North Yorkshire County Council plans come under fire

Scarborough Council’s leader says North Yorkshire County Council’s desire for one super authority to cover the county under devolution plans would “remove any sense of local government”.

By Carl Gavaghan, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 9:19 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 9:22 am
Scarborough Town Hall
Scarborough Town Hall

Cllr Steve Siddons said that the county’s plan had previously been rejected as being “too big and remote” and he did not agree with its desire to revive it.

Cllr Siddons was speaking at Scarborough Council’s first full council meeting since February yesterday and updated the councillors on the news that the North Yorkshire and York Devolution plan would be moving forward.

Earlier this month, the county’s seven district councils, which include Scarborough Council, were told they would have to be scrapped if North Yorkshire wants devolution, which would b

Following a meeting with Local Government Minister Simon Clarke, it is proposed to create one or two combined authorities under a metro Mayor for the county in 2022.

Labour leader Cllr Siddons told the meeting that while any of the authorities could submit a plan for devolution to the government, he felt indications that North Yorkshire County Council would prefer a system with one large authority for the county with York on its own was not the way he would like to go.

He said: “I do believe that local government reorganisation, if done properly, will sort the confusing nature of the two-tier local government system and deliver more modern and efficient services for our residents.

“However, it must be done correctly. Colleagues at North Yorkshire County Council have already made clear their desire to dust off the failed unitary bid from 2007 which was rejected as being too big and remote and damaging to democracy and to revive it.

“I support the minister’s own view that the right population for a unitary authority, backed by his department’s empirical studies, is between 300,000 and 400,000 people covering a meaningful geographical area.

“A super authority covering 8,000sq kms from the North Sea in the east to 10 miles short of the Irish Sea in the west, with a potential population of between 605,000 to 800,000 removes any sense of local government.

“It takes three hours to get from some parts of this borough to any other part of the county boundary.”

He said that “remote decision making in Northallerton” did not deliver the results the borough needed and that a super council would create a “marriage of unequal partners” between North Yorkshire and York.

Cllr Siddons was asked by Conservative Cllr Derek Bastiman, who also sits on the county council if it was not the case that Simon Clarke had said that he thought 300,000 to 400,000 people was “the floor” for a unitary authority and had highlighted nearby Cumbria, with a population in excess of 500,000 as an example for the county.

Cllr Siddons responded that Mr Clarke had told district leaders that 400,000 people was the “optimum” size for an authority.

He added: “It’s not just about numbers it is also about geography.”

The leader of the council also confirmed that the council had put forward £25,000, as had each of the district councils, to get specialist advice for their submission to the government, though he felt the final bill would not use up that full amount.

Cllr Siddons said he was unable to give the final timetable for devolution to councillors as the councils had not yet received an official notice from the government but had been told “unofficially” that its plans must be submitted in September.

He added that he wanted all councillors and residents to be able to have their sayHe said: “This is a change that will last for many years to come so it is important we all take part in it.

“My understanding is we will undertake a consultation with residents. The government will make the decision at the end of the day but we would like to see the residents of the borough involved in a consultation.”

Under the present system, North Yorkshire County Council is responsible for education, highways, social care and transport. The seven district councils are responsible for the majority of planning matters, licensing, bin collections and council tax collections.

York has one council to run all services.

Any of the councils involved in the process can submit a proposal to the government to be considered.

The government’s intention is to make the changes from April 2022, with Mayoral elections taking place in May alongside elections to the new unitary authority or authorities.

If the devolution plan moves forward the county council elections scheduled for next year would be cancelled, as likely would be the elections for the Police, Crime and Fire Commissioner as those responsibilities are presumed to rest with the new elected Mayor.

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