New Single Council – ‘a once in a lifetime opportunity’

This story was published 23 October 2020

Expert analysis of the financial case for a single, strong and sustainable new council, serving every person in North Yorkshire, reveals it could deliver up to £252 million in savings over 5 years to support crucial frontline services at a critical time.

A stronger future together montage showing iconic scenes from across North Yorkshire

The single new council model would end duplication in just a few months, saving £30 million pounds a year by cutting red tape and reducing senior management and elected member costs. These are the findings of independent accountancy firm PWC, using an established financial model. The savings figure reflects immediate benefits from bringing eight councils together and the value of delivering strengthened public services, which are fit for the future.

Getting rid of the current two-tier structure of local government is a prerequisite for paving the way for a mayoral-led combined authority and the strongest possible devolution deal. The county council’s proposal would create a single new council for North Yorkshire, delivering all public services here, and has won the backing of the business community. It is estimated to save an initial £30m per annum simply as a result of the eight councils restructuring to become one*. The costs of disruption are minimised, so the new council would be saving money in just seven months. In addition, by using the new council as a springboard for transformational change this saving could rise to between £50m and £67m a year, netting up to £252m at the end of the first five years.

Responding to the evidence base, Cllr Gareth Dadd, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for Resources and Deputy Leader, said: “We are presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity at a key moment in our history, as we battle to emerge from the devastating impacts of the pandemic. A unique chance to deliver very significant savings that will be ploughed back into frontline services, support enhanced local democracy and end unnecessary waste. Our bid maximises all the benefits and delivers those benefits more quickly. It is also the least disruptive.

“Our proposal represents a saving of up to £185 a year for every household in North Yorkshire which would be put back into service delivery. It would be negligent of us to not to chase down such an opportunity.

“No other bid can deliver the scale of savings in such a timeframe, while protecting nationally recognised services for the county’s most frail and vulnerable residents.”

The county council’s Leader, Cllr Carl Les, said: “We have developed our own proposal using in- house expertise and our strong knowledge of the county, based on delivering services to every single resident here. However, we have taken the sensible step of having our financial case validated by external experts, as the public would expect on such an important matter.

“PWC have applied the same model to a range of proposals, including that set out by the seven district councils here. The options analysis has therefore been done on a fair and consistent basis.

“Both bids end the current two-tier system of districts and county and both bids result in two councils delivering all services to York and North Yorkshire.

“We believe very strongly that it should be for Government to decide which is the strongest bid, not us, as we have said this from the start. We therefore hope that both proposals will go forward for the Secretary of State’s consideration.”

Gary Fielding, Director of Resources at the county council, said: “In addition to the direct financial benefits in the single new council modelling, there is added value linked to this proposal via the York and North Yorkshire partnership, which was announced last week.

“When we add in these opportunities we believe the scale of savings opportunities could be significantly in excess of £70m per annum.

“As an existing unitary council, York has already enjoyed the benefits of bringing multiple services and the two tiers together.

“Savings of this scale would have a massive impact, given the enormous financial pressures being faced by councils across North Yorkshire, particularly in adult and children’s services.”

PWC also modelled other options, including that put forward by the seven district councils, which proposes an east/west split of the county and which draws in the City of York. This option also offers savings, but considerably less at 60% of the county’s proposal over five years. It also involves higher costs given the level of disruption, so it would take almost two years for these savings to be realised.

Cllr Keith Aspden, Leader, City of York Council, said: “A local government restructure in York would have significant detrimental impacts on York residents, communities, and businesses.  Any change to York’s footprint would either increase the cost to residents, or stretch services further, thus making it harder to meet York’s own unique challenges.  We believe there is no functional, historical or logical reason for merging York with any other local authority. To progress devolution, we need to work with North Yorkshire County Council to make sure what’s right for them is right for York and of direct benefit to our residents, communities and businesses.” 

The county council will publish its full bid early next week, ahead of it going to executive and full council.

While North Yorkshire has been engaging with a broad range of partners, sectors, groups, individuals and community groups, it is the role of Government to undertake formal consultation on the proposals ministers feel meet their criteria. 

*The eight councils would be the 2 borough councils, 5 district councils and one county council currently serving North Yorkshire.

Find out more about devolution and our proposal for a single, strong, sustainable council for everyone in North Yorkshire on our Stronger Together pages.