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Single council survey finds little appetite for change

[Wednesday 09 May 2007]

NORTH YORKSIRE residents have delivered what some are calling a resounding no to plans to create a single unitary council providing all services across the whole of the county.

Residents from across the county took part in an independent survey last month commissioned by the North Yorkshire District Council Network - results show that 77% would prefer to see the existing district and county councils working more effectively together.

Nowhere in central government's consultation plan do the 582,000 who live in North Yorkshire feature

Councillor Arthur Barker - District Council Network

Leading research agency Ipsos MORI was commissioned to gather opinion after leading district councillors expressed concerned that residents were not getting a chance to have their say in the debate over the creation of a single council.

A random sample of people in all seven areas of the county - Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby - took part in the telephone survey.

It found that the majority thought the area is too big to be served by one authority and that a single council would be too remote and less in touch with local needs.

"Nowhere in central government's consultation plan do the 582,000 who live in North Yorkshire feature - the very people who these changes are going to affect most," said Councillor Arthur Barker, speaking on behalf of Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate, Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby district Councils.

"So we have asked the questions for them - we hope they now will listen to the answers. As we expected the residents of North Yorkshire do not want to see a single unitary created for the county - in fact 69% of them said the current system works well for them.

"And a massive 75% agree with our view that one council for whole county will be too remote and less in touch. Added to that, 71% say the area is too big to be served by one authority and that councillors would have less power to improve things in their local area.

"It is vital that these results are taken into consideration - the public have spoken and they have said no to a single council for their county."

The survey's other main findings are:

  • after consideration of the issues over half (55%) disagree that there is a need for a change to a single council, with just one in three (32%) favouring it
  • residents do not consider the present arrangements to be perfect - 55% say they find it confusing but more than 70% recognised the roles of the district councils and most of the services of the county council
  • 68% are satisfied with the way in which their district council runs the area
  • 81% said they would still prefer a single point of contact
  • 90% said all council leaders should meet regularly to take the needs of the county forward together
  • 48% disagreed that a single council would be more efficient - 37% agreed
  • 54% say the change would be too disruptive

"We went to Ipsos MORI because we wanted a true picture of what local people think," added Mr Barker.

"The questions were formulated by MORI, were impartial and the survey was conducted with a representative sample of people across the county."

North Yorkshire County Council welcomed the findings of the opinion poll on its proposals for a single-tier unitary council but added "while the MORI survey asked a number of questions of the public it gave them no information as to how the new authority would operate."

Central government announced in March that North Yorkshire County Council's bid to create a single unitary council for the county was one of 16 to go forward for further consultation.

That consultation ends on June 22 - to add views and for more information log on to www.structures@communities.gsi.gov.uk

  • Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 2,007 residents aged 18+ across the North Yorkshire area by telephone between 11 and 17 April 2007

  • Full details of the survey can be found at www.hambleton.gov.uk

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