It’s my way, bankruptcy or savage cuts to services
KAY CUTTS EXPLAINS WHY SHE BELIEVES SLIMMED-DOWN LOCAL GOVERNMENT IS VITAL FOR NOTTS
THE leader of Nottinghamshire County Council has given a full and frank interview about why she thinks creating a new “super council” is the best way forward for Nottinghamshire.
Conservative councillor Kay Cutts said the severity of the financial pressure faced by the council meant that if it did not go ahead with the plan, it would likely be declared bankrupt or have to cut large swathes of services.
She said some of the estimated £20 to £30 million the council hoped to save under the plan would come from redundancies. But the exact number would be established later in the process.
The plan, which is currently being consulted on, would involve scrapping all seven district and borough councils, as well as the county council. One or two new councils would then be set up.
As of yesterday, 1,115 people had responded to the public consultation.
Councillor Cutts said the scheme would dramatically improve services people received from their council, such as bin collection and road repairs.
She also said it would simplify council services, meaning people would have one contact point to get in touch with.
Critics of the plan have argued that it would erode local decisionmaking but Councillor Cutts said she had received several messages of support on the plan.
She said critics had only attacked the plan and had not come up with any alternative on how to make at least £54 million in savings that the council needs to make.
She said: “I am not doing this for a bit of fun. I’m doing this because we are running out of funds for services we deliver.
“I’m not having a game with anybody. I’m having a serious conversation with serious grown-up people about how we are going to fill the gap.
“So far, all anyone has said to me is, ‘I don’t agree with this, I don’t agree with that, I’m going to vote against it.’ But no-one has said to me, ‘I’ll tell you where you can find the money.’”
She said the Labour administration that was in power before the Conservatives took control last year left a £54 million black hole and cuts in funding from the Government meant the county council had to make millions of pounds in savings in the coming years.
Increasing demand for adult social care and children’s services is exacerbating this financial pressure. She said: “There are many services this council gives which are discretionary which members of the public like us to do. Things like the talented athletes fund, the small grants councillors give to help small organisations in their towns and villages, they’re all the things people like. They will be the first thing to go, along with the libraries [if the unitary plan did not go ahead].”
Councillor Cutts, who represents the Radcliffe-on-trent ward, said there was a lot of duplication with the current two-tier system.
“For example, there are seven separate dustbin rounds, seven different-coloured bins, and one disposal authority which is the county council.
“So you’ve got domestic refuse being collected by Ashfield District for example, but it’s the county council’s problem to recycle or dispose of. So one council doing that, seven collecting it. I can tell you anybody could design a system to save money on that.
“We are suggesting we put all the services together in the same place, for delivery to the same people and ask the people if they want to pay a bit more to keep their local council, or if they would prefer that money to come to the county council to provide all the other services that we currently provide.”
When asked whether she understood some people’s fears that local decision-making and local services could be lost, she said: “I’m not sure who these people are. Do I understand that district council leaders don’t want to lose their job? Absolutely. There’s a lot of self interest there.
“Do I understand that local people are concerned? I don’t. Because I haven’t received that response. In fact, I’ve had emails saying ‘we agree with you.’
“Two-thirds of England has a onecouncil.
There are seven separate dustbin rounds, seven differentcoloured bins, and one disposal authority
tier authority, the whole of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It’s only the shire counties which isn’t. It starts to be ridiculous.”
The council leader also said there was currently significant confusion among the public about which council provided which services. She said more than 20,000 calls were made to the wrong authority each year in Nottinghamshire, showing that many people did not understand which service was provided by which council. A unitary authority would remove this confusion, she said.
In the process of creating the supercouncil plan, many insults have been aimed at Councillor Cutts from a wide range of sources.
When asked whether she was affected by these, she said: “No. It’s a bit of a ‘so what?. Just turn up and do the job. It really doesn’t, honestly.
“I go home with my conscience every night. I come here and do a proper job, to the best of my ability. I may get it wrong but I do it to the best of my ability and I do it honestly. And then that’s it, job done, go home and pick my tomatoes.”
The council is currently holding cross-party working groups to keep councillors informed on how the plan is progressing.
The media has asked to attend these meetings but this has been refused. The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 14.
Do I understand that local people are concerned? I don’t. Because I haven’t received that response