Frequently asked questions about devolution

Get answers to common questions about devolution and our proposal for a single, strong, sustainable council for everyone in North Yorkshire

Why not keep things as they are?

To be eligible to bid for a devolution deal, government has instructed us to get rid of North Yorkshire’s current two-tier system of local government.  A devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire could potentially unlock around £2.4bn of investment over 30 years, with a focus on improving the economic prosperity and future long term opportunities for all residents. A deal would bring with it crucial investment in transport, broadband, skills and climate change initiatives as we drive economic recovery post-pandemic.

Find out more on our about devolution page.

Would one council be too big? Why not have more than one? 

The government has confirmed that new single councils are expected to serve substantially in excess of 300,000 to 400,000 residents and that North Yorkshire's population is within scope, allowing us subsequently to pursue a strong devolution deal. We already successfully deliver high quality services across this geography and over 80% of total local government spend in this area.

We are confident that a single, strong council would deliver the most robust financial savings and benefits alongside the most sustainable high quality public services and would benefit from both resilience and scale. Splitting the county in half with two new councils would require considerably more set up costs and break up outstanding services like those for children and young people.

What other proposals are being put forward and how do these differ from your proposal? Are there options around bringing in areas outside the current North Yorkshire County Council footprint such as East Yorkshire, Middlesbrough or York?

Government has made clear that local government re-organisation in this area needs to be on the current North Yorkshire and York footprint. Therefore we cannot consider options such as combining with East Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Middlesbrough or others.

We have considered the costs and benefits of a number of models and believe the creation of single unitary authority on the current North Yorkshire County Council footprint will minimise disruption and avoid splitting up our crucial frontline services. This proposal also supports City of York Council in their wish to remain a single unitary authority. 

The district/borough councils have joined together and have been working with a consultant to develop an alternative proposal. This model proposes to split the county in half into two unitary authorities – east (including Scarborough, Ryedale, Selby and York) and west (including Hambleton, Richmondshire, Harrogate and Craven). However, City of York Council is opposed to this proposal.

What is the impact of your proposal on the City of York?

City of York Council, which is already a unitary council,  has rejected proposals to merge York with surrounding rural and coastal areas and will provide a submission to government that York should remain on the existing footprint as a compact urban centre. Under our proposal, the services York provides to its residents would remain intact with no damaging disruption. A new unitary North Yorkshire council would work in close collaboration with the City of York Council.

Read more from City of York Council on their position over the proposals

Would this mean less representation for my local area?

No.

While there would no longer be district councillors, many county councillors already represent both councils. Our proposal for a single, strong, sustainable council for everyone in North Yorkshire also includes plans for 'double devolution' where, as well as powers being devolved from central government to the council, we're also proposing greater powers being passed to parish and town councils, if they would welcome that.

We would also give people a louder voice via community networks mapped around market towns and improve
transparency by introducing area committees to oversee their local areas and champion their cause.

Is this a new idea?

No.

Many areas have moved from separate district and county councils to one unitary authority to gain the same benefits our vision sets out for North Yorkshire, including those around us such as County Durham.

What services are currently delivered by which council and what would change?

Services are split between the district councils and the county council. District councils collect waste and we dispose of it. Districts sweep the streets, but we look after the roads. Districts adapt vulnerable people’s homes, while we help those people live happily at home for as long as possible.

Under a unitary authority these services would all be delivered by the same council. In the event of more than one unitary, all of the county council functions would need to be split and duplicated.

The services currently delivered by county and district councils are listed below.

County Council

District Council

County and District Council

Births, deaths and marriage registration

Building regulations

Arts and recreation

Children's services

Burials and cremations

Economic development

Concessionary travel

Coastal protection

Museums and galleries

Consumer protection

Community safety

Parking

Education - including special educational needs, adult education and pre-school

Council tax and business rates

Planning

Emergency planning

Elections and electoral registration

Tourism

Highways (excluding trunk roads), street lighting and traffic management

Environmental health

 

Libraries

Housing

 

Minerals and waste planning

Licensing

 

Passenger transport (buses) and transport planning

Markets and fairs

 

Public health

Sports centres, parks and playing fields

 

Social services - including care for the elderly and community care

Street cleaning

 

Trading standards

Waste and recycling collection

 

Waste disposal

Public toilets

 

Would this just cost money to achieve the same services we already have?

