DLUHC withdraws plan to appoint Nottingham commissioners

The Communities Secretary has decided not to appoint commissioners to Nottingham City Council immediately, but has boosted the powers of its external improvement board.

Greg Clark was expected to issue a formal intervention of authority, after the former secretary of state said he was “willing” to do so in June.

The External Improvement Board was appointed in January 2021 following a review of governance issues caused by failures in its oversight of its energy company, Robin Hood Energy.

But earlier this year Nottingham found itself in hotter water for illegal use of Housing Income Account spending, with independent reports citing ‘serious historical financial and governance failings’ and ‘cultural failings’ “to authority.

There has been much speculation that the Chairman of the Improvement Board, Sir Tony Redmond, will be appointed Commissioner.

But instead, Mr Clark gave the board statutory powers to compel the board to act on his advice.

The board received new guidance, which will remain in effect until September 2024, to accelerate improvements and strengthen their approach to longer-term budgeting.

Its improvement board has been instructed to notify DLUHC within three months if sufficient progress continues to be made or if commissioners are to be appointed.

Mr Clark said: “Under the leadership of Sir Tony Redmond of the Improvement Council, working with the Leader of Council, Nottingham City Council has taken significant steps to bring about the changes local residents have been waiting for. However, it is clear that more action is needed to ensure that the council is able to fulfill its duty of better value.

“So today I have issued instructions that will empower the Improvement and Assurance Council and accelerate improvements within the Council.”

Nottingham had resisted the attempt to appoint commissioners.

In their representation earlier this summer, Nottingham chief Mel Barrett and chief David Mellen (Lab) said that over the past 18 months the council had “undertaken a comprehensive program of transformation and improvement at organization-wide, stemming from the need to address governance failures in relation to Robin Hood Energy”.

“Cultural change in an organization takes time, we believe the changes we have made (and will continue to make) show that the organization is very different from what it was a few years ago,” they said.

This afternoon, the city welcomed the government’s decision.

Council leader Cllr Mellen said: ‘I would like to thank the significant number of partners and stakeholders who have written to government in support of the council and the progress we are making. This was acknowledged by the Secretary of State who said he wanted to offer help, not punishment.

“We know there is still a lot of work to do, but we have demonstrated our resolve to resolve the issues that led to the non-statutory review and I am confident that we will continue to work well with the board to make the necessary progress to emerge a better board.

Mr Barrett added: “We have had a positive relationship with Sir Tony Redmond and the Improvement and Assurance Board and have enjoyed their support and challenge on our improvement journey. I have no doubt this will continue as we work together in the interests of providing services in the best possible way to the residents of Nottingham.

“It is reassuring that the government has identified that our Together for Nottingham recovery and improvement plan remains the basis for the improvement required by the council, but we understand that the pace of improvement must increase and that the plan will need to be reassessed to ensure we continue to move in the right direction. »

Mr Clark’s decision on Nottingham was announced the same afternoon that Essex CC was appointed commissioner of its neighboring unit, Thurrock BC.

Three other areas are currently under formal intervention; Liverpool, Slough and Sandwell, while Croydon LBC and Peterborough City Council both have Improvement Advisory Committees which report to the Department of Leveling, Housing and Communities.

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