Who will deliver local services?
THE GOVERNMENT has given its initial support to a proposal that could see a radical shake-up of local authorities in North Yorkshire.
Phil Woolas, the local government minister, has asked the county council to proceed to the second stage of a process which could lead to the replacement of the existing eight local authorities with one, single-tier administration.
Commenting on the proposals by North Yorkshire County Council and other local authorities whose bids have received initial approval, Mr Woolas said: "We have been impressed by their quality, value for money and their cross section of support which is why we can now go much further and proceed to the next stage in thirteen areas."
Bosses at the county council believe the plan would lead to a more efficient and cost effective system, yet it is opposed by all North Yorkshire's district council's. Fears have also been raised that rural areas such as the Yorkshire Dales would suffer from a lack of focus and service delivery if the proposals were to go-ahead.
"District Council leaders are concerned that nowhere in all this consultation does the public feature - the very people that this reorganisation affects and who will end up paying for it in some way," said Hambleton District Council Chief Executive, Peter Simpson, speaking for all the district councils in the county through the North Yorkshire District Council Network.
"So we are going to ask them. The network is commissioning a MORI survey to find out what they think of this plan to create one super council for North Yorkshire. And the county council is welcome to join us in this work. All the results will be fed back to the government and we hope they will be taken into account when the final decision on this bid is made this summer.
"The public have previously said they do not want large remote bodies governing local issues and the district councils believe this still holds true.
One body serving an area of 3103 square miles with its extremes of urban and deeply rural communities will not be able to cater for the diverse local needs
Peter Simpson - North Yorkshire District Council Network
"This decision must reflect local choice. The network does not see how a councillor based in Skipton can understand the needs of residents in Scarborough - or one in Selby look after those living in Stokesley.
"There are a number of concerns about the county council's bid when it comes to providing local services - the services currently provided by districts. Then there is the cost of change and the disruption it would cause.
"One body serving an area of 3103 square miles with its extremes of urban and deeply rural communities will not be able to cater for the diverse local needs. We continue to urge the government to reject this idea."
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Ruth Kelly has previously stated that she expects to make only a small number - eight - of new unitary councils. Those accepted in the summer will be up and running in 2009 under her current plans.
If the proposal is approved, the existing county council, together with the district councils of Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough, and Selby, will be replaced in 2009 by one new, unitary body which will take over the responsibility of delivering all local government services across the county.