'Nothing off the table' as Nottingham City Council's new leaders warn of more cuts

Neghat Khan and Ethan Radford, the new leader and deputy leader of Nottingham City Council, the former wearing a green patterned dress and the latter a cream suit and blue shirt
Neghat Khan and Ethan Radford, the new leader and deputy leader of Nottingham City Council -Credit:Nottingham Post/Oliver Pridmore

Nottingham City Council's new leadership says nothing is off the table when it comes to changing services as they pledge not to "shy away" from making tough choices. Neghat Khan is now officially the city council's new leader for the next three years, with Ethan Radford serving as the deputy.

Both councillors say the years ahead will remain difficult, but the new leader says the city council has not stopped being ambitious and that a key priority will be looking at what the authority can achieve "with other people's money." Councillor Khan said: "We've got financial difficulties, but there's a lot of people and organisations in the city that have money.

"We've got the newly elected mayor that we want to work closely with as well and she brings in from central government a lot of money and we want to make sure Nottingham gets its fair share. We're not going to stop being ambitious for the city because that's exactly what we need.

Should Nottingham City Council have managed its finances better over the last 10 years? Let us know here

"We can't stop being ambitious. So what can we do potentially with other people's money? It's more partnership working, focusing on our neighbourhoods, and some of that work has happened under Council Mellen and I've got to now up the pace."

Councillor Khan, 43, takes over the leadership of Nottingham City Council from David Mellen after the latter's five years in post. Of British-Pakistani heritage, Councillor Khan becomes the first woman of colour to lead the city council and only the second woman leader in its history after Betty Higgins - who led the authority between 1983 and 1989 with a brief break when the Conservatives took control.

Councillor Khan was born in Nottingham and studied at the University of Derby, doing jobs at a launderette and petrol station on the side of her studies. The new leader eventually went on to work for a number of insurance companies after graduating, before first being elected to Nottingham City Council in 2013.

Councillor Khan, who is the youngest of Councillor Gul Khan's six children, spoke about the importance of her background by saying: "Nottingham's a very diverse city and I think it's showing young girls, young people of colour out there working hard, anything can be achieved. Your race or your religion shouldn't be a barrier for you achieving success."

There was controversy over the way in which the new leadership was picked, with Labour's national governing body overriding councillors by not giving them a say. Such was the anger at this process that one source claimed at the time that as many as 28 councillors were thinking of leaving Labour.

Councillor Khan said: "People are on board now and coming together because it's a decision that's been made. You can either look back or you can look forward and actually make change happen."

The Labour group at Nottingham would usually meet every year to confirm its leadership team, leaving open the possibility of the role of leader changing every 12 months in the event of a challenge. But a change to the rules means that Councillor Khan, deputy leader Councillor Radford and their top team are confirmed in office until the next local elections in 2027.

Councillor Radford says this change will allow for more "stability" at the council and should help long-term decision making about how the authority will balance its books. A budget gap of over £100 million is forecast for the coming years, with a multi-million pound gap for this financial year having only been filled after councillors approved a brutal series of budget cuts.

Councillor Khan therefore says "nothing is off the table" in terms of changing how services across Nottingham are delivered, including its network of libraries. Councillor Ethan Radford, also born and raised in Nottingham and aged 27, said: "We always use the phrase difficult choices, and we never really say what it means. But it does mean cutting back on services that people rely on, cutting back on services that we, as councillors know are important and how important they are to residents.

"But we have to get to a position where our services are sustainable and every year it has been a case of 'let's set this budget, let's get over the line' and we're in a position now where we need to once and for all set the budget so that the services are provided sustainably and we have a three year opportunity to be able to do that."