North Yorkshire County Council elections won't happen in May because of Robert Jenrick's local government reorganisation
The North Yorkshire County Council elections are to be delayed because of the controversial local government reorganisation, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced.
Mr Jenrick has launched a consultation on whether a single county authority or two councils split on an east/west basis should replace the current two-tier system of local authorities in North Yorkshire.
Elections for all the county council’s seats were due to take place on May 6, but this will now rescheduled because of the likelihood that the authority will soon cease to exist, the Minister said in a written statement. He said: “Elections in such circumstances risk confusing voters and would be hard to justify where members could be elected to serve shortened terms.”
Elections will now likely take place next May, either to elect representatives to a new unitary authority or authorities or for the existing county council structure.
In his statement, Mr Jenrick said the consultation would last for eight weeks until April 19 and respondents could make their views known either online, by email or by post.
He said: "I would welcome views from any interested person, including residents, and I am consulting the councils which made the proposals, other councils affected by the proposals, and councils in neighbouring areas.
"I am also consulting public service providers, including health providers and the police, Local Enterprise Partnerships, and certain other business, voluntary sector and educational bodies."
As well as deciding on the future of local government in North Yorkshire, England's largest county, Mr Jenrick is also doing the same in Cumbria and Somerset.
He said in his written statement that this would be based on the results of the consultations as well as his judgement of how the different bids meet three criteria.
These are whether the different proposals are likely to improve local government and service delivery across the area of the proposal, whether they command a good deal of local support as assessed in the round across the whole area of the proposal, and whether the area of any new unitary council is a credible geography.
Though the county elections and the Craven district council elections will now not take place on May 6, police and crime commissioner elections and those for town and parish council will still happen.
Mr Jenrick wrote that he had considered "the importance of local elections as the foundation of our local democracy and ensuring the accountability of councils to local people, and to the risks of continuing with the May 2021 elections in the areas when consultations are taking place on proposals which could, if implemented, result in the abolition of those councils.
"Elections in such circumstances risk confusing voters and would be hard to justify where members could be elected to serve shortened terms."
He added: "Accordingly, I have concluded that, irrespective of what my future decisions might be on the restructuring proposals, the right course is to reschedule the May 2021 local elections.
"If no unitary proposal is implemented in an area, the rescheduled elections will take place in May 2022. If a unitary proposal is implemented the rescheduled elections will be replaced by elections in May 2022 to the new unitary authority or authorities which could be in shadow form or a continuing council taking on the functions of the other councils in the area.
"Finally, I would reiterate that the Government will not impose top-down government solutions. We will continue, as I am now currently doing, to follow a locally-led approach where councils can develop proposals which have strong local support.
"This has been the Government’s consistent approach since 2010, when top-down restructuring was stopped through the Local Government Act 2010. When considering reform, those in an area will know what is best – the very essence of localism to which the Government remains committed."
Local leaders were told last summer that devolution in North Yorkshire could not happen unless the existing two-tier system of local government was abolished. Currently some services are carried out by the county council and others by seven district councils.
North Yorkshire county council has submitted a proposal for one authority covering the whole county, while district leaders want two authorities split down the A1M, with York merged into an authority with Ryedale, Selby and Scarborough.