Nottingham City Council has written to the Government to say that it believes the continued retention of an Improvement and Assurance Board with enhanced powers could successfully support its recovery rather than the appointment of Commissioners.
The Government had invited representations from the council and other interested parties following its announcement last month that it was minded to intervene at the authority with a proposed intervention package including the appointment of Commissioners.
The independent Improvement and Assurance Board has been overseeing improvements at the council since 2021. The Board issued Instructions for specific areas of work which build on the council’s ‘Together for Nottingham’ improvement plan.
In a letter to the Government, the council’s Leader, Cllr David Mellen and Chief Executive, Mel Barrett highlighted the significant progress made over the last three years including improving its management arrangements in relation to council owned companies which has led to Nottingham City Homes and Nottingham Revenues and Benefits being brought back in house.
They say the council has also demonstrated effective risk management in providing support for the re-opening of Nottingham Castle on a more solid footing after the failure of the independent Trust that had previously operated it and supported the recently concluded financial restructuring of Nottingham Tramlink following the challenges it faced during the Covid pandemic.
Progress has been made with partners driving forward devolution arrangements for the East Midlands County Combined Authority which will see a new Mayor elected in May this year, while the work of the council’s Public Health team has been acknowledged nationally. Improvements being made in children’s services supported by the Department for Education have been noted by Ofsted in their recent monitoring visits.
Significant measures are being taken in relation to the council’s financial sustainability with robust action in managing the in-year position as well as the 2024/25 budget and Medium-Term Financial Plan. Spending controls introduced as part of the Section 114 (3) report will continue to 31 March 2025 and the council is currently consulting on £35 million of proposed cuts, including a proposed reduction of 500 posts.
The Leader and Chief Executive’s response concludes by saying: “Our resolve to continue to drive improvement remains undiminished. We have valued the support and challenge of the Improvement and Assurance Board over the time we have spent working together. Given the depth of knowledge and working relationships built up between the Council and the Improvement and Assurance Board members, we believe that the continued retention of that structure with enhanced powers could successfully support the Council’s recovery, and we have previously indicated a preference for that arrangement rather than the appointment of Commissioners.”
The council letter went on to acknowledge that a decision on the appointment of Commissioners is one for the Secretary of State to make but asked that if a decision to appoint Commissioners is to be made that it is done so expeditiously and that a period of transition with the existing Improvement and Assurance Board is incorporated, so that the change to increased intervention can be managed as seamlessly as possible.