Nottingham City Council Ranked Worst In England

Thomas Hayward

Nottingham City Council has been ranked by The Times as the worst local authority in England, using data recently published by the Office for Local Government (Oflog).

The data published by Oflog reveals the performance of local authority in 5 main areas, including social care, roads, finance, planning, and waste management. The Time’s analysis of the data ranks Nottingham City Council as last out of 318 councils, with notable placements including 307th for finance, 305th for roads and 257th for social care.

Oflog, launched in July 2023, is a new government agency responsible for scrutinising the performance of local authorities. It aims to improve the performance of local governments by raising awareness of their performance, identifying shortcomings and highlighting effectivity.

The report comes as the latest blow to Nottingham City Council in recent months. In November 2023, the Labour-led council declared bankruptcy after it was unable to balance its budget for the fiscal year. This lead to the appointment of Commissioners by the Government to help run the council, and the approval of wide-ranging cuts to local services. The council has cited reduced government funding, a ‘highly volatile’ economic context and soaring demand for social care as significant contributors to its financial difficulties.

Tight restrictions on council spending to tackle its £23 million overspend in budget will remain in place until at least March 2025, while wide-ranging cuts to services will be introduced to fill a £53.7 million budget gap for the coming year.

David Mellen, the council leader who will be stepping down this May, criticised the appointment of Commissioners, stating that “our mandate has been impinged upon. These commissioners, and by extension our officers, have more power currently.”

The Local Government Association, in a letter to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, criticised the Times’ interpretation of Oflog’s data as ‘fundamentally flawed’, pointing to its focus on a limited number of indicators without context.

Yet critics point to significant financial mishandling. The BBC reported in June 2023 how Nottingham City Council had refused to publish a report which found its financial management “not fit for purpose”. The council has had a series of financial blunders in recent years – most notably, the collapse of the Robin Hood Energy company, which was set up in 2015 amidst an already difficult financial position. The collapse cost the city council over £38 million and led to 230 redundancies. Meanwhile, Mel Barret, the Council Chief Executive, is currently on an annual salary of £190,890, more than 5 times the UK average.

Just months after the declaration of bankruptcy, some organisations are already desperately scrambling to find resources after their funding was slashed. Staff at the Nottingham Playhouse have resorted to a skydive fundraiser to keep its youth outreach programme afloat, and the end of grants to cultural venues threatens to decimate the city’s cultural scene. Elsewhere, cuts to the city’s library services appear likely, coming just 6 months after the delayed opening of the city’s new £10 million central library.

Nottingham is far from the only city council with financial woes. A survey of council leaders in England found that 1 in 5 believed it “very or fairly likely” that they will need to declare bankruptcy in the next year. The Local Government Association estimates that councils face a £4 billion funding gap over the next two years, with its chair stating that “the lack of funding for local services in the Autumn Statement has left councils facing a growing financial crisis”.

Thomas Hayward

Featured image courtesy of Korng Sok via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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