North Yorkshire welcomes start of local government consultation

This story was published 23 February 2021

North Yorkshire welcomes today’s announcement that the Government will begin to consult on new models of local government for the county.

Stronger together

The Government has said North Yorkshire’s two-tier councils must end to make way for unitary local government, which will unlock the door to a devolution deal.

The Government has begun an eight-week consultation on how vital services such as adult social care, children’s services, roads and transport, planning and waste collection and recycling will be delivered across the county.

The Government is consulting on two options:

  • The county council is proposing a single council for the whole county, building on the county’s strengths and identity to give people a powerful voice, speaking up regionally and nationally for North Yorkshire. This would work alongside City of York Council, as an existing unitary authority, building on an already close relationship. This option is supported by City of York Council;
  • Some of the district councils have proposed splitting the county in two - West North Yorkshire and East North Yorkshire including York. City of York Council does not support this proposal.

“We welcome the beginning of the consultation,” said Cllr Carl Les, the County Council’s Leader.  “Local government reorganisation for North Yorkshire comes at a critical time when we are mapping our route out of the Covid-19 pandemic and when, more than ever, we need a strong, dynamic council to support our communities and businesses to recover and move forward to make the most of opportunities that will surely come via devolution.

“North Yorkshire is a county like no other due to its rurality and sparse populations.  A single council would provide the critical mass, scale and financial sustainability, which are essential to deliver outstanding services while also retaining the resilience to tackle the challenges facing the whole county after the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our proposal will unite the best of all council services. It would also save as much as £260m over five years. No other bid can deliver this scale of savings within this timeframe.

“Like many people and businesses, we have grave concerns about the proposal that would break  the county into east and west North Yorkshire.  Dismantling the already unitary City of York, breaking up outstanding countywide services and setting up two completely new councils would be the most complex reorganisation ever undertaken. Combined with the need to drive rapid and lasting economic recovery post-pandemic we maintain the district council proposal would deliver uncertainly, seismic disruption and delay recovery.”

Cllr Les has called on the county’s residents and businesses to engage with the consultation and to consider what the county council believes are the key issues.

The county council’s proposal will:

  • be a strong voice in the North, speaking out nationally for rural and coastal communities;
  • bring together the best services for residents and businesses, make them even better and save money by reducing duplication;
  • keep the county and nationally acclaimed services together at a critical time rather than breaking them in two, causing seismic disruption;
  • unite North Yorkshire to operate at scale and sustainably, driving recovery from the pandemic, rather than creating two competing councils;
  • create a revolution in localism so communities have the funding and power to take action on what matters to them most in their area;
  • protect and build on the strong identity and global brand of North Yorkshire and what makes our county so great.      

Cllr Les said that the county’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic during the past year had demonstrated the importance of a strong council.

“The last year has shown that we need a strong council, not only to help with global crises like the pandemic, but local challenges like extreme winter weather and everyday issues like protecting our vulnerable residents, working with volunteers, the NHS and through our social care and public health teams.

“Our role has been as coordinator, organiser and enabler of the tremendous work they are doing.

“We also understand the needs of business through the pandemic and, for example, have created our online Buy Local platform, bringing together businesses and customers. We believe that what businesses want is the strongest possible council to fight their corner regionally and nationally and to help them make the journey to economic renewal.

“Taken together, this is a great model for how a single council for North Yorkshire can use its strength and scale to operate across the area, at the same time using local knowledge and understanding to tailor help to where it is needed at the most local level.”

Offering power and influence at a local level is central to the county council’s vision of the future of local services.

Cllr Les said: “With a single council we can have the best of both worlds – strong services and a council that is locally responsive. We are proposing a revolution in localism, with local accountability, local access and local action.”

Several elements would combine to achieve this:

  • A main office in each district would provide access to locally based staff with the expertise to help people to resolve any issues or questions they may have.
  • These would be supplemented with 30 community access points for people to visit to talk about the services or matters they need to discuss.
  • 25 community networks serving market town areas will bring together local people and businesses with the voluntary sector and agencies like the police, fire and NHS and local people to decide on their priorities and drive service innovation and local improvements. 
  • Six powerful local area committees to make sure local priorities are at the heart of decision-making and hold the new council to account.
  • Town and parish councils would be offered new powers and money, if they want them, to take on some local services. We have worked with 25 representatives from across the county to develop our offer to town and parish councils to ensure they are right.

Cllr Les added: “Our proposal for a single unitary council will unite and strengthen our county, create a rural powerhouse for the North, but also empower our local people where they live. It maps out an exciting future for everybody in our county.”

Read more about the county council’s proposal where you can also find out how to make your voice heard.