Scarborough Council leader Steve Siddons slams devolution announcement

Scarborough Borough Council’s leader has described yesterday's announcement that the authority is to be scrapped and absorbed by North Yorkshire County Council as “not a good day for democracy”.

By Carl Gavaghan, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 9:07 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 9:08 am
Councillor Steve Siddons.
Councillor Steve Siddons.

Cllr Steve Siddons was speaking after the government revealed that North Yorkshire’s two-tier councils will be replaced with a single unitary authority in what will mark the biggest changes to local government in the county in almost 50 years.

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick MP revealed that the chosen option was for the new single council structure proposed by North Yorkshire County Council over a rival bid for two authorities split on a east/west basis.

Under the plans York City Council will also remain as a unitary council.

The rejected East/West plan would have seen the county’s seven district councils – Scarborough, Harrogate, Ryedale, Craven, Hambleton, Selby and Richmondshire – and York split in half to create two authorities of roughly the same population size.

Scarborough, Ryedale, Selby and York would have been in one authority with Craven, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Harrogate in the other.

The seven district councils will now be abolished and services taken over the county council following elections to be held in May next year.

Cllr Siddons said he felt the decision from the Government to create the 600,000 plus population unitary authority in North Yorkshire was a “dog’s breakfast”.

He said: “I am extremely disappointed with this announcement.

“The government appears to have ignored their own criteria and advice and have approved a single countywide unitary that is bigger than any other in the country and far bigger than their recommended maximum size.

“It also leaves York as a unitary much smaller than the government’s minimum size recommendation.

“My prediction is that York will inevitably be swallowed up by this mega county. A dog’s breakfast springs to mind.

“My concern now is that the residents of our borough and the staff of our council get a fair deal moving forward and the promises made by the county council in their proposal, prove better and more effective than some of their services in the past.

“Having a council that is two hours drive from where we live is not my idea of a recipe for good local governance.

“The East/West model, which I supported and has been rejected, met all the criteria set by the government so I can only assume something else was at play when the decision was made.

“I fear this is not a good day for democracy but I hope I am proved wrong.”

The plans are now subject to Parliamentary approval later in the year.

Mr Jenrick said: “Residents, businesses and service providers in North Yorkshire have had their say on what will work best for their area and now councils can start planning for the next step.

“I have always been clear that any restructuring of local government must be locally-led and will not involve top-down solutions from Government.

“These plans will help strengthen local leaderships and ensure residents of North Yorkshire are receiving the consistent high-quality services they deserve.”

The Local Government Secretary added he has asked the existing councils and their partners to work collaboratively and constructively together to drive forward the process of establishing unitary councils.