Government commissioners appointed to city council

Nottingham City Council's Loxley House HQ

The Government has announced that commissioners are to be appointed at troubled Nottingham City Council.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has confirmed that the Secretary of State Michael Gove, after considering representations and all other developments since his ‘minded to’ proposals, has decided to appoint commissioners for the council.

David Mellen

The lead commissioner for Nottingham will be Tony McArdle OBE who was previously lead commissioner at the former Northamptonshire County Council and is currently chair of the London Borough of Croydon Improvement and Assurance Panel. He will be supported by Margaret Lee as commissioner for finance, with the intention that a commissioner for transformation will be nominated in due course.

The commissioners have been granted extensive powers and will oversee the full range of the council’s “improvement activities”, including strategies to secure the medium and long term financial sustainability of the council and plans to transform front line services.

The three won’t come cheap; one of them will be paid £1,200 and the other two £1,100 a day

The appointment of commissioners replaces the Improvement and Assurance Board with immediate effect, although the Commissioners will be able to draw on the input of Sir Tony Redmond and former IAB members as they see fit.

The council has a £23m overspend in 2023/24 and has requested Exceptional Financial Support from government in the form of capitalisation which allows the council to use capital receipts from asset sales to meet ongoing revenue costs as a short term measure.

An extensive budget savings package which will have a significant impact on local services is due to be decided on by councillors at a meeting of the City Council scheduled for 4 March.

Councillor David Mellen, leader of the Council, said: “Our preferred option was to continue to work with the Improvement and Assurance Board which has been overseeing improvements at the council since 2021.

“We feel that significant progress was being made across the council. However, we are committed to working constructively and collaboratively with the Commissioners to tackle Nottingham’s current challenges.”

Mel Barrett, the council’s chief executive, said: “The council is committed to working in collaboration with the commissioners to continue our improvement journey at pace, reshaping the organisation to put the authority on a stable financial footing, while delivering essential services for Nottingham residents within the resources that we have.

“Our wider transformation work is already well under way and the expert input and challenge from the commissioners will be invaluable to our officers and councillors as they look to accelerate that process further.”

A statement from Nottingham’s Labour MPs, Nadia Whittome, Lilian Greenwood and Alex Norris, expressed “deep disappointment” at the decision, saying it “undermined local democracy”.

It added: “The government has already prevented elected councillors from setting next year’s budget – a budget that proposes drastic and devastating cuts unsupported by the council leadership.

“We are extremely concerned at the impact of these cuts on a city which already faces amongst the highest levels of deprivation and destitution of any district in the country.

“Nottingham has suffered disproportionately from reductions in grant funding from Conservative governments, with a reduction in spending power of 28% since 2010, compared to an average of 19% amongst councils.

“Instead of giving further decision-making powers to those who are unaccountable to our constituents, we believe that the City Council should be provided with new, additional, emergency funding from central government to protect the essential services our constituents rely on.”

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