspent up to £17.1m.

Cllr Kevin Clarke, opposition leader of Nottingham Independents, said: “I am shocked but not surprised.

“When government commissioners come in, everything stops, apart from essential services so it is a pretty bleak time for the residents of Nottingham, if things were not bad enough.

“The buck stops with the Labour Group. They put us into this situation with Robin Hood Energy and the Housing Revenue Account was the nail in the coffin.

“Does the Broadmarsh development stop? Does the fit out of the new Central Library stop? What we are we going to get and not going to get? It is very uncertain times.

“If we can’t get seats in the next local election we might as well pack our bags. How can anyone elect these people? It is just one disaster after another.”

Cllr Andrew Rule, opposition leader of the Conservative Group, added: “I think we have reached a point of ‘how much do we take?’

“While there are authorities that have bigger issues than we do when you are talking about the unlawful spending from a ringfenced account how much more does it need before the ultimate sanction has to be enforced?

“This means there will now be extra levels of scrutiny on spending decisions and if they do not meet best value for money they have veto over them.

“It is nothing to do with politics – it is mismanagement and unlawful spending which has led us into this tragic situation.”

When asked what this will mean for future council projects and developments, he said: “We are in uncharted territory and nothing is off the table.”

Previously on Thursday, Council Leader David Mellen said: “In light of the improvements we have been making, it’s clearly disappointing that the Housing Revenue Account issue has led to the Government taking the action it has.

“We understand that it will be a major concern for city residents, council staff, our partners and local businesses but we are committed to working with Commissioners on any further improvements we need to make.”

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