North Yorkshire's warring political leaders bring in 'big four' accountancy firms to make case over local government reorganisation
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North Yorkshire County Council have commissioned PWC to analyse the benefits of their proposed single unitary authority covering England's largest county, with the accountancy firm's report suggesting the model could save up to £250m over five years.
Meanwhile district and borough leaders asked rival 'big four' accountancy firm KPMG to analyse the different options and now say their preferred scenario of two councils covering the east and west of the county is the best way forward.
Political leaders have been invited to submit an outline bid to the Government by November 9, proposing how unitary authorities could be created within North Yorkshire and York.
They were told this summer that replacing the current two-tier system of councils with one or more unitary authorities was a prerequisite for the area gaining the benefits of devolution. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick will then carry out a consultation and make a decision on which proposal has the most local support.
Currently some council services are provided by seven district councils and others by the county council, with the City of York standing apart.
The county council says PWC's findings show a single new council model would end duplication in just a few months, saving £30 million a year by cutting red tape and reducing senior management and elected member costs.
It adds that by using the new council as a springboard for transformational change this saving could rise to between £50m and £67m a year, netting up to £252m at the end of the first five years.
According to PWC's report, the east/west split of the county and which draws in the City of York also offers savings, but only 60 per cent of the county’s proposal over five years.
Gareth Dadd, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for Resources and Deputy Leader, said: “We are presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity at a key moment in our history, as we battle to emerge from the devastating impacts of the pandemic.
"A unique chance to deliver very significant savings that will be ploughed back into frontline services, support enhanced local democracy and end unnecessary waste. Our bid maximises all the benefits and delivers those benefits more quickly. It is also the least disruptive.
“Our proposal represents a saving of up to £185 a year for every household in North Yorkshire which would be put back into service delivery. It would be negligent of us to not to chase down such an opportunity."
North Yorkshire’s seven district councils, Scarborough, Ryedale, Hambleton, Richmondshire, Craven, Selby and Harrogate, say the KPMG research study provides “compelling evidence” that the creation of two unitary authorities of balanced size would provide “the strongest local leadership, the most effective services and the fairest democratic representation, as well as the most savings for local taxpayers”.
The east and west model described in the study would see Craven, Harrogate, Richmondshire and Hambleton join together to form a unitary council in the west, and Selby, City of York, Ryedale and Scarborough join together to form a unitary council in the east.
According to the study, this model would produce two unitary authorities with a similar population and economic size that meet the government’s reform criteria.
The contents of the study have been shared with councillors this week, and are being published on district and borough council websites today.
Coun Steve Siddons, Leader of Scarborough Borough Council, speaking on behalf of the district leaders, said: “This research by KPMG clearly shows that the East and West model of local government reorganisation is better than any of the alternatives.
“The KPMG study shows that the East and West model will provide strong local leadership, the most effective services, the fairest democratic representation and the most financial savings.
“Our model, with two equal partners, also provides the strongest approach to unlocking devolution. We expect North Yorkshire County Council to submit a proposal for a ‘mega-
council’, which would create a massive imbalance. North Yorkshire is five and a half times the size of Greater London; it’s as big as Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire combined.
“While we believe now is not the time for local government reorganisation, North Yorkshire County Council’s determination to drive their proposals forward leaves us with no option but to offer an alternative."