Creating one council for North Yorkshire will save taxpayers £25m a year, says county council leader Carl Les

Creating one local authority to cover all of North Yorkshire would save tax-payers £25m a year, according to the leader of the existing county council.

By Rob Parsons
Friday, 31st July 2020, 5:45 am

The plans being submitted to Ministers by North Yorkshire County Council as part of a proposed devolution deal would involve district councils being disbanded and "a single strong, sustainable council for everyone in North Yorkshire".

The council's Tory leader Carl Les said his proposal, which is opposed by district leaders, would also allow interested town and parish councils to take on additional powers and budget.

Leaders in North Yorkshire have until September to submit their proposals to the Government for consideration before a public consultation takes place. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick would then choose the option with the most support.

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Under the county council's plans, which Coun Les says are the "only sustainable credible option", a single unitary authority would serve all of North Yorkshire and its 600,000 population while City of York Council would remain in place.

Leaders of the county's seven district councils are exploring the creation of two unitary authorities of roughly equal size, each with 400,000 residents, by involving York in proposals.

Minister Simon Clarke has warned that a devolution deal and the powers and funding for the county that comes with it will only be granted if local government is "streamlined".

North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les. Pic: Gary Longbottom

Coun Les said: “The timing is critical as we drive post-pandemic recovery and York and North Yorkshire need to act now to ensure we are not left behind.

"We have therefore today instructed officers to put together a business case for a single strong, sustainable council for everyone in North Yorkshire, based on the current map and population.

“Not only will a single council based on the county’s current identity, simplify things for people and businesses - renewing our economic fortunes following the shock delivered by the pandemic - it will protect and strengthen high-quality frontline services.

"It will also unleash the county’s potential and deliver very significant financial savings by ending duplication, improving efficiency and driving innovation.

"We estimate savings in excess of £25m every year, offering the best value for money for everyone. No other bid would be able to match these benefits. Equally importantly it will protect a global and recognised brand which is crucial for our visitor economy.”

There is uncertainty over the Government's preferred population size for a new unitary authority to serve.

Simon Clarke said any new bodies "as a rule of thumb are expected to be substantially in excess of 300k-400k".

The Yorkshire Post understands senior Whitehall officials believe North Yorkshire to be "very large" to be served by one unitary body and City of York, which serves 200,000 people, to be too small.

Meanwhile, City of York leader Keith Aspden claimed last night that some district council leaders are putting forward rival plans which "include unnecessarily merging self-governing York and our communities into a new remote super-council - potentially stretching from the outskirts of Doncaster to Redcar and Cleveland, along the east coast".

He said: “York is a unique, self-governing and historic city, and as such we do not believe that any wasteful changes to our structures or boundaries are required.

"Any other model of local government would fail to effectively represent York’s history, communities and the unique characteristics of the city."