We, the Broxtowe Green Party oppose the current idea to merge Borough Councils and Nottinghamshire Council into one Unitary Authority as we believe it will compromise delivery of essential services, bring local job losses and reduce democratic accountability.
We, the Broxtowe Green Party are concerned that the plan to become a unitary authority is flawed. Although we would support changes which improve efficiency whilst maintaining levels of service, we do not see how the current plan to centralise will deliver this. Additionally we foresee that any potential monetary savings due to restructuring will disappear in higher expenditure in set up and beyond.
Centralising the running of services also centralises the decision making taking it further away from the direct control of people using those services. Additionally having one Unitary Council does reduce democratic accountability and transparency. We, from the Green Party can see this has occurred in Nottingham City Council, where Labour has a very strong hold, with a tiny opposition. This not only means the loss of democratic control but also diminishes the sense of ownership and responsibility to do the best for the whole community by the decision makers in control. Better democratic engagement with communities is needed and this proposal will lead to voter alienation rather than better democratic engagement.
There will be costs from consultants advising on how to implement the changes, marketing costs due to rebranding not to mention redundancy payouts and new election costs, all of which are non-recoverable. More crucially, after centralisation there is likely to be a knowledge vacuum due to experienced staff being made redundant or being placed in alternative roles. There will be a need to invest in retraining staff. The remaining staff will have to deal with an increased workload risking their mental and physical health due to the stress. During this transition there will be the inevitable reduction in service provision to the people of Nottinghamshire. This will impede timely access to vital council services and ultimately could shift demand onto healthcare, policing and on the environment. The reduction in staff is also likely to not be as large as initially anticipated as effective communication within such a vast unitary authority would in itself require administering.
Additionally, the effect of job losses on the local economy has to be taken into account. Higher unemployment will depress local economies because people are less able to purchase goods and services, businesses will suffer and possibly fail. This will reduce council income from business rates. Higher unemployment will also increase demand for such services as free school meals. There will be an increase for social services support as the pressure on families increases. This proposed reorganisation will also be taking place alongside the uncertainty created as a result of Brexit, in whatever form it occurs.
We recognise however, that the systems currently in place can be improved and there is potential to reduce some costs and improve efficiency. Our City and Borough councils have a skilled, knowledgeable and experienced workforce administering our services. Empowering staff to suggest improvements in communication, efficiency, and in creating opportunities to share best practice and make incremental changes is a better place to start strategic changes.
Therefore we, the Broxtowe Green Party would urge the County Council to find another less destructive way to deal with the budgeting constraints that ensures devolvement of local issues for local communities whilst collaborating with other local authorities and trade unions to take action and protect our essential public services.
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