No.

Independent expert financial analysis of the case for a single new council for North Yorkshire reveals that up to £252 million in savings could be delivered over five years to support frontline services.

A new council operating on a countywide basis would not carry the same administrative overheads as we presently have with eight councils with their eight chief executives, senior leadership teams, IT infrastructure etc. The new council would only need one department for each service rather than seven or eight. This is estimated to save £30 million a year and the costs of disruption would be minimised, with the new council saving money in just seven months.

A new council would also be able to innovate and provide services in more effective and accessible ways. This could increase the savings to between £50m and £67m a year, netting up to £252m at the end of the first five years.

You can see more details on pages 103 - 110 of our unitary proposal detailed in the public papers for the executive.

How will services remain local?

Currently we deliver a number of vital services at a very local level. We work with local people intimately every day delivering social care, educating children and offering support for families and businesses across every parish of the county. In many cases these are very personal services provided to people at the most local level possible – in their own homes. 

A new unitary council will build on this approach, ensuring that services are delivered from local offices by staff who understand local communities and are often themselves part of those communities.

The new council will focus on tackling local challenges through strategies and plans for each locality developed by Community Networks.

This local approach is based on:

  • Local services and access – locally based and integrated council, partner and community services
  • Local accountability - six Area Committees, accountable for the discharge of statutory functions and services at local level
  • Local action – local people, partners and communities coming together in new Community Networks to identify and deliver against priorities
  • Local empowerment – devolution of powers to community groups and town and parish councils to run assets and services where they want to

You can read more on this approach on page 61 onwards of our unitary proposal for full details in the public papers for the executive. Please also see the answer to the next question. 

Will the council be based in Northallerton and all services delivered from there?

The new council will determine the details around base and headquarters.

However, under our proposal, the new single unitary council will have local area offices in each of the former districts based in key community buildings such as libraries or co-located with other public service partners. Each main office would also have a dedicated face-to-face customer access point delivered by the council, with the capability to meet complex customer demand from services like social care and housing. Main offices would be connected to communities by a network of over 30 community access points, in key towns and villages, providing access to council and partner services

Frontline staff and partners will be based in communities supported by key specialists. Technology will enable staff and partners to be connected to colleagues whilst being based locally.

You can read more about this on page 61 of our unitary proposal detailed in the public papers for the executive

Would this mean less representation for my local area?

No.

Local councillors, clearly accountable to the public for all local authority services, will meet in six strong Area Committees.

These Area Committees will be based on the boundaries of our six North Yorkshire MPs. They will be decision-making bodies with delegated powers in the area of planning, licensing, public rights of way, highways and potentially other areas. They will have locality budgets to deal with local issues and local opportunities.

People will be able to develop and progress local priorities by being part of Community Networks. There will be around 25 of these networks made up of community and business groups, town and parish councils and representatives from other local groups and public services, including local councillors. These networks will work with their local Area Committees and councillors to get things done.

Powers will be also devolved to community groups and town and parish councils to run assets and services where they want to.

You can read more about this on pages 68 to 75 of our unitary proposal detailed in the public papers for the executive. Please also see the other answers in this section on community networks and town and parish councils.

How will Community Networks work?

Community Networks will act as agents for social change and places of collaboration between public sector agencies and the communities they serve. They will be centred around market towns, surrounding villages and natural communities in North Yorkshire. Around twenty-five Community Networks will be formed comprising community and business groups, town and parish councils and representatives from other local groups and public services, including local councillors.

