Councilors say Government plans to take commissioner as ‘vindictive political act’

Labor councilors have expressed anger at the Government’s plans to bring in commissioners to help run the authority.

Councilors took turns to express their frustrations at a full council meeting held at the Council House on Monday, July 11th.

In June, the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities wrote to the council because of concerns about the way it handled the illegal spending of rent money by council tenants.

The department said it had ‘thought’ to send government -appointed commissioners to control the situation, as had happened to a handful of other struggling councils across the country.

If the commissioners are called, financial decisions can be left in the hands of elected members and senior officials, which includes the way the city spends money.

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Last week, the council revealed that it had sent a letter of appeal to the government asking them not to interfere.

The letter was mentioned as well as the government’s proposals at a full council meeting on Monday, July 11th.

Cllr Adele Williams (Lab), portfolio holder for finance, said the decision was “not in the best interest of the people of Nottingham” and major improvements had already been made to fix the council’s financial situation.

This includes reducing debt from £ 1bn to £ 900m and proposing £ 38m of savings and cuts over the next four years.

“We are making the improvements we need to make even with the tremendous pressure of austerity budgets,” he added.

He said the council had written to the new Leveling Up department minister, MP Greg Clark, in the hope “fresh faces” would help them revisit the ‘thinking’ approach to bringing in commissioners .

Cllr Steve Battlemuch (Lab) said: “We will have two people (commissioners) who will run the city and replace the 55 elected councilors.

“As city council taxpayers, they pay thousands a week for these commissioners as well as pay for the staff we employ.

“What does that say to the senior staff of our council that these two commissioners will be overruling and overturning decisions?

“It’s a vindictive political act.”

Cllr Sam Gardiner (Lab) added: “Boris Johnson is trying to cause diversion for his own misdemeanors. This is completely political. There is no logic to the admission of commissioners. ”

Cllr Linda Woodings (Lab) said the council would “stay on the table” and “fight for Nottingham and its best interests” even if the commissioners were called.

He described the plans as ‘unreasonable’ and ‘undemocratic’.

The Labor -run authority is already under the watchful eye of a Government -appointed improvement board, headed by Sir Tony Redmond, following the collapse of Robin Hood Energy.

The council-owned company cost taxpayers an expected £ 38m when it broke in January 2020.

Over the past 18 months, council leader Cllr David Mellen said many improvements have been made.

This includes cultural change across authority on concerns that ‘a legacy culture’ has existed for so long that financial decisions are not properly evaluated.

But as part of the council’s reform program, it was dug up in May that up to £ 40m of ringfenced cash for council housing tenants had been spent on other services instead.

The local authority erred in spending up to approximately £ 22.8m since 2014/15 while Nottingham City Homes, which manages the council’s housing stock on behalf of the council, erred in spending up to £ 17.1m.

This money must now be returned – with Cllr Mellen emphasizing “we have the money, we know where the money is, and it will be returned”.

However, the government said it was ‘mindful’ to send commissioners to mis -spend the Housing Revenue Account.