The County Council’s proposals to re-organise local government are incomplete and miss a huge opportunity by leaving the city out of the thinking.
That’s the view that the City Council has submitted to the County Council’s consultation into their plans which would see the city surrounded by either one or two ‘super councils,’ replacing the existing local district and borough councils.
By ignoring the city altogether, the views of residents, businesses and workers in the urban areas immediately surrounding the city such as Gedling, West Bridgford and Hucknall will be included, but those within the city will not. The City Council’s view is that if local government reorganisation has to happen at all, there should be One Nottingham and One Council for an expanded city – not the current muddle of six councils that people in the urban parts of the conurbation are living with now.
Nottingham is already disadvantaged by having among the tightest boundaries of any city in the country – and the County’s proposals would compound this problem by creating a super-council that boxes in the city.
Currently, less than half (48.7%) of those who work in the city also live in the city – significantly less than for other comparable cities such as Sheffield (75.7%) and Leeds (70.5%.) Many people from outside the city make use of city services and its infrastructure and enjoy it as a destination for leisure, entertainment and shopping. But their Council Tax doesn’t contribute to funding the city services they use regularly and they are not in a position to hold Nottingham’s decision makers to account for choices made in the city that can significantly affect their daily lives.
The City Council argues that including an expanded city would bring benefits for the whole area – pointing to Government acknowledgement that it is thriving cities which increasingly drive the country’s economy and that of the areas surrounding them. It says that many areas outside the current City Council boundaries are recognisably part of the urban conurbation and are places where many people who work in Nottingham live. Any new unitary authority – which would have transport, infrastructure and economic responsibilities – should reflect those boundaries which are the norm for the vast majority of the rest of the country and the world.
City Council Leader, Cllr Jon Collins, said: “We don’t think local government reorganisation is a good thing to happen now or the most pressing thing in local government. But we do think that if the County Council wants to press ahead with its proposals for a unitary council surrounding the city, then it should absolutely be considering the future role and size of the city.
“The existing boundary between Nottingham and Nottinghamshire is an nonsensical anomaly from the 1998 local government reorganisation, leaving Nottingham at a disadvantage over other cities. Any local government reorganisation needs to be sustainable and future-proof and that should include a single council that serves the whole of urban Nottingham.
“Proposals based only on the County boundary would stifle Nottingham and Nottinghamshire’s potential growth and reduce accountability for city services. A new large county unitary’s focus would be diluted if it was trying to deliver services to former coalfields and growing market towns as well as fulfilling metropolitan duties in an arbitrary ring around Nottingham.”
City residents are urged to respond to the consultation because of the ramifications for them if the County Council goes ahead with its proposals as currently drafted. The County Council’s proposals and consultation can be seen here: http://www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/local/future-nottinghamshire