Ex-Scarborough Council leader blasts "ridiculous" idea to split North Yorkshire in half

The former leader of Scarborough Council has called a proposal to split North Yorkshire in half as part of a devolution bid “ridiculous”.

By Carl Gavaghan, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 10:07 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 10:08 am
How the proposed east / west split would look.

Cllr Derek Bastiman, who now leads the Conservative opposition group on the borough authority, has hit out at the plan which is backed by the current Scarborough leader, Labour’s Steve Siddons, who replaced Cllr Bastiman at the head of the council in 2019.

In an open letter, Cllr Bastiman has backed North Yorkshire County Council’s (NYCC) plan to have one authority covering the county, with City of York council left as it is.

Cllr Bastiman also sits on the Conservative-controlled county council.

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He has dismissed the idea from district leaders to have two authorities, made up of Scarborough, Ryedale, Selby and York on one side with Hambleton, Richmondshire, Craven and Harrogate on the other, saying it would create an “arranged marriage” with York, which wants to be left alone.

Cllr Bastiman wrote: “At the moment the NYCC deliver very good services both in Adult and Child Care, which could put lives at risk if such experience is lost in breaking up what is already well-respected services.

"Other services including education, highways and economic development are all punching well above their weight.

“The proposal by the District/Borough Leaders to create an Eastern Unitary and a Western Unitary is ridiculous to the point that quite rightly the City of York have made it perfectly clear that they do not want to play any part in the Eastern Unitary, so here we have an ‘arranged marriage’ where one party is totally reluctant to play any part in it, a recipe for disaster for the people we serve and the economy.

“Have they considered what will happen to the Police, Fire and Rescue Service following the excellent way our PFCC Julia Mulligan is running the service, a service that will need splitting in two, expertise and knowledge lost to either or both of the East/ West proposals?

“Parish and town councils will be encouraged to take on more responsibilities where there is a desire to do so, step by step with professional support similar to how the libraries transferred into ‘local ownership’, no service will be transferred down until thorough checks and balances have been exhausted.”

He concludes by saying the county’s bid is the most cost-effective and will serve residents in the “most professional way”.

District leaders oppose the county’s plan on grounds that the so-called “mega council” would be too large and create a “marriage of unequals” between the 600,000 population authority of North Yorkshire and the 200,000 people living in York.

Speaking yesterday, Cllr Siddons said: “We know many people fear that in a county-wide unitary, local knowledge and representation of local communities will be lost, and this is a real danger.

“Our model will enable service delivery improvement across the whole of the City of York and North Yorkshire, whilst minimising disruption to key services, especially for vulnerable groups and safeguarding.

“Our model will enable existing partnership working to grow and strengthen, to promote strong, safe, inclusive and healthy communities.”

Councils in North Yorkshire were officially invited to submit proposals for devolution by the government last week, firing the starting gun on the process that will look to see the new governance arrangement in place by summer of 2022.

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