Details of secret meeting to discuss plans to axe councils across Nottinghamshire revealed
Details of what was said behind closed doors at a meeting which the media was barred from can be revealed.
The talks at County Hall were discussing the plan to abolish district and borough councils and create one or two ‘super councils’ for the whole county.
It was the second of the cross-party talks. The Local Democracy Reporting Service requested access to both meetings, but was denied on both occasions.
The Conservative-led Nottinghamshire County believes the plan could save between £20 and £30 million a year.
But critics say it would remove local decision making, and would end up costing more in the long-run.
Tuesday’s meeting was confidential, but one person who was in the room has spoken about what was said.
Councillor Jason Zadrozny is the leader of the Ashfield Independents, and is a county councillor.
He is also the leader of Ashfield District Council, and opposes the ‘super council’ plans which would spell the end of his district council.
He said: “They made it very clear that there’s not going to be a referendum, even if 100 percent of people in the consultation are against it.
“The status quo won’t even be consulted on, it will be ‘which super council option do you prefer?’
“But if the consultation is not done fairly, we are considering asking for a judicial review. Consultations have to be meaningful.
“They’ve also said they’re going to be paying people to come to focus groups. If you’re being paid then you’re going to give them the answer they want to hear.
“The whole consultation is a complete sham. They did it in Northamptonshire, and 67 percent of people were against it, but they still went ahead.”
However the council says it has not yet been decided what will be consulted on. This decision will be made at a public meeting in December after the first, less formal stage of the consultation which is due to start imminently.
They say the first phase of the consultation involves exploring alternative options, rather than looking at the status quo, but the second stage could yet include an option for people to say they don’t want the ‘super council’.
Anthony May is the chief executive at the council, and said: “The county council’s Policy Committee agreed that the format of the formal public consultation will be determined by Full Council at its meeting in December, as part of its consideration of the interim business plan for local government reorganisation and options for change.
“No decision about the content of the consultation will be taken until that time.
“We will be commencing some initial engagement work with stakeholders in early October.
“During this engagement phase, people will have the opportunity to express whether they wish to see the existing arrangements change or not.”
A complaint has been made to the Local Government Ombudsman about the decision not to allow media and the public into the meetings.
Kit Sandeman , Local Democracy Reporting Service