Review to ensure communities are fairly represented on council

Members of North Yorkshire Council in the main council chamber at County Hall in Northallerton. A review is set to take place to ensure the number of members equally represents communities across the county

A review is set to take place to ensure communities across North Yorkshire are represented fairly and local democracy is conducted as effectively as possible.

The county witnessed the biggest shake-up in local government in nearly half-a-century when our new council was formed in April last year.

With predictions that the electorate will increase by seven per cent by 2030, the review is due to be launched to make sure the number of councillors equally represents the communities that they are elected to serve.

Our executive met today (Tuesday 9 July) when it was agreed to bring the proposals before a full council meeting this month to decide if the recommendations should be submitted to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England.

Our executive member for corporate services, Cllr Heather Phillips, said: “We are committed to making sure that every community in North Yorkshire is represented equally and has a voice through their elected member for the decisions and policies that affect them.

“The proposals for a boundary review in the county will provide a clear way forward to ensure that local democracy can work as efficiently as possible, while making sure the public’s voice is heard.”

The Boundary Commission for England is due to conduct the review, but we are set to have a key role in shaping the process.

The council launched last year when the previous eight county, district and borough authorities merged into one organisation.

Ahead of it being established, the number of councillors and the boundaries for each electoral division were agreed by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England for the first four years of the local authority’s existence.  

A full boundary review is now needed to determine the arrangements for the next administrative term which will run from May 2027.

A review is triggered by factors including so-called electoral imbalance, where an electoral ward or division has a 30 per cent variance with a local authority’s electorate average.

Other factors include where 30 per cent or more of the electoral wards or divisions have a 10 per cent variance from the local authority average.

In North Yorkshire, two divisions have a variance of more than 30 per cent – Cayton along with Wathvale and Bishop Monkton – while 57 per cent of divisions have a variance of more than 10 per cent.

An all-party member working group has been established to ensure the process was fully informed by the views of existing councillors.

During a preliminary stage of research to gather information and electoral forecasts, it was established that the more rural divisions can have extremely sparse populations, but small settlements can increase the number of individual community meetings that a member is expected to attend.  

Parish council meetings, in particular, can be extremely time-consuming, with some members associated with more than 15 parishes.

The boundary review member working group has recommended that there should be 89 councillors on our council – a reduction of one from the current 90-strong membership.

If the proposal for 89 members is approved, then there would be an average of 5,813 voters for each division.

The proposals have been drawn up on predictions for an estimated rise from the current 483,576 voters to 517,344 voters in 2030, taking into account factors such as future housing developments.

An initial consultation is due to be delivered by the Local Government Boundary Commission from August to November this year and is set to focus on electoral divisions.

A second consultation would then be held between March and May next year on the draft recommendations.

Parliamentary approval would be sought before the new arrangements are due to be put in place from the next local elections in North Yorkshire in May 2027.