Announcement on North Yorkshire unitary proposals expected imminently

Photo: Benjamin Hopkins.

A Government announcement over proposals for how local authority services ranging from social care and schools to road repairs and rubbish collections should be run in North Yorkshire could be made within days, despite lockdown and one council refusing to engage in the process.

Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government Luke Hall is expected to announce as early as this week whether the county’s residents will be asked for their views over plans to create a single council covering all of North Yorkshire and another calling for the county to be split into eastern and western sectors.

North Yorkshire County Council submitted its single unitary authority proposal in December following months of controversy as the county’s district and borough councils submitted a rival scheme proposing the county’s residents would be best served by two unitary authorities, arguing high quality services could not be maintained across England’s largest county.

The county council maintains it already delivers award-winning services on a local level across the area and that its plan will also generate the largest amount of savings, which will be more important than ever following the pandemic as Government funding to councils is likely to be reduced.

Leading local authority figures said they were expected the announcement to be made in the next fortnight by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which is also considering which powers to grant the York and North Yorkshire area in a devolution deal.

Ahead of the expected council reorganisation announcement, the leader of Hambleton District Council, which was the only local authority not to submit a proposal to Government, said he still felt it was the wrong time for upheaval.

Councillor Mark Robson said: “The system is not broken, so there’s no need to fix it. Whatever spin the county or districts put on it, inevitably council tax in Hambleton will go up.

“We are a victim of our own success because our council tax is the third lowest in the country and the lowest in North Yorkshire. If you average out the districts in North Yorkshire a band D property in Hambleton will go up by a minimum of £100.”

Cllr Robson said he wanted the Government to include an option in any consultation to maintain the status quo.

He said: “I don’t believe under a unitary authority we will get the same level of services. Whether it is the East-West version or a single unitary how can the residents be best served by an area from Scarborough to Skipton to Selby to Richmond? It’s crazy and the East-West version is still the same split.

“The Government says a decision on this is imminent, but we were told the White Paper on devolution was imminent and that we would get that last September.

“I don’t believe we’ll ever get it. Devolution as we know it has gone. Where is all this money going to come from? That tree must have had a good shake by now by Rishi Sunak.”