Scarborough Council votes 30-10 to submit a bid for an 'East-West' county devolution split
Scarborough Council has agreed to submit a bid to split North Yorkshire down the middle as part of a Local Government Reorganisation proposal.
The borough council met today and backed the authority’s leader, Labour’s Cllr Steve Siddons, in supporting the “East and West” plan for the county.
However, there were warnings that while the government wants to push ahead with reorganisation it may have gone cold on devolution, which it had been hoped would unlock tens of millions of pounds in funding for the county.
Cllr Siddons told today’s meeting: “We know the process was started with devolution and Local Government Reorganisation came along later. I have to say and warn members in a sense that devolution has not been talked about for some time.
“I, for one, am not clear how wedded the government is to the idea of devolution now. I don’t think there is any guarantee for any of us that if Local Government Reorganisation goes ahead we will get devolution despite the fact that is what will bring the money.”
The East and West plan would see 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 under one Mayor.
Scarborough, Ryedale, Selby and York would be in one authority with Craven, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Harrogate in the other.
This plan is backed by all district council leaders.
It is opposed, however, by North Yorkshire County Council, which favours one large authority for North Yorkshire, with more powers passed on to town and parish councils. City of York Council, itself already a unitary, would be left as it is and backs the county council’s plan.
The final decision on which plan to use will be taken by the government following a consultation.
During the debate at Scarborough Council today, councillors from all parties spoke out against the Government’s wish to press ahead with reorganisation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Conservative Cllr Glenn Goodberry said the timing was “horrendous”. Cllr Siddons said it was “spectacularly ill-advised”.
A number of councillors said they were not happy with the East and West plan.
Conservative Cllr David Jeffels, who also sits on North Yorkshire County Council, said the county’s proposal gave the best offer for residents.
He said: “At this time of enormous uncertainty in our economy, health, employment and well being, I believe an East-West split of North Yorkshire is a step much too far and with many unanswered questions on restructuring and creating new service deliveries against a very uncertain economic background.”
The leader of the Conservative Group, Cllr Derek Bastiman, said that as the City of York Council had said it did not want to be part of the bid it should be rejected. He said it would be an “arranged marriage” with the 200,000 residents of York as the bridesmaids.
Cllr Bill Chatt, of Cluster of Independent Members, said there had not been enough member involvement in the decision and there was not a clear understanding of the risks for the tax-payers in the borough.
Cllr Chatt added: “Whichever way we go we are the only coastal community in this mix, nobody else has it.
“There is not anything [in this proposal] that tells me Scarborough will get anything out of this.”
In backing the district plan Cllr Siddons said that it was important that the government had more than one bid to choose from.
He said: “Democracy is never best served by only having one choice.”
Cllr Siddons said that the council had until November 9 to submit the outline proposal.
Cllr Mike Cockerill, leader of the Cluster of Independent Members, said: “The matter before us suffers from very bad timing, the worst anyone could possibly imagine.
“But suffice to say, a vote for the resolution before us today is a vote in support of our council tax-payers, the very people who put us here.”
The council voted by 30 votes to 10 to support the East and West model. The votes against came from Cllr Chatt and nine Conservative councillors.
Scarborough Council will only submit its proposal to the Government if North Yorkshire County Council votes to submit its plan for one large unitary authority to the government when it meets on Wednesday.