Every network will be supported by a Local Area Coordinator. The Coordinator will support local people to work with public service providers to develop their own action plans and to set their own priorities for delivery and social action.  These could include, for example, a cultural programme for the town, engagement activities for young people, activities to bring people together locally and to reduce isolation or improvements to the look and feel of the high streets.

Each Community Network would be assigned one of the most senior managers from within the new council. This will make sure there are strong connections back into the Council and with partners and ensure senior managers understand local issues.

The new council will support and promote community-led schemes such as community transport and community housing as an important part of local service delivery.

Area Committees will have a role in championing Community Network action plans and holding the council and its partners to account for the delivery of local priorities.

You can see more details on pages 70 to 72 of our unitary proposal detailed in the public papers for the executive

What types of services will be devolved to parish & town councils and community groups?

In developing our business case, we have worked with representatives of parish and town councils to identify the types of service that could potentially be devolved.  The table below sets out the potential menu for town and parish council and community groups.

Assets Services
  • Cemeteries and church yards
  • Crematoria
  • Community centres
  • Allotments
  • Public toilets
  • Local parks
  • Open spaces - including both greenspaces as well as "hard" open spaces
  • Sports grounds
  • Swimming pools
  • Play areas
  • Off and on-street car parking provision and management
  • Memorials
  • Roadside verges and other small open spaces
  • Leisure and arts centres
  • Minor Highways functions such as minor road and footpath repairs, lining, signage
  • Grass cutting and open space maintenance (gullies, verges, drainage, closed churchyards)
  • Fly tipping
  • Street cleaning
  • Abandoned vehicles
  • Recycling management
  • Health & Wellbeing - Isolation/Volunteering/ Befriending
  • Community libraries
  • Community transport
  • Community safety / neighbourhood watch
  • Footpath lighting
  • Community grants
  • Local tourism
  • Local town economic development
  • Local climate change initiatives (for example local green transport schemes while ensuring unitary has strategic overview)
  • Homelessness and social housing liaison and provision
  • Monitoring and enforcement of environmental health matters
  • Control of markets
  • Street naming
  • Licensing - event notices, street trading etc

Town & Parish councils and communities will be able to take on services where they want to.

You can see more details at page 75 of our unitary proposal detailed in the public papers for the executive

Do town and parish councils, parish meetings and communities have the skills and the capacity to deliver devolved services?

Parish and town councils and parish meetings come in all shapes and sizes and operate in different ways – some with high levels of expertise, others with development needs.

A new council for North Yorkshire will work with them all, recognise their value and help with development when needed. Crucially it will empower them to do more if they want to do so.

The new council will work with any town and parish council that wants to do more, for example, to deliver or commission services; providing they are able to demonstrate value for money and the ability to deliver. If these conditions are met then the new council will be open to funding the arrangements. The council would work with a first wave of forerunner town and parish councils to develop the concept. Other town and parish councils could then follow.

This approach has worked well in Cornwall and Falmouth Town Council has been seen as an exemplar for “Double Devolution” in England.

You can see more details on pages 73 to 75 of our unitary proposal detailed in the public papers for the executive

How will you ensure no area is missed out?

The proposal is focused on addressing the county’s biggest challenges for both the rural and urban areas. These include:

  • Social inequality
  • Changing demographics and support needs
  • Digital infrastructure and connectivity
  • Regeneration of town centres and places
  • Improving rural transport
  • Tackling climate change
  • Employment and economic growth
  • Housing

A single unitary council will have the scale and capacity to tackle these big challenges, move resources around the county to target priority areas and make a real difference for all our communities.

Community Networks, which bring local councillors, parish and town councils and parish meetings and communities together, will also define and drive forward local priorities.

You can see more details on pages 48 to 60 of our unitary proposal detailed in the public papers for the executive

Have you considered the environment in your proposals? Would we have a Declaration of a Climate Emergency from a devolved authority?

