The town was an urban district until 1974, when it was merged into the North East Derbyshire district under the Local Government Act 1972. In the 1970s the council achieved brief notoriety due to its refusal to implement the Housing Finance Act 1972 in increasing the rents of council housing: by law the rents should have increased by £1 a week from October 1972.
The council was one of several to show defiance against the Act and of three to be ordered to comply by the Department of the Environment in November 1972 (the others being Eccles and Halstead). Clay Cross UDC was threatened with an audit in December 1972.
The constituency Labour party barred the eleven councilors from its list of approved candidates. The District Auditor ordered the eleven Labour Party councilors to pay a surcharge of £635 each in January 1973, finding them "guilty of negligence and misconduct". Conisbrough UDC faced a similar audit on 19 January 1973.
The UDC made an appeal in the case to the High Court. Clydebank and Cumber auld abandoned similar actions in March 1973. The surcharge was upheld by the High Court on 30 July 1973, which also added a further £2,000 legal costs to their bill, as well as barring them from public office for five years. The council further defied authority (the Pay Board) in August, when they decided to increase council workers' earnings. This provoked a further dispute with NALGO. Ultimately, the dispute became moot with the replacement of Clay Cross Urban District Council with the North East Derbyshire District Council from 1 April 1974.The councilors were made bankrupt in 1975
A book on the dispute between the council and the government, The Story of Clay Cross, was written by one of the councilors, David Skinner, and the journalist Julia Langdon. The book was published by Spokesman Books in 1974
Documentary made by Yorkshire Television in the early seventy’s