North Yorkshire devolution rethink needed as coronavirus pandemic continues

The Prime Minister has been urged by district council leaders in North Yorkshire to shelve plans to break up councils in order to allow them to focus on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Headquarters for Scarborough Borough Council
Headquarters for Scarborough Borough Council

The seven district councils claim that in July, councils they were to believe as part of the government’s reform agenda that devolution for North Yorkshire could only be delivered if local government reorganisation happened.

Since then the seven district and borough council leaders have been working on plans that would see their councils disbanded.

The leaders have worked with independent experts to prepare a possible local government model for councillors across all the districts and boroughs to vote on, if reorganisation were compulsory.

However, given that the country remains in the grip of a global pandemic, the district and borough council leaders have now asked that government reconsider and allow devolution without the need for reorganisation.

The view of district and borough council leaders is that there “could not be a worse time to dismantle or disrupt local councils” when they are part of the front-line response to the Covid-19 crisis.

On behalf of the borough and district council leaders in North Yorkshire, Leader of Hambleton District Council Cllr Mark Robson said: “There is no doubt the Covid-19 situation has worsened nationwide and this will inevitably put extra pressure and new demands on district and borough councils to further support our communities and businesses as we work through this crisis together.

“Let me be clear, this critical responsibility must come first, and we must not be distracted by an unnecessary, resource-intensive and ill-timed local government reorganisation.

“The letter we have sent makes this point in the strongest possible terms and we look forward to the government response with what we hope is a sensible and realistic way forward for North Yorkshire in these difficult times.”

Under the devolution plans the seven district councils, Hambleton, Scarborough, Craven, Ryedale, Selby, Richmondshire and Harrogate would be broken up and replaced with a new unitary authority under a Metro Mayor.

The districts want to see two authorities created, one with Scarborough, Selby, Ryedale and City of York Council in the east with the remaining districts making up the west.

North Yorkshire County Council, however, is pushing for one council to cover North Yorkshire with York left as it is.