The leader of Nottinghamshire County Council has spoken out about plans for a ‘super council’ which she says could save taxpayers £30 million a year.
Conservative Councillor Kay Cutts, who represents the Radcliffe on Trent ward, says the new scheme will remove duplication and make council services simpler.
However opponents of the scheme, including the leaders of several district councils, have said it would erode local decision making and could end up costing more.
Councillor Cutts’ comments come in an opinion column due to be published this week in several of the county’s newspapers.
She said: “The county council is developing a business case for replacing the current two-tier system of local government in Nottinghamshire with one new council, responsible for providing all services.
“Under current arrangements, your local district or borough council provides services such as council housing, bin collections and leisure, adding up to £83m (nine percent) of council services in your area, while the county council delivers the ‘big ticket’ services like adult and children’s social care, schools and highways, worth a total of more than £888m (91 percent).
“The seven district and borough councils, and Nottinghamshire County Council all have elected councillors and senior management teams, chief executives and back office functions to ensure they run smoothly – but this means you are effectively paying twice for people to do a similar job for you.
“And people are often left fed-up at being passed from authority to authority and frustrated by the lack of joined-up thinking – a consequence of the current system, no matter how closely the two tiers of local government try to work together.
“There is a better way.
“A unitary council for Nottinghamshire would enable us to pool resources and bring together best practice from existing councils. You would still have local councillors to represent you, locally-based services and local people delivering them – just as you do now.
“But it would mean better services being provided consistently across our whole area and an end to the disparity in the type and quality of services you receive, depending on where you live.
“Having bin collections and waste disposal working as one, for instance, would bring obvious improvements to the service you get, as would closer working between social care, housing and benefits.
“By doing away with unnecessary duplication, we estimate that we could save up to £30 million in annual running costs and bureaucracy without impacting frontline services.
“Government Revenue Support Grant funding to the County Council has fallen by almost £100 million, from £122.1 million to £22.6 million over the past five years and will disappear altogether by 2020, leaving a projected budget deficit of £55 million over the next three years.
“The savings achievable from forming a unitary authority would make a huge difference in protecting services and ensuring a secure future for local government in this county. It’s in all our best interests to make savings in this way, as opposed to cuts, closures and council tax increases which will happen without fundamental change.
“My own position – and the county council as we know it – would be dissolved under these proposals, so I certainly cannot be accused of acting out of self-interest or of wanting to seize control.
“In fact, my support for a unitary council is borne out of my passion for delivering good quality, value-for-money services to Nottinghamshire residents. Local people would decide who is in charge of the new authority through the ballot box.
“There are numerous good examples of how unitary councils are working well throughout the country.
“The business case we are working up will provide much more clarity about how this system could work for the people of Nottinghamshire. I look forward to sharing this with you and hearing your views when it is fully developed.”
However critics of the scheme have said it will lead to more problems than it solves.
Critics have included the leaders of Ashfield, Gedling, and Bassetlaw councils.
Councillor Alan Rhodes is the leader of the Labour group at the county council, and has spoken out against the plan.
Speaking just before the high-profile vote which saw the council move towards setting up a business case on the proposals, he said it would be: “Hugely distracting from the job we are all elected to do, deeply divisive, and ultimately doomed to failure with promises broken and expectation failing to be met.”