The Government has announced that a new ‘levelling up’ white paper will be published later this year, focusing on improving opportunities, economic growth and living standards across the country.
Cllr Steve Siddons, the Labour leader of the council, welcomed this renewed focus which he said was a key priority in the East & West proposal for local government reorganisation in North Yorkshire and York.
Earlier this year, Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick announced that two proposals from councils in the area would be taken forward as part of the Local Government Reorganisation process.
North Yorkshire County Council submitted a bid for one large authority to cover the county, with more powers passed on to town and parish councils.
City of York Council, itself already a unitary, would be left as it is under the proposals.
Six of the county’s seven district councils – Scarborough, Harrogate, Ryedale, Craven, Selby and Richmondshire – submitted the “East & West plan” that would see the county and York split in half to create two authorities of roughly the same population size under one Mayor.
Scarborough, Ryedale, Selby and York would be in one authority with Craven, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Harrogate in the other.
A decision is due on the proposals later this year.
Cllr Siddons said the focus on levelling up boosted the East & West plan.
He said: “Levelling up means ensuring that residents and businesses in all parts of North Yorkshire and York have better opportunities in terms of life, education, work and wellbeing.
"It means increased investment, high quality jobs, and affordable housing.
“We firmly believe that the East & West model is the strongest possible reorganisation option for levelling up, and driving future recovery and growth in York and North Yorkshire.
“Our proposal creates two balanced unitary authorities, with similar population sizes, gross value added and tax base ratios.
“It unlocks the potential of York, by including the city within the proposals for reorganisation.
"York is a vital economic centre in North Yorkshire and has the potential to drive the growth of the sub-regional economy.
"Currently this potential is being left unrealised.
“The inclusion of York in the East unitary area means the city can grow and prosper while benefiting surrounding areas.
"Meanwhile residents and businesses of York itself will profit; specific issues around housing can be addressed through an agreed Local Plan, and other local services within the city can be improved in partnership.
“The alternative proposal for local government reorganisation in the area, put forward by North Yorkshire County Council, leaves York as a small unitary authority.
"This fails to maximise the potential of York, and also fails to address any of the issues currently facing the city.
“The East & West model will maximise growth opportunities by building on existing economic footprints, within a structure that makes sense to our businesses and communities.
"Our proposal will help drive the levelling up of the Northern economy overall, attracting investment and accelerating recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Government has also stated it is still committed to devolving power to people and places across the country.
“The East & West model is the only proposal that delivers two equal partners to sit within a Mayoral Combined Authority.
“This gives us the best opportunity to support strong, inclusive growth and the levelling up agenda.”
It has been announced that Neil O’Brien, MP for Harborough, will be leading the levelling up policy from Number 10 and the Cabinet Office.