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Districts reject single council plan for North Yorkshire

[Wednesday 24 January 2007]

RESTRUCTURING North Yorkshire's councils into a single unitary authority will create an organisation too big to deliver local services - that's the damning, if not entirely unexpected, verdict from the county's 7 district councils.

It will create remote government not local government

Arthur Barker - spokesman for the district authorities

The reaction came after County Councillors voted yesterday (January 23) to submit their case for a single council to the government.

If the government gives the submission its approval, the existing county council, together with the district councils of Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough, and Selby will be replaced by one new, unitary body.

District Council leaders say it will mean 'local' government becomes 'remote' government and does not reflect the opinions of the county's residents in the last review of local government in 2004.

They added that one body serving a geographic area of 3103 square miles with extremes of urban and deeply rural communities will not be able to cater for diverse local needs.

Welcoming the vote, County Councillor John Weighell said: "The challenges of the future mean that we cannot stand still. It is therefore important that we seize this golden opportunity that now arises to harness all of the skills and resources across local government, and to do an even more effective job, to provide an even stronger voice for the people of North Yorkshire, and to shape our services around the local communities that we serve."

North Yorkshire County Council insists the move would have a number of significant benefits:

  • the provision of high quality services across both urban and sparse rural areas
  • the best possible value for money for council tax payers
  • clear accountability for all services
  • engagement with neighbourhoods and communities
  • strong community leadership a powerful voice speaking up for our communities both nationally and regionally

The statement made no mention of how services would be reorganised, nor was there any mention of the potential for increased costs being passed on to already hard-pressed Council Tax payers.

It was only last year that the County Council agreed with the districts that services can be improved through better partnership work between them. That would achieve efficiencies and better customer service through the existing two tier structure - and would not involve any of the costs associated with change say supporters of the two tier system.

"We do not believe this is the best way forward," said Hambleton District Council leader, Arthur Barker, spokesman for the district authorities.

"It will create remote government not local government. North Yorkshire, at over 3000 square miles in size and with over 580,000 residents, is simply too big to be managed by one authority - it would not be able to reflect communities and their individual needs.

"To create an authority of this size will need all the features of the existing arrangements of district councils to deliver local services.

"The way forward is to enhance the existing two tier system by increased partnership work without a costly change. All the councils - including the county council - signed up for this only last year and it is already happening in waste, community transport and customer access points."

He added that consultation work undertaken in 2004 by the Boundary Committee revealed that North Yorkshire people wanted their council services to be provided by local authorities smaller than one based on the existing county boundary.

"Nothing has changed since then - we need to reflect local choice and our proposals do just that," he concluded.

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