Council to launch new business task force

This story was published 8 December 2020

We are launching a task force to ensure that business needs are at the centre of decision making as the region recovers from the pandemic.

A montage of iconic landscapes from across North Yorkshire

Our chief executive Richard Flinton tabled the plan at a briefing for business leaders on our proposals to create a new unitary council for North Yorkshire.

He said the group would work with the council to help remove barriers to growth, evolve and retrain the workforce and create dynamic action plans for market towns and the rural economy.

Richard added the task force would provide a “sounding board” for us during the reorganisation of local government and the subsequent devolution of spending powers from central government to North Yorkshire.

He told the briefing: “The views of business are crucial in this. We have to get these changes right for business.”

The virtual event was attended by some of North Yorkshire’s most successful companies as well as national and international businesses with investments in the county.

Richard said our proposals to central government, which will be submitted next week, are the “most deliverable and least disruptive” option for the county.

A single unitary council would also be the most “stable and business friendly” with a single policy approach and the ability to speak up for North Yorkshire, he added.

Richard said: “We have got to make sure that we stand alongside the cities that surround us and be that coastal and rural powerhouse that can be strong on all of the issues that are important to us.”

In addition, a single unitary council would prevent the breaking up of the county and preserve the North Yorkshire brand, a vital asset for the tourism and food and drink sectors, he added.

Most importantly, it would safeguard the continued delivery of essential public services to the most vulnerable people in the county, Richard said.

Richard told the briefing that we and the City of York have a “really strong partnership” which offers the county the “quickest route to devolution”.

The City of York has rejected alternative proposals which would see its council merged with surrounding rural and coastal areas.

Richard said the North Yorkshire County Council and York approach would unlock new funding by 2022 for transport infrastructure, digital connectivity, housing, skills, business innovation, energy efficiency and revitalising the market towns and the city.

Richard said: “There are three strong drivers to make the change to local government. One is delivering a strong devolution deal for North Yorkshire and York. Second, we must have the most effective unit of local government we possibly can. Third, we have got an obligation, more so than ever in these times, to make all the savings we can to protect the council taxpayer and frontline services.”

We estimate our proposals will save at least £30m a year by cutting waste and unnecessary costs. Over five years, we forecast total savings could be as much as £250m.

Richard said: “We believe a single unitary council will be the most stable, sustainable and financially strong unit and it would be able to work on behalf of business.

“We want this council to work alongside business and to be very business friendly with a single policy approach to the issues that are important to you.”

We have a strong track record of commercial partnerships and operate a number of successful trading companies with all profits reinvested back into public services.

Speaking after the briefing, Andrew Digwood, President of York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The York and North Yorkshire Chamber remains very supportive of the proposals for local government reorganisation put forward by North Yorkshire County Council in partnership with City of York Council which we feel represent the best way to achieve efficiencies with a minimum disruption to essential services to businesses and residents across the region, as well as to deliver appropriate localised solutions at scale across the region and to play to the strengths of the well-regarded existing identities of the county of North Yorkshire and the City of York.

“We hope that it will be the model upon which a framework then be built to proceed quickly towards realising the potential gains for the region of a combined authority and regional devolution at the earliest possible opportunity."

Read more about devolution and our proposal for a single, new council for everyone in North Yorkshire.