Trade union backs single unitary proposal as least disruptive

This story was published 2 November 2020

The North Yorkshire branch of Unison has set out how it believes North Yorkshire County Council’s proposal to create a single new council for the area would be the best option for services and staff, compared to the alternatives being put forward.

Wendy Nichols and Richard Flinton

The Government has invited councils in North Yorkshire to submit proposals to create unitary or single-tier authorities, to pave the way for a mayoral-led combined authority, with devolution as the prize.

That means that the current seven district councils and single county council would be replaced by one authority or more delivering all public services.

North Yorkshire County Council has set out a plan to bring all district and county services under one new organisation covering the existing county boundaries and delivering all services to everyone in the county.

District and borough councils, meanwhile, have put forward a proposal to create two new different councils covering North Yorkshire, which would split the county in two.

In response, the North Yorkshire branch of Unison has said that the county council’s proposal would offer the least disruption to services, residents and staff working for all the organisations involved.

Wendy Nichols, Branch Secretary for the North Yorkshire branch of Unison, representing over 5,500 members who work predominantly for North Yorkshire County Council, Hambleton District Council, Richmondshire District Council, and Selby District Council, explained: “Our collective view is that the county council’s proposal is best-placed to protect existing services and staff.

“We’ve reviewed the different proposals and believe that bringing together services under a single pre-existing council would be the most effective way of minimising disruption from this change and realising the long-term benefits more quickly.

“Splitting up services into multiple new councils would create unnecessary bureaucracy and disruption, both to our members and the communities they serve.

“A single new council is the same approach that we’ve seen elsewhere in the country, including in Buckinghamshire, Cornwall and Durham.

“In any change, we want to focus primarily on protecting the people our members serve – in particular those who rely on key council services and support.”

Responding to Unison’s support, Cllr Gareth Dadd, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for resources, said: “At the county council, we have a long and strong history of good working relationships with staff and unions. Our people are our greatest asset.

“The proposal to create a single new council for North Yorkshire offers many opportunities and benefits – both in terms of making savings to invest in delivering stronger services for the people and businesses we serve, and in terms of opportunities for staff from all existing councils in North Yorkshire.

“Our bid would see staff across all existing organisations involved in informing and designing future arrangements from the beginning.”

One of the key elements of North Yorkshire County Council’s proposal is to drive a revolution in local democracy by creating 25 local community networks, based on market towns in North Yorkshire. These will bring together people and businesses to plan and deliver actions based on the needs and aspirations of these towns and their surrounding areas.

This builds on the strong presence of county council staff in locations across North Yorkshire already. For example, around 1,000 county council staff are already based in both Scarborough and Harrogate; around 500 in both Selby and Craven districts.

North Yorkshire County Council chief executive Richard Flinton explained: “Our bid is about maintaining the scale we need to work in the most efficient ways, whilst also delivering services based around the individual needs of different areas in the county. 

“This approach means that staff and resources will be based around our market towns. We will have main offices in every district enhanced by more than 30 ‘access points’ for residents, too.

“We’re committed to delivering strong and sustainable services with staff based right across North Yorkshire.”

North Yorkshire’s bid will go before the council’s executive on November 3 and full council the following day. 

The full proposal around North Yorkshire’s case for change can be found here.