Strength of support for single new council undeniable

This story was published 9 December 2020

NHS partners, the police, the fire and rescue service, business leaders, charities and union officials all back North Yorkshire’s bid to drive post-pandemic economic recovery via a single new council.

A montage landscapes from across North Yorkshire

Further analysis, drawn from public feedback, also demonstrates strong support for preserving the brand and values of North Yorkshire and the importance of keeping it intact, as well as protecting the City of York as it stands and having a single strong voice for the county at a critical time.

Our bid to reshape local government and pave the way for the best possible devolution deal with the least possible delay is now before government ministers.

Submitting the council’s final proposal to the local government minister, the Leader of North Yorkshire County Council, Cllr Carl Les, said: “The support for our proposal is undeniable and just common sense for North Yorkshire – that is what we are hearing. Our partners and the public have spoken to us with passion about the need to deliver the necessary change in the most effective way to minimise disruption and maximise the benefits to people and businesses right across the county.

“Our report, which is more than 100 pages long, details the support for our proposals to protect the county’s brand, further strengthen public services and deliver a revolution in community empowerment. It is now a matter of public record and sits alongside our very detailed case for change.

“It outlines, with transparency, the polls, surveys, broad engagement with the public and our staff, targeted focus groups – including youth and disability groups – sector webinars and working groups that have helped officers to finalise our submission.

“We are incredibly grateful to every person who has taken the time to help inform our proposal – it is powerful evidence of our commitment to listen and the fact that we are, indeed, stronger together.”

Alongside demonstrating a good deal of local support, a number of key themes emerged from the conversations and correspondence with partners, businesses and the public:

Strong brand and identity is crucial – our businesses rely on the brand of North Yorkshire, which is globally recognised, and our residents feel they strongly belong to the county and want to retain and build on this identity.

“As one of the UK’s most popular visitor attractions, we know the value of the North Yorkshire brand and its importance to the regional economy. We continue to invest in the future of our business and see the single unitary authority as essential for developing the next generation of talent for our workforce,” Gordon Gibb, CEO of Flamingo Land Ltd.

89 per cent of people in our telephone survey felt they ‘very strongly’ or ‘strongly’ belonged to North Yorkshire. In our focus group conversations, people declared themselves ‘proud’ to be from North Yorkshire and 87 per cent of respondents agreed that North Yorkshire has a strong identity which helps attract tourism and investment to the county - North Yorkshire Views Panel Survey.

“A single North Yorkshire unitary authority is the best option for my business. [It will] maintain and develop the strong brand of North Yorkshire, which is very important for Black Sheep Brewery,” Andy Slee, Chairman of Black Sheep Brewery.

North Yorkshire needs a strong voice to speak up for the county – in order to support economic recovery, drive the rural powerhouse and tackle our challenges, North Yorkshire must be able to represent itself strongly at the highest levels. The big issues in people’s lives – jobs, housing, transport – need a strong council to tackle them. The public wants a new council to prioritise economic regeneration, internet connectivity, public transport, affordable housing and the environment. These important issues, which make such a difference to people’s health, wellbeing and life experience, can only be effectively tackled at scale with the resources of a large effective council. This is particularly important when it comes to ensuring the sustainability of the county’s most rural communities.

There was strong support in our telephone survey for providing a ‘strong unified voice that stands up for all of North Yorkshire’ (88 per cent).

“A single unitary authority for North Yorkshire will give the county the strongest possible voice and help create the conditions for economic growth.” Stuart Paver, co-owner of Yorkshire-based Pavers Shoes, a global footwear business with more than 235 stores across the world.

Local must be at the heart of a new council – an understanding of place and the local delivery of services matter to people.

80 per cent of respondents agreed that our proposal for 25 local forums in market town areas would be a good idea to help businesses, people, health, police, council and local voluntary groups to work together on local priorities - North Yorkshire Views Panel Survey.

