Derby City Council

£100k of Tax Payer’s money to confirm Cllr Poulter’s non-preference over Local Government re-organisation?

The Government is set to issue its White Paper on Local Government reform with the intention of reducing the number of Councils, improving accountability and saving money.  Whilst the details have not been issued yet, it has not stopped Council leaders scurrying around and briefing the media in a premature “land grab”.

The County of Derbyshire is made up of 10 Councils. Derby City Council is the only Unitary authority ( i.e. it provides all functions and services for the residents in the City) in the county.  Areas outside the City will have some services ( like bin collections, planning) provided by the District/Borough Council, and other services ( like social care, highways) at the County level.

Cllr Chris Poulter – Leader of Derby City Council is being a little ambivalent about whether he has declared his position already.

In a 14th September 2020 article in the Local Govenment Chronicle, Poulter is quoted as saying:

“Derby’s Chris Poulter (Con) told LGC he would like to expand the council to cover South Derbyshire DC and Amber Valley and Erewash BCs, more than doubling his authority’s footprint from a population of 260,000 to around 500,000.”

“But Cllr Poulter told LGC he will fight any proposals to include Derby in a county-wide unitary, and instead wants Derbyshire to be redrawn between two unitaries with “roughly an even divide between North and South Derbyshire”.

“However, Amber Valley leader Chris Emmas-Williams (Lab) told LGC that he was “a bit surprised” to hear about Cllr Poulter’s restructuring ambitions and said he didn’t see it as a “viable option”.

In the Derby Telegraph of 9th September 2020, “Derby city wants to merge with three smaller district councils”

“City council leader Councillor Chris Poulter said that geographically it made sense for Derby to combine with these council areas as many people who lived in them travelled to work in Derby.

He said: “It makes more sense than trying to link somewhere like Walton-on-Trent in the south with New Mills in the north which are about almost 60 miles apart and 90 minutes travel time from each other.”

Paul Simpson, Derby City Council chief executive,declared his position in the same article:

“The sort of change envisaged across the county would provide value for money. Instead of nine people in my equivalent role, there would be two and the senior management numbers would reduced also. Council headquarters across the county could also be released.

On 7th October 2020, a paper was presented to Derby City Council Cabinet, by Paul Simpson (Chief Exec) and promoted by Cllr Poulter seeking approval to spend £100,000 to assess all of the options. In the Cabinet meeting Poulter was repeatedly challenged on the fact that he had already declared his position. Poulter responded to Cllr Shanker’s questioning by saying:

“If you think you’ve seen something that clearly says my preferred option is something then that reporting is either wrong or you’ve misread it because I could not have been clearer on my position on this, and that is,…and I’ll repeat it, local government reorganisation and the issue of combined authorities has to be dealt with for Derby’s benefits…the only way to do that is to look at all the options…and for those to be brought back to Council for a democratic decision, and I can’t be any clearer than that.

And nowhere, and never, have I expressed a preference in relation to local government reorganisation…ane even if I did, it’s not my decision to take”

Comment

Discussion in the Cabinet meeting implied that there were many options to be considered in the reorgnisation of the County. Given that the Government will not allow any local authority boundary changes ( i.e. no carving up of Borough/District Councils into segments) then the options are limited

  1. One Unitary authority for the whole of the County – Poulter said he would “fight” such a proposal
  2. Derby remains with current boundaries,  and the rest of Derbyshire is a Unitary. This would leave Derby too small relative to the Government’s population aspirations per each local Authority. Derbyshire County Council has made a similar proposal in their “Vision Derbyshire” document.
  3. Derby City Council expands into the 3 neighbouring local authorities – the options that, according to Poulter, “makes sense”

The Cabinet wants to spend £100,000 of  tax payers money so Council Officers can review the options and make some options.  Woe betide any Officer who recommends Option 1!

£100,000! – Good use of money, or sufficent to reverse engineer Poulter’s non-preference?

Post Script

When Brian Clough, the legendary manager of Derby County was asked in an interview

“How do you react when someone from your playing staff comes to you and says ‘Boss! I think you’re doing this wrongly? “

Clough responded

“I’d ask him which way he’d think it should be done, we get down to it,  and then we talk about it for 20 minutes, and then we decide I was right”

Categories: Derby City Council

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