Nadia Whittome Talks About the Cuts to Nottingham Budget

Words: Nadia Whittome
Photos: Fabrice Gagos
Wednesday 03 April 2024
reading time: min, words
Nadia 1

In November of last year, every local councillor’s worst nightmare came true in Nottingham. With a £23 million budget gap, the City Council was forced to issue what’s called a section 114 notice - informing the government that its annual expenditure would exceed its income. The government reacted by imposing commissioners and forcing the council to accept a budget of sweeping cuts.


As expected, it was full of bad news. These included, among other measures, cutting more than 500 jobs, ending grants to art galleries and other cultural institutions, the closing of Colwick Park activity centre and cuts to care homes, community centres and libraries. On top of that, council tax was raised by 4.99% - the maximum that’s legally allowed without a referendum.


Unsurprisingly, the announcements sparked anger across the city. A petition against the cuts, set up by the Resolve Nottingham campaign, was signed by nearly 12,000 people, including the iconic Vicky McClure. At the start of March, I met with the group after they delivered the petition directly to 10 Downing Street. But despite strong opposition from our community, the Tory government in Westminster has been unrelenting. 


How did we find ourselves in this situation? The government likes to point to the City Council’s own missteps, such as the well intentioned, but ultimately failed Robin Hood Energy initiative. But although the losses, estimated at £38 million, were not insignificant, they’re dwarfed by the funding that the Tory government has cut from the City Council over the past decade. Since 2013, Nottingham has lost an average of £100 million a year. That’s £694 less funding per resident, every single year.


Despite having some of the highest levels of deprivation in the country (Nottingham places 11th for deprivation, out of England’s 317 districts), our city faced a worse funding squeeze than most local authorities. Its particularly low council tax base added to its woes: 80% of properties are in the lowest council tax bands (A and B) so it's harder for the council to raise as much money as other areas with more expensive properties. As a result, the City Council’s spending power is down 28% since 2010 - far more than the already devastating national average of 19%. 

Since 2013, Nottingham has lost an average of £100 million a year. That’s £694 less funding per resident, every single year.

Meanwhile, in part because of the cost of living crisis and wider government cuts, demand for services is soaring: with increasing poverty, growing numbers of people in need of social care and a record number of homeless people in temporary accommodation. The poorer a local authority, the more pressures it’s facing. In fact, homelessness and social care costs make up two-thirds of the council’s budget, and 90% of the overspend.


Nottingham is far from the only council that has struggled. In 2018, Northamptonshire County Council was the first local authority in twenty years to issue a section 114 notice. Since 2021, six more have done the same. Unless there is a significant funding injection, many more will follow. In fact, a quarter of all councillors in England fear that their council could be next. No wonder: councils keep being asked to do more and more for less and less. There’s only so long that this situation can be sustained for before one unexpected expense pushes them over the edge.


“Stop council cuts” may not be the most inspiring of campaign slogans. Only around one in three Nottingham residents take part in local elections, and most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about their local council. They just want their bins collected on time, their roads and parks to be looked after, their local services to function. Much of the council’s work is invisible - until things don’t get done. Then we all notice.


But the City Council’s job isn’t just dealing with litter and potholes, important as they are. Its tasks include anything from managing the bus service to supporting the local arts scene to providing youth services, holiday activities for children and school uniform support for low-income families - so many of the big and small things that enable our community to thrive.


We must not only oppose the latest cuts, but demand a reversal of previous ones too. Nottingham deserves modern and easily accessible libraries, world-class art galleries, well maintained green spaces, high quality social care, opportunities for young people and support for the most vulnerable. That’s what I’ve been calling for in Parliament and what, together with our community, I’ll keep fighting for.

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