North Yorkshire Council: greater scrutiny on way for 'landmark' 2023 move

A new committee of councillors is due to be established to ensure the greatest level of scrutiny and transparency in the biggest overhaul of democracy in North Yorkshire in nearly half-a-century.

By Duncan Atkins
Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 11:07 am

The move to merge North Yorkshire County Council and the county’s seven district and borough authorities represents the biggest shake-up in how key services will be delivered since a major programme of local government reorganisation was undertaken nationally in 1974.

To ensure that the move to the new North Yorkshire Council is given an even greater level of transparency, senior councillors will be asked to pave the way for the launch of an overview and scrutiny committee which will be dedicated to analysing decisions related to local government reorganisation.

A paper which will be considered by North Yorkshire County Council’s executive on Tuesday June 21 has set out the plans for the new committee.

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Leader of North Yorkshire County Council, Carl Les.

The county council’s leader, Cllr Carl Les, said: “The move to a new council for North Yorkshire represents a landmark in how services will be provided for the public as well as the governance of these services.

“It is a huge task, but it is one which we are committed to and ensure that there is a smooth transition to the new authority.

“The chance to introduce a new overview and scrutiny committee will provide the opportunity to monitor the succession of key decisions which will be made ahead of the launch of North Yorkshire Council.

“We have made a commitment to the public that the process will be conducted in an open and transparent manner, and the proposed committee will be a key part of ensuring that this is the case.”

The proposals would see the new committee meeting every six to eight weeks from the end of July until March next week, although there is scope for its work to continue after the launch of the new council on April 1, 2023.

It would include 16 members to reflect the political balance of North Yorkshire County Council, and would sit alongside the existing five overview and scrutiny committees which deal with young people’s services, care and independence, corporate and partnerships, health and transport, the economy and the environment.

The report due to be considered by the executive has stressed that it is vital that there is full engagement for all of the county council’s 90 members, who will go on to represent the new unitary authority from the spring of next year.

The report added that there is also a need to ensure decisions relating to local government reorganisation are fully tested and that there is “openness and transparency throughout the process”.

The executive is being asked to approve plans for the new overview and scrutiny committee, which will then be considered at a full council meeting next month.

A series of member working groups are also due to be established to help shape the development of the new unitary authority looking at a range of issues including locality, planning, waste management, licensing, and support for members.

The move to the unitary authority is necessary to secure a long-awaited devolution deal for North Yorkshire to shift a raft of decision-making and spending powers away from Westminster to the county.

The Government has stipulated that a key requirement for any devolution deal for North Yorkshire is for the two-tier system of local government, with the county council and seven district and borough councils, to be replaced by a single unitary authority. City of York Council will continue as a unitary authority to run in tandem with the new North Yorkshire Council.

The deal to hand over decision-making powers and tens of millions of pounds in funding to political leaders in York and North Yorkshire is currently being negotiated with the Government, with an announcement on an offer for devolution expected this summer before public consultations are staged later in the year.

District and borough councils will remain until April 1, 2023, and the councillors serving on those local authorities will continue in their roles until that date.