Plans to do away with district and borough councils in Nottinghamshire are ‘far fetched’ and very unlikely to come off, Labour’s leader in the county has said.
Councillor Alan Rhodes said there was “more chance of England winning the World Cup” than of Nottinghamshire becoming a ‘unitary authority’ – an area with only one council.
Yesterday, the leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, Conservative Councillor Kay Cutts, said she wants to ‘get on with’ plans to abolish district and borough councils.
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She said this would involved doubling the number of county councillors (from 66 to 132) but abolishing district and borough councillors altogether.
This would mean a dramatic reduction in the overall number of councillors.
She also hopes it would save money by removing back-office duplication.
As well as the unitary plan, the Conservative leader is also working on a plan known as the ‘Strategic Alliance’, which would see counties and cities in the East Midlands coming together to form a stronger voice.
Councillor Cutts has requested a meeting with the Government minister responsible for local councils to discuss the scheme.
However while those talks are in early stages, Nottingham, Derby and Gedling are in advanced stages of what they call the ‘Metro Strategy.’
This could involve the three authorities working together on issues like procurement and infrastructure, but keeping borders and some powers, similar to London boroughs.
However Councillor Rhodes, who represents the Worksop North ward for Labour, said the plans were badly presented, not thought through, and being done in an ‘underhand manner’.
He said: “For me the big concern is about decision making and accountability. I live 30 miles away from County Hall, as do my constituents, and Worksop is a very different place to West Bridgford in lots of ways, and is that going to be improved by doing away with the district councils and creating a huge monolith that people don’t identify with.
“This should have been done properly in a public, open way. Instead it’s been done in a slipshod way.
“There should have been a properly put together press release and documents which make the case.”
Councillor John Clarke is the leader of Gedling Borough Council, and represents the Netherfield ward on the borough council.
He is in favour of a plan which would see his council keep its borders, but work more closely with Nottingham and Derby, known as the Metro Strategy.
He said: “I’m against the unitary authority because I think it’s much too big. We will resist any such take over.
“We still want to retain our independence, but work closely on some things with Nottingham and Derby, similar to London boroughs.
“If I thought it was a good thing for the people of Gedling then I would go for it.
“But we’re doing some good stuff as a small authority and I want to keep working on that.”
Speaking about the Metro Strategy, Councillor Clarke said: “It’s not just councils, we want to be working much more closely with health authorities, the police, and all these sort of things.
“We are all working on the same things really, but we’re doing it in our own silos.”
Kit Sandeman , Local Democracy Reporting Service