The York and North Yorkshire Local Industrial Strategy sets out our ambition to become carbon neutral by 2034 and then to become England’s first carbon negative economy by 2040. North Yorkshire emitted 255 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2017 and has higher emissions per person than average for England (but a lower emission per square kilometre). This is partly due to the rurality of the county and our corresponding reliance on private vehicles.

We are facing more and more challenges caused by extreme weather events. The county has suffered from several flooding events in recent years, with our infrastructure being impacted significantly and often at key locations where there are very limited alternative routes.

Due to North Yorkshire’s geography and scale, a single council will be best placed to develop a strategic approach to maximising the value of natural capital assets and reduce net carbon emissions. This approach could include carbon sequestration, agriculture, land management, flood prevention and initiatives such as the Northern Forest.

A new single unitary council will have the scale to capitalise upon our unique industrial capabilities and nationally significant business base in low carbon energy, such as Drax power station. This means North Yorkshire has the potential to host future large-scale carbon capture, usage and storage plants and develop high capacity renewables. The new council will be supportive of the devolution ambition to;

  • Deliver low carbon housing retrofit programmes across North Yorkshire’s highly dispersed, off gas grid homes
  • Deliver local renewable energy generation initiatives
  • Develop commercial models to stimulate the market such as a low-cost finance programme with technology providers
  • Finance smaller, ‘low value’ projects to reach carbon-neutral targets within the region
  • Focus on Carbon Capture Utilisation and scaling up rapidly emerging technology and infrastructure to transport, store and use the captured carbon
  • Deliver low carbon sustainable travel initiatives such as Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle public transport and Electric Vehicle charging facilities.

What will the impact be on local government jobs in North Yorkshire?

Many existing staff will deliver services. The most savings are likely to be achieved where there is most duplication, such as in senior management and back office systems. A new single council would look to bring together the best from the seven districts and the current county council and to ensure minimal disruption to the public and the services they need.

Officer structures and arrangements would be decided by the new council with the most senior posts (including the chief executive) being filled following an open and competitive recruitment process.

What will be the impact on Council Tax?

Our proposal sets out options for a fairer structure for future Council Tax, as the tax is currently at different levels in different parts of the county. But the new council will need to consider the most appropriate rate for council tax once it is formed.

Whatever approach the new authority takes to harmonise Council Tax rates, there would be implications for local residents. Currently, residents of some districts pay relatively low rates, whereas others pay comparatively high rates.

However, given the financial benefits from reorganisation and transformation that accrue to a single unitary county, it is believed that there is a good opportunity to use some of that benefit to help cushion any increases in council tax for those currently at the lower levels.

You can see more details from page 111 onwards of our unitary proposal detailed in the public papers for the executive

What is the process for agreeing a new unitary council?

The government has written to authorities in North Yorkshire and York asking for proposals for what the new arrangements could look like. Final proposals need to be submitted by 9 December.

The government will then consider the merits of the bids and decide which option or options to consult on.

The government will then carry out a consultation so everyone can have their say on the future of North Yorkshire.

Following this consultation, the government will inform us which model will be taken forward. 

We expect this final decision by Summer 2021 but this is subject to the government’s timelines. 

How will residents get a say on your proposal?

We have been listening carefully to the views of residents, partners, businesses and voluntary sector organisations and have fed them into the development of our proposals. We have reviewed comments on social media as well as those emailed to us directly via StrongerTogether@northyorks.gov.uk and have taken these into consideration. We are continuing to review these.

You can find out more about the activities we have undertaken on our have your say page.

The government will consider the proposals and carry out a consultation on any proposal it wants to take forward.

How do I support the North Yorkshire proposal?

You can send a letter of support by post or email:

  • directly to the Minister at Rt Hon Luke Hall M.P., Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, 4th Floor, Fry Building, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF or luke.hall.mp@parliament.uk
  • or to our Leader, Cllr Carl Les, or our Chief Executive, Richard Flinton at Chief Executive’s Office, 3 Racecourse Lane, Northallerton, DL7 8QZ or richard.flinton@northyorks.gov.uk and we will forward it to the Minister