Nottinghamshire’s MPs weigh in on ‘super council’ proposals

We’ve spoken to all the county’s MPs about the plan to create a new ‘super council’ in Nottinghamshire.

The idea, which has been put forward by the Conservative-led Nottinghamshire County Council, would involve abolishing all seven district and borough councils, and the county council, and creating one or two new authorities for the whole county, excluding the city.

Nottinghamshire County Council. Photo: Joseph Raynor

Nottinghamshire County Council. Photo: Joseph Raynor

We asked each MP to explain whether they supported or opposed the plan, and why.

Gloria De Piero, Ashfield, Labour

“This proposal is causing considerable concern and anxiety amongst my constituents. There are understandable concerns about a loss of local accessibility, accountability and increases in council tax and parish precepts.

“There are also fears that resources will be diverted from key front line services provided by district councils in order to plug gaps in adult social care and children’s services currently provided by the county council.

“The stated savings by the leader of Nottinghamshire County Council are not substantiated nor based on any detailed or robust evidence base and I am greatly concerned about the county council’s repeated failure to engage Ashfield, the other district and borough councils and other stakeholders, in the development of the proposals.

“The majority of the district authorities, including Ashfield, have cross-party full council support to oppose the county’s proposals.

“I am in total opposition to the unitary council proposals, as it is clear that there is a lack of local political and resident support, no robust evidence base, a lack of open and transparent engagement with the district and borough authorities and they substantially fail to meet the stated required key criteria and advice the government has set for local government reorganisation proposals elsewhere.”

John Mann, Bassetlaw, Labour

“I am totally against this proposal, which will remove local democracy from Bassetlaw and take power further away from the people and to a bureaucratic elite.”

Anna Soubry, Broxtowe, Conservative

“I think it’s simply the right thing to do.

“Of course people in Broxtowe have an affinity with the borough council, but the reality is when you look at the functions of a borough council it comes down to bin collection and planning.

“There is a real thought that planning should be done on a bigger scale and that more of the big planning decisions that are needed, for example at Toton, should be taken by a more senior authority.

“I also think we need to boost our town and parish councils so people have more of a say on the very local issues, but stripping out the middle tier so we have more money for the upper tier that delivers the really important services.

Vernon Coaker, Labour, Gedling

“Local government has faced years of cuts from central government. Unitary authority status is not the answer to those years of cuts and underfunding. Without an end to austerity serious challenges will remain for our councils and vital local services.

“‘The notion of a unitary authority should be consulted on widely, residents should get a say, as should key organisations in the area and surrounding area including Nottingham City Council, businesses, charities and those that have been democratically elected to represent their communities.

“I personally, have not been approached by Nottinghamshire County Council regarding their proposal to abolish Gedling Borough Council, they have not consulted me or asked for my opinion as the local Member of Parliament and this is not good enough.

“If they really want the very best for the people of Nottinghamshire and for our communities, then they should be firstly calling on the Government for adequate funding and an end to austerity and then they should be conducting a real, clear and informative consultation, unfortunately that is not currently on offer from Nottinghamshire County Council’

Ben Bradley, Conservative, Mansfield

“Whatever the end result looks like, it’s clear that some level of reform of local government is vital if our services are to be sustainable in the future. In truth more than 90 percent of services are already managed at a county level anyway with only a tiny minority dealt with in districts.

We don’t need eight separate chief executives and sets of directors duplicating work, we don’t need hundreds of councillors, and shrinking the size of the bureaucracy does not have to mean losing the local delivery.

“We would still have local access points, local councillors, officers responsible for individual towns and areas, and decisions made as close to local communities as possible.

“We have to get it right and deliver something sustainable, but I’m wholly supportive of changes that make us more efficient, funnel more of our money in to services instead of admin, and give us more clout on a national level to access powers and funding for Nottinghamshire.”

Robert Jenrick, Conservative, Newark

“Unitarisation would undoubtedly provide back office savings that could be ploughed into the front line services that residents rely upon.

“I am fortunate to represent a part of Nottinghamshire served by two excellent local authorities, Newark and Sherwood, and Rushcliffe and so those proposing a new council would need to demonstrate it would deliver considerable benefits to my constituents if we were to lose these well managed district councils.

“At this stage, and I await the outcome of the study commissioned by the county council before making a final judgement, I am most attracted to the idea of two unitary authorities, with one encompassing the eastern and southern parts of the county that are predominantly rural and market town in character. I suspect that could command popular support.

“There is no prospect of the government agreeing to open the question of redrawing the boundaries of the city and so I would advise against wasting time on this side issue.”

Chris Leslie, Labour, Nottingham East

“While I don’t have any strong view about this specific set of proposals, if there could be savings to be made from layers of council management that could improve front-line services then we can’t ignore that money is finite for local government right now.

“I tend to generally think that because some areas have got parish, district and the county council a lot of people will be saying ‘do we really need all those?’

“You don’t have it in the city, you have one council, and that helps with accountability.

“I’m generally in favour of trying to make savings in the abck office administration, but I think it’s not for me to specifically talk about the proposal in Nottinghamshire, because it doesn’t involve any of my constituents.”

Alex Norris, Labour, Nottingham North

“The biggest issue facing councils is enormous Conservative Government cuts in funding, these have been particularly targeted at places like Nottingham.

“Plans for reorganisation are a sideshow to this. There is merit in making sure local organisations are fit for purpose but history has shown that this should not be done purely for financially reasons – as these savings can be hard to realise.

“If the county council leadership continues with their current plan and there has to be a reorganisation then it must involve the city too, with one council covering the urban area of Nottingham.”

Lilian Greenwood, Labour, Nottingham South

“The most pressing issue for my constituents is the Tory Government’s failure to give Nottingham City Council the funds it needs to provide essential services and their failure to listen to Nottingham people.

“The level of cuts to cities like Nottingham, that face unprecedented demands and serve deprived communities, is completely unsustainable and must be reversed.

“Nottingham has nothing to gain from the current proposals being pursued by the county council leader and if there is to be a change in Nottinghamshire local government, this must involve Nottingham City and address the ridiculous situation where places like West Bridgford which almost everyone thinks of as part of the city, are not actually within the city boundary.

“While I am broadly in favour of single tier councils, which we currently have in Nottingham City, we should recognise that any major reorganisation brings disruption and cost. At a time when local government is bearing the brunt of the Tory Government’s austerity programme, I am not convinced that this is the right time to make such a change.”

Ken Clarke, Conservative, Rushcliffe

“I am inclined to be against the idea but I am waiting to see if the eventual business plan has any good arguments.

“I think my constituents identify much more closely with Rushcliffe Borough Council than with the county council and I do think that local democracy is valuable.”

Mark Spencer, Conservative, Sherwood

“I recognise the benefits that would come from a single-tier authority. In my immediate area I’ve got four chief executives, four finance departments, and so on.

“It makes sense to cut through that bureaucracy and spend the savings on public services. However, this must be a democratic process.

“I want councils to work together and agree the best way forward – such a thing shouldn’t be forced upon them by the Government.”