It’s my way, bank­ruptcy or sav­age cuts to ser­vices

KAY CUTTS EX­PLAINS WHY SHE BE­LIEVES SLIMMED-DOWN LO­CAL GOV­ERN­MENT IS VI­TAL FOR NOTTS

Nottingham Post - - NEWS - By KIT SAN­DE­MAN Kit.san­de­man@reach­plc.com @San­de­man_kit

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

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