Transparency and accountability are key for new council

This story was published 11 January 2023

Actions to ensure that decisions taken by the new North Yorkshire Council are efficient, transparent and accountable to local people are to be considered by senior councillors.

Cllr Carl Les

A draft constitution for the new authority, which will launch on 1 April to provide all local council services across the county, will be considered by our executive on Tuesday (17 January).

Among provisions in the draft is a structure of overview and scrutiny committees that would independently monitor decisions made by the executive and ensure accountability. Scrutiny committees can check recent decisions, advise on development of policy and review services’ performance, as well as hold the executive to account.

The new council will launch on 1 April when ourselves and the existing seven district and borough authorities merge in the biggest shake-up of local government since 1974. While the new authority will cover the largest geographical area of any of the nation’s councils, it aims to be the most local.

Council leader, Cllr Carl Les, said: “Scrutiny exists within the current councils, but the creation of the new council will see a wider range of services being delivered by a single authority, from housing to environmental health and leisure to waste. For that reason, the proposals in the draft constitution are designed to set up a system to scrutinise council decisions with the flexibility to fit this wider remit.

“It is essential that North Yorkshire’s residents and businesses can have confidence in the transparency and accountability of the new council. That is what these robust scrutiny proposals set out to achieve.”

The draft constitution proposes that a transition overview and scrutiny committee established last year to monitor decisions relating to the new council should be retained for a further three years to scrutinise leisure, culture, tourism and the arts, as well as waste collection, bereavement services and licensing.

In addition, further overview and scrutiny committees would focus on the following areas:

  • Care and independence and housing.
  • Transport, economy, environment and enterprise.
  • Scrutiny of health.
  • Children and families.
  • Corporate services and partnerships.

In addition, the committee structure proposes six area constituency committees based on MP constituency boundaries.

Cllr Les, who will become the leader of the new North Yorkshire Council from April, said: “Local voices and local accountability are central to the vision of the new North Yorkshire Council. Area committees are a key element in this, providing local community leadership in conjunction with the community networks we propose to create, helping to shape economic development in their locality and holding the executive to account, complementing the work of the scrutiny committees.”

Area committees would also have delegated decision-making powers in relation to some local highways issues and would have a role in promoting and encouraging tourism and heritage, arts, leisure and culture.

There would also be six area constituency planning committees, as well as an overall strategic planning committee.

Recommendations made by the county council’s executive on the draft constitution, including the structure and operation of committees, will go to the full county council for a decision in February.

The restructuring of local government is taking place to pave the way for a devolution deal, which is set to see the Government hand over key decision-making powers and millions of pounds in funding to be overseen by local political leaders.

The proposed devolution deal, which is set to see an influential metro mayor elected in May 2024, offers the chance to improve education and job opportunities, boost economic growth and place York and North Yorkshire at the forefront of the green energy sector to tackle climate change.