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Archives for August 2010

The Tory leader behind the latest job cuts - Kay Cutts

John Hess | 17:34 UK time, Tuesday, 10 August 2010

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Kay Cutts giving a presentation

Journalists beware - you don't mess with Kay Cutts. That was the advice a colleague gave me when interviewing the Conservative leader of Nottinghamshire County Council.

It's unfair really. Maybe it's the slightly faded portrait of her mentor Margaret Thatcher that's hangs over the desk of her County Hall office.

In my dealings with her, I've found Kay Cutts engaging and certainly not dull. She is a Tory leader running one of the largest local authorities in the country... and she's in a hurry. The coalition government's spending cuts and her personal vision of how local services should be delivered are forcing the pace of change and decision making.

She became leader of Nottinghamshire County Council last year when a massive anti-Labour swing swept her Conservatives into power for the first time in 28 years.

Since then, the unions and her political rivals have played on her name - Cutts by name, Cuts by nature. Her combative style brushed aside her critics in the first round of budget savings last year. She argued cuts of £80m with the loss of 483 posts enabled resources to be shifted to priority areas, such as social care. The unions didn't believe it and staged rallies in protest outside Nottinghamshire's County Hall.

We've moved on from efficiency savings. The latest round of spending cuts will bite deeply and 2,500 jobs are on the line. That's 20% of staff on the county council's payroll. Kay Cutts can be expected to be equally forthright in defending the decision.

Margaret Thatcher

Remember how Lady Thatcher vented fury over British Airways rebranding of its corporate logo? Kay Cutts was similarly outspoken in banning the phrase "Greater Nottingham" from documents and meetings. This is a politician determined to see off the big city ambitions of Labour leaders in Nottingham. She wasn't going to allow them or marketing people fudge the difference between city and county.

As she said: "The city and surrounding areas are represented by the Core City Board. In order to remain consistent, the authority will now use the term core city area."

It's hardly a snappy title. But the message is clear though. Those Nottingham suburbs outside the city are her domain.

Then there was the strange row over claims that she snubbed the winners of a Nottinghamshire young citizenship award. The organiser claimed the council leader refused to present the joint winners with their award because they were young Labour party activists, one of them gay.

The ferocity of her rebuttal was a political missile.

"It is a shame that embittered individuals with personal agendas choose to waste the time of busy people," she said in a statement.

Kay Cutts speaks her mind. She's controversial and makes good copy for political journalists. But is she a small-time shire Thatcherite of little consequence or a radical politician determined to leave her mark on local government? The impact of the latest cuts to budgets and jobs at Nottinghamshire County Council could seal her fate... and political reputation.

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