Give our broken city of Nottingham some desperately needed hope

A general view of the fountain in Old Market Square, Nottingham city centre
-Credit: (Image: Joseph Raynor/Nottingham Post)

Nottingham is a broken city. Visitors stepping off the tram into the Old Market Square on a hot day may think it is just the fountains that need fixing.

Yet this small aesthetic pleasure, switched off by budget cuts, is merely a chapter in the story of a city on its knees. It is at this point that one feels the need to caveat the gloom by saying that there is of course much to celebrate about Nottingham, lest we be accused of "talking the city down."

Yet it is those truly embedded in a place they love who are best-placed to point out when things are bleak. This is not about talking Nottingham down, but about painting the stark reality of life in this city today and fighting for a better future.

It is hard to know where to begin, so let us return to our hypothetical visitor stepping off a tram into the Old Market Square. This is a useful place to start given that one of Nottingham's starkest problems is one which residents, students, tourists and commuters alike cannot fail to see every day in this city - homelessness.

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Record levels of rough sleeping are being recorded in Nottingham, whilst hundreds of homeless families languish in hotels and B&Bs across the city. The latter issue has reached such stark levels that people waiting for a council house are now unable to bid on most properties, with the council instead focusing on getting a home for those trapped in temporary accommodation.

Our visitor would therefore be quick to notice some of society's most vulnerable people in shop doorways on the streets surrounding the Old Market Square. They may then turn their eyes to the iconic Council House building - the historic home of Nottingham City Council.

In a city on its knees, it is unsurprising that its council effectively declared bankruptcy last year. Since the 2010/11 financial year, Nottingham City Council's core spending power has been cut by 34% when adjusted for inflation, falling from £514.1 million to £342.1 million in 2023/24.

The authority has become increasingly reliant on hiking council tax to fund its services, despite the fact that the city has a disproportionately higher percentage of Band A properties compared to the rest of the country. The bankruptcy measure was therefore an indication of the dramatic funding gaps that continue to face the council in the coming years.

The front of the Council House, with the picture zoomed in to show green algae beginning to cover a section of the stonework above the steps leading to the entrance.
The Council House in Old Market Square, the historic home of Nottingham City Council -Credit:Joseph Raynor/Nottingham Post

Measures approved to close the black hole in this current financial year include the closure of libraries, parks and care homes. The leader of the council at the time, David Mellen, was visibly moved as he expressed his worry about the impact that the budget measures would have on Nottingham for years to come.

He said at the time: "I'm appalled by the cuts in front of us today... Many of the cuts that we are proposing have a cumulative effect on our citizens... People here are already struggling... The cost of living crisis is punishing too many of our residents and yet on top of this, we are proposing to make life harder still."

Indeed, our hypothetical visitor to Nottingham would not have to venture far to find one of the city's several food banks. Last year, the Trussell Trust handed out nearly 20,000 emergency food parcels in Nottingham - almost double the 11,000 that were distributed in 2017/18.

It is also to be hoped that our hypothetical visitor does not have an accident whilst in the city. A shocking 1,991 patients attending type one A&Es at the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust were waiting more than 12 hours in the first three months of this year.

Prior to the pandemic, the highest number of patients waiting for more than 12 hours in that three month period was 58. So, let's recap.

Long A&E waits, record levels of rough sleeping, hundreds of families living in hotels, thousands relying on food banks and an effectively bankrupt council. Is it any wonder that it is hard to detect a huge degree of election fever in the city?

Yet this is once again a crucial election. All the issues above are a direct consequence of politics and they are not inevitable.

It is therefore more important than ever for people in our city to go out and have their say on how they want things to be. Whichever party is elected after Thursday's election, the list of problems to tackle in Nottingham and across the country is astonishing.

Judging by comments from most of the party leaders, it also seems unlikely that any of the above crises will drastically improve anytime soon. Yet there is one thing that the UK Prime Minister can give to the people of Nottingham as soon as they take office on Friday - hope.

The Prime Minister needs to stand on the steps of Downing Street and give the hard-pressed people of our city a reason to believe that things will get better. More than anything, we should be left feeling as though Nottingham and the wider East Midlands will not be Westminster's afterthought, as has been the case for decades.

Many parties, including the Conservative Party, have acknowledged that people want to see change in their daily lives. Yet if change is going to be years in the making, give Nottingham some sorely-needed hope in the meantime.