North Yorkshire prepares to become a single ‘unitary’ council following a Government announcement today.
County council leader Cllr Carl Les says local priorities will remain at the heart of decision-making and there will be a clear focus on collaboration with partners.
His statement follows the announcement by Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP, that he has chosen the county council’s proposal for the future delivery of local public services here.
As such, a new single and strong council will deliver all public services to every household in the county from April 2023, replacing the eight councils currently operating under the two-tier system.
Cllr Les added: “We have worked incredibly hard to get to this point because we believe it’s the right thing for North Yorkshire, its people and businesses. Today’s decision allows us to strengthen the services we know matter most to people and ensure they are fit for the future.
“A single council will also make things simpler for everyone – just one number to call, one website, one customer service team and one accountable body delivering all local government services here.
“Support for businesses, High Streets and Market Towns can be aligned more closely with investment in infrastructure like highways and broadband. Planning, housing and health services will be able to provide more joined up support for families and communities.
“At this time it feels right to say thank you to all council staff, county and district, for their dedication and professionalism during an unsettling time with both the pandemic and local government reorganisation pressures. Today’s judgement provides the clarity our dedicated public sector workforce deserve.”
Wendy Nichols, Secretary of the North Yorkshire Branch of Unison, which represents more than 5,500 council employees welcomed today’s news; “Our priority is to make sure that staff experience the least possible disruption so they can get on with their jobs and continue to deliver high quality and reliable public services.
“Many thousands of staff will now simply transfer to the new council as part of the process of setting it up and hardworking officers in the district and borough councils will be able to TUPE across on their current terms and conditions.
“I hope this announcement is welcomed by all members as really positive and that the spirit of professionalism continues as teams across councils work together to deliver a stronger future for everyone’s benefit.”
The Executive member with responsibility for resources at the county council, Cllr Gareth Dadd, added: “Our people are our greatest asset and the reason so many of our services are nationally acclaimed. I know that commitment, innovation and resilience is shared by teams throughout the county, district and borough councils and that as they become a single team the county stands to benefit greatly. Not just because in working more closely we can join up services and ensure they make good sense but also to deliver best value for money because following the Coronavirus pandemic there will continue to be financial challenges for the council.
“It is also sustainably right that we streamline eight councils into one to make sizeable savings to protect services and the local council tax payer.”
Chief Executive, Richard Flinton, said: “Today’s announcement is very positive news for North Yorkshire. Never have we needed a unified approach and strong voice more than we do now as we strive to deliver better life chances for everyone here, while working hard with partners and businesses to drive post-Covid economic recovery.
“This decision is a huge step towards ensuring the county can punch its weight regionally and nationally to create better opportunities for people and communities at a critical time. It places us firmly on the path to reap the many benefits that devolution can deliver and safeguards public services.
“It also allows us to deliver on our promise to empower local communities including town and parish councils and local groups and to work with them to develop plans and people focussed networks around our market towns. Local decision making and action will be a key feature of the new council.
“However, as the public would expect, we will roll up our sleeves and remain focussed on providing North Yorkshire with high quality public services from the heart of communities while we manage this transformation process.”
The county’s bid attracted a great deal of support across partners in health and the emergency services as well as from businesses and business leaders. Amongst them is the former chair of York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), David Kerfoot, who said today; “This is a tremendous moment for North Yorkshire and moves us closer towards the county reaching its full economic potential as a rural powerhouse.
“For many decades the countryside has watched on as urban areas have taken the lion’s share of national investment. A new single council will stand shoulder to shoulder with the LEP and ensure the county benefits from the best possible devolution deal without delay.”
The proposal was also supported by the City of York Council, which will remain in place serving its urban population.
In July 2020, all eight councils currently delivering local services across North Yorkshire were told that they must end the two-tier system here and replace the county and district authorities with one or two new unitary councils. This would pave the way for the powers and money that accompany devolution and the potential for a mayoral led combined authority.
Late last year two proposals were laid before Government. The County Council proposed a single new council, which would provide all services to every household in the county. The bid outlined how the county would build on its strong track record in service delivery, drive a revolution to empower communities and protect and build on the global North Yorkshire brand and values.
The district councils put forward a proposal to split the county in half on an east and west basis with the City of York taken into the east side. The City of York supported the county council’s bid – which retains York on its current and historic urban footprint.
In February, Government undertook an eight-week widespread consultation on both proposals with key partners, businesses and the public given the chance to respond.
Today’s announcement can be read here and outlines the reasons that Government selected the county council’s single new unitary authority bid based on the county’s current footprint.