MP backs unified North Yorkshire devolution bid to rebuild future

This story was published 21 January 2021

A strong and unified North Yorkshire Council in partnership with the City of York under a directly elected mayor is the best chance of rebuilding “our bruised communities” according to Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill.

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In an open letter published this week, Robert Goodwill stated that following the coronavirus pandemic there was a need to push ahead with devolution for the region and that an elected mayor for York and North Yorkshire would be “essential in attracting investment, supporting business and protecting and creating jobs as we rebuild our bruised communities.”

In his letter, he said that the choice was clear between the two rival bids currently before the Secretary of State and that he saw “no value” in splitting the county in two East/West as proposed by the District Councils and opposed by the City of York.

He said: “You need the strength, scale and experience that a new unitary North Yorkshire would provide, working on the county’s current footprint, as proposed by North Yorkshire County Council.

“This way you would replace the current wasteful and confusing two-tier system of local government and create one council for the entire county working in partnership with the City of York to create a devolved authority under an elected mayor. It would be a powerful voice in the North.”

He went on: “We may not all agree with Andy Burnham but no one could doubt that he gave his citizens in Greater Manchester a strong voice to challenge decisions made centrally and speak up for those who elected him.”

The MP said the pandemic had demonstrated how resourceful and able the people of North Yorkshire could be in a crisis: “Our emergency services and NHS have made us proud and our Local Government has been crucial in maintaining vital services and delivering Central Government programmes to support individuals and businesses.

“I have worked with the County Council throughout the current Covid crisis. They have stepped up to the mark in an impressive way - whilst continuing to deliver nationally acclaimed services for children and frail residents across the county.

“I have studied the County’s financial case before Government  and I believe it to be realistic and achievable. Its proposed partnership with York – benefiting the County and City but maintaining their unique character – is also cost-efficient, saving up to £67 million a year to plough back into services and lowering Council Tax bills!

“I support the bid that protects brand North Yorkshire; that delivers the greatest financial savings; that maintains outstanding services; that has leadership to lead in a crisis; that has the size, scale and resilience necessary to service a county as rural as North Yorkshire. That makes absolute sense to me.”

He said he was heartened by the fact the way the County Council’s own officers put together its unitary bid for the Secretary of State “from their deep knowledge of delivering excellent services to every person in North Yorkshire – something none of the Districts have experienced. “

The MP also supported the county council’s proposal to increase local empowerment as part of the bid. He said: “Scarborough and Harrogate will benefit by the proposals to strengthen and widen the role of town and parish councils in decisions like planning.  People in Scarborough itself, unlike the rest of my constituents, do not have a town or parish council.  Nor do the people of Harrogate. The proposals will therefore also increase local accountability.”