A proposal described as ‘a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform North Yorkshire’s economic prospects and improve life chances for everyone in the county’, will be submitted to Government next week.
Today county councillors voted overwhelmingly in favour of submitting the proposal for a single, strong and sustainable new unitary council, to government.
The county’s bid, which was written by its own officers and based on in-house knowledge and expertise, would deliver all public services to every household in the county and promises to drive a revolution in local democracy.
The vote, described as one of the ‘most important decisions elected members will ever make for residents at a critical time’, was passed 57 in favour to 11 against and means North Yorkshire’s proposal will progress to the next stage.
Removing the current county and district, two-tier, structure of local government here will pave the way for a mayoral-led combined authority with a strong devolution deal as the prize.
Responding to today’s vote at an extraordinary meeting of the County Council, leader, Cllr Carl Les, said: “We firmly believe that our proposal for a new single unitary council, based on North Yorkshire’s well recognised geography and delivering strong public services to everyone here is the best option for economic recovery and sustainable local government.
“However, we have always been clear that we recognise some district colleagues have a different view and an alternative proposal, which would split the county in half east/west.
“I am very pleased that today’s vote means it will be for the Secretary of State to decide which bid or bids match the national criteria and will therefore go forward for public consultation.
“This was one of the most important decisions elected members will ever make for residents at a critical time. We will need strength and scale to drive renewed economic recovery once we emerge from the pandemic. I am pleased the Secretary of State will now be able to consider our bid on its merits alongside any others which may come forward.
“I am grateful to my colleagues for ensuring the right and fair outcome for residents and businesses here and we will now submit our outline proposal to Government by November 9.”
Deputy leader and executive member for resources, Cllr Gareth Dadd, said: “Put simply our proposal is a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform North Yorkshire’s economic prospects and improve life chances for everyone in the county.
“We passionately believe it is best placed to simplify local service delivery for residents and businesses, ensure those services are fit for purpose for the future and save tens of millions by ending unnecessary waste.
“Some would say this is not the time to reorganise local government. My response would be – this is precisely the time to seize the financial opportunities that following this process will deliver.”
Commenting on the proposal, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Geoff Webber, who has previously been an opponent of a single unitary for the county, said: “This is a good council. Over thirty years I have found that issues within my division are responded to speedily and are resolved well. We have political differences, but retain our civility. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The county council is not broken and I support, without reservation, this proposal.”
Cllr Les continued: “I would like to join those today who have thanked the many staff who have worked hard to prepare our proposal and listened carefully to so many people, groups, organisations, businesses and partner agencies as they have done so.
“Our staff are our greatest asset and our proposal also offers them, alongside those currently working across the seven district councils, the least disruption.
“It also seeks to preserve the globally recognised brand of North Yorkshire, its identity and values.
“Alongside this we have pledged to enhance local democracy and protect and broaden the public’s right to get advice, support and services in the way they prefer.
“Under our proposal the voice of the people and businesses would also be supercharged via community networks delivering on very local priorities. We firmly believe this is the right place, right time and we will act on the mandate from elected members this morning to progress our bid.”
The government has requested outline bids by November 9 and final bids by December 9. Government will then assess the proposals submitted against their criteria and consult publically on any proposals which meet their criteria in the New Year.