Our proposal for a new unitary council

Our proposal is for a new single council that will unite the whole county, working in close partnership with the City of York Council, unlock devolution and provide a strong, powerful voice in the North.


North Yorkshire currently has a two tier system of local government with eight councils delivering public services, us as the county council and seven district or borough councils. The government has said we must get rid of this system to pave the way for a mayoral-led combined authority. This would unlock a devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire and is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to attract all of the money and powers to drive post pandemic economic recovery that go with it.

We strongly believe that a single new unitary council for everyone in North Yorkshire, working in close partnership with the City of York Council - the only existing unitary authority in North Yorkshire - is the best option. York has given its full backing to this devolution deal.

Six of the seven district and borough councils are backing a proposal which would create two completely new unitary councils covering North Yorkshire and York and which would split our county in half:

  • East North Yorkshire made up of Ryedale, Scarborough, Selby and York
  • West North Yorkshire made up of Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate and Richmondshire

The proposal to break up North Yorkshire is not supported by York.

See City of York Council's submission to government

A new single North Yorkshire council

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 to deliver outstanding services, tackle the challenges facing the whole county after the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic and take advantage of future opportunities.

It would provide a strong voice with national reach to speak out for its communities.

North Yorkshire has an enviable identity – one of the strongest of any English county. We are globally renowned for our hospitality and culture, our market towns, spectacular landscapes and coastline. People are proud to live and work in North Yorkshire. It has a thriving visitor economy and our aim is to protect this brand and build on it.

Our people

We know our people and our places. For every £5 spent on council services across North Yorkshire £4 is already delivered by us and our staff working on the ground in every community, delivering services into every town and village and even into people's homes.  

A single North Yorkshire council would go even further with more locally based staff, more local access points for residents to get council services and a bigger say in how they are delivered in their community. 

Strengthening services

A single North Yorkshire council would strengthen our nationally acclaimed essential services for children, adults and highways and stop them from being broken up, causing unnecessary disruption, including to some of our most vulnerable and frail residents.

Working with you, we have also built up a national reputation for our thriving community libraries. We have invested heavily in vital broadband connectivity and driven innovation in waste services. Working with the community and voluntary sector and emergency service partners we have led the response to the pandemic while also effectively managing other incidents such as flooding and major structural projects on our roads. Helping to protect our communities and save lives.

As a new single council North Yorkshire can do even more.

By keeping the county together we can take the best of all council services and keep the scale to respond to multiple challenges while improving the lives of everyone living and working in North Yorkshire.

We can also save as much as £260m over five years by removing unnecessary waste and duplication. Money which would be used to protect and strengthen your services at a critical time. No other bid can deliver this amount of savings within this timeframe.

Strengthening communities

A single unitary council for North Yorkshire will be simpler and easier for you to access. There will be one council with one point of contact for all the support and services you need.

30 local access points around the county will give everybody, everywhere the chance to have direct, face to face contact about services.

A new North Yorkshire council will drive a revolution in empowering communities.

There will be new powers and money for local people across communities, market towns and parishes to drive local change, local enterprise and local solutions:

  • local priorities will be decided by 25 community networks based around market town areas
  • greater powers and funding will pass to parish and town councils for those that would welcome it
  • there will be greater transparency through powerful area constituency committees that will hold the new North Yorkshire council to account on issues such as planning and transport
  • there will be just one set of councillors who will be accountable for all services

This approach to empowering local communities to deliver on local priorities has worked extremely successfully for single, new unitary councils in other places such as Durham and Cornwall.

The alternative proposal

We do not agree with the proposal from six of the seven district councils to split the county in half. We think a divided county would be a weaker county.

It would: 

  • lack the scale and strength to deliver services effectively across sparse areas
  • create unbalanced councils with more deprivation in the east and more adult social care needs in the west
  • create two completely new councils competing against each other on the national stage
  • create disruption
  • break up nationally recognised and outstanding services
  • damage the globally known brand and identity of North Yorkshire

The proposal to break up North Yorkshire is not supported by York.

See City of York Council's submission to government

"Graphic showing 85% of the county is super-sparse, 13% is sparse and 25 urban, while 17% of residents live in a super-sparse area, 18% in a sparse area and 65% in urban areas"

"A map showing the index of multiple deprivation in North Yorkshire with greater deprivation in the east"

Pull together

We need to pull together and operate at scale to face the many challenges ahead.  

Our proposal would establish a unitary authority serving 618,000 residents. Other largely rural areas are already operating successfully in this way such as Cornwall, Durham and Northumberland.

Our proposal delivers two complementary rather than competing councils, City of York and North Yorkshire, each with unique and distinct qualities to strengthen a devolved, mayoral authority.

We are committed to a dynamic partnership rather than a divided county.