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Super council survey begins

[Thursday 12 April 2007]

RESIDENTS across North Yorkshire are being given their chance to have a say over plans to create a single unitary council for the county.

A survey to gather local opinion kicked off Wednesday - leading survey agency Ipsos MORI will conduct a representative study of 2000 people.

The parishes are going to be greatly affected by a change to a single unitary council

Peter Simpson - District Council Network

Picked at random, people in all seven district council areas of Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby will be invited to take part in the telephone survey.

Central government announced last month 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.

Key stakeholders - business leaders, statutory organisations and parish councils - will be questioned as part of that process.

But district council leaders were concerned that the public did not feature in the consultation exercise and opponents fear that rural areas such as the Yorkshire Dales will not be adequately served by such a large authority.

"The very people that will be affected by this change - and whose opinion is ultimately crucial - are not on the list of consultees," said Chief Executive for Hambleton District Council, Peter Simpson, speaking for all the district councils through the North Yorkshire District Council Network.

"We are addressing that imbalance. The Network has commissioned an Ipsos MORI survey to find out what they think. They will be asked impartial questions so we can get a true picture of what they think of these plans."

And he said once Ipsos MORI have completed the resident's survey they will embark on a questionnaire with all the parishes in the county.

"The parishes are going to be greatly affected by a change to a single unitary council - they would be expected to have a much bigger role to play. Not all of them realise this - and some are already concerned about this," he added.

"We hope that the results of both surveys will be taken into consideration by the government when they make a final decision this summer on which unitaries will be created. That decision must reflect local choice."

The District Council Network opposes the county councils proposal - it believes it would take the 'local' out of local government by creating a council too large to cater for the diverse rural and urban needs of North Yorkshire.

The survey is expected to be completed within a week.

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