Nottinghamshire County Council: There Can be Only One... or Eight

The Evening Post reported yesterday that the County Council could become a "super-centre" for councils in the region. This appears to be on the back of the council's new "One Council, one business, one plan" improvement programme, currently still in the planning stages.

The article suggests that following the fall-through of a plan to merge functions with Leicestershire County Council, they are now turning their sights on the District Councils, with an aim to creating a unitary authority, or a unitary-like authority, and merging IT, HR and Finance departments.

Unitary councils are distinguished by having no County council above them in the hierarchy, and no District or Parish councils below them in the hierarchy, meaning that political power is more highly concentrated, direct and easier to wield. Nottingham City Council is an example of a unitary authority. Their unitary status, combined with the fact that they are Labour-controlled under a Labour government, probably contributes to them being able to implement more controversial and radical schemes such as the Workplace Parking Levy, or the tram.

The Nottingham Evening Post report must have made HR, IT and Finance staff at Nottinghamshire's 7 district councils pretty nervous about their future in the face of mergers designed to save money.

But the reality of the situation is not so grim, at least for now. NCC has communicated to its staff that this is mainly about updating its own IT systems, it has no plans for unitary status, and that it "may" offer back office service to district councils, if they are interested. It is said that any changes would take about 3 years.

NCC has updated its back office IT functions a number of times in recent years.

The Conservative party has stated in its plans for local government that it strongly opposes the creation of any new unitary authorities.