“North Yorkshire County Council’s proposal … [gives] equality of priority and support across the whole of the county and empowering local town and parish councils to shape the services and support provided to its local residents. We have had experience of dealing with a similar structure over the past few years with the Stronger Communities initiative… and have found that it provides a swift, responsive and local support network. We believe that by building on this model (the) NYCC (bid) could put together a strong and effective system of incorporating business, health, social care, third sector, education, etc. into a county-wide structure that could respond effectively and efficiently to the needs of BOTH the conurbations and the rural / semi-rural areas. It would be local government for local people,” Ian Talbot, Chairman of Tadcaster Volunteer Cars and Service Association – community transport and volunteer car service

Simpler and more cost effective is better – people want to see services that are easier to access and good value for money.

“From a mental health and learning disability perspective, it will bring together social care, public health with housing, leisure and other local services allowing for a more person centred, joined up offer for people,” Brent Kilmurray, Chief Executive, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust.

“Bringing all services together, including those currently delivered by district councils, will, in our view, allow the greatest opportunity to be innovative in our efforts to improve health and wellbeing and create a lasting difference for the whole county.” Dr Sally Tyrer, Chair of North Yorkshire Branch, YOR Local Medical Committee Ltd.

”I am a strong supporter of the North Yorkshire County Council’s strategy plan. I think that it is visionary, compact and complete and is the ideal structure for taking our part of the world forward. NYCC have built on a superb track record of success to take the quality of services provided to even higher levels over recent years… A council which is responsive, service-orientated, geographically and demographically logical and clearly accountable is the ideal model for the future,” Simon Theakston, Executive Director, T and R Theakston Ltd.

Minimum disruption is essential to protect vulnerable people and high-performing services – people do not want to see unnecessary disruption to our outstanding services, particularly during and after the COVID-19 response. 76 per cent of respondents in our telephone survey were in favour of not breaking up the existing high quality children’s and adults’ services by splitting the -county into more than one.

“We…represent all the Citizens Advice Services in North Yorkshire and last year helped over 14,000 residents. Any options pursued should involve the least disruption in the current framework given the challenges we currently face. It is clear that maintaining a single unitary North Yorkshire council would ease transition and would enable us to assist with the changes in a productive way. My major concern is that any other configuration will lead to chaos at a time when it is really not needed and prevent any benefits being realised.” Carol Shreeve, CEO, Citizens Advice Mid North Yorkshire and representative of Citizens Advice North Yorkshire.

“Whilst North Yorkshire is a large geographic local authority, I have been immensely impressed from the work I have seen in its ability to put individuals and relationships at the very heart of what it does across all of its communities. It appears to me that size has provided you economies of scale and organisational capacity to innovate, benefitting every child across North Yorkshire. I am sure a single unitary authority across your current footprint will bring even greater opportunity to better align key services for children and their families… I think it imperative, for children and families, that this impressive and steady state remains intact.” Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for England (Children and Families).

The North Yorkshire branch of Unison, representing 5,730 employees in local government at the current county council as well as Hambleton, Richmondshire and Selby district councils, also backs the county’s bid on the basis it will be the least disruptive for many thousands of staff. And the county council’s proposal complements that put forward by the City of York, which has been clear it does not wish to be pulled into the district councils east/west split proposal.

Cllr Gareth Dadd is the deputy leader of the council: “We are confident that the support across sectors and the feedback from the public demonstrates the lengths to which we have gone to explain our proposals and the amount of listening we have undertaken with key partners and very many people to help inform and shape it.

“We believe we have more than a good deal of local support, we believe we have demonstrated a really strong level of local support. We share our supporters’ passion for preserving the internationally recognised brand of North Yorkshire and for protecting countywide services, which are strong and effective.

“Importantly our proposal is grown from our own expertise and experience and can deliver the multimillion pound benefits of devolution, alongside considerably more financial savings than the alternative, in the shortest possible time with the least disruption for every resident in North Yorkshire and York. We are ready to go now. This must be about public interest and not self-interest.  

“We know we can draw on our expertise to bring together the very best of all eight councils in the county and deliver one best placed to serve individual residents, local communities, businesses and partner agencies. Our full case for change is now before ministers for their scrutiny and we look forward to their response in the New Year.”

Find out more about devolution and our proposal for a single, new council for everyone in North Yorkshire.