North Yorkshire’s district and borough council leaders have written to the Prime Minister urging him to scrap a local government reorganisation for North Yorkshire to allow the county to focus on the battle against Covid-19.
The council chiefs say the county should be allowed to press ahead with devolution without reorganisation of the current two-tier system.
The authorities say that in July this year they were led to believe that devolution for North Yorkshire could only be delivered if local government reorganisation happened.
They say that this prompted the seven district and borough council leaders to work together to establish a credible way to reorganise.
However, they say that given that the country remains in the grip of a global pandemic, the government should reconsider and allow devolution without the need for reorganisation.
The view of district and borough council leaders say “there could not be a worse time to dismantle or disrupt local councils when they are such a vital part of the front-line response to the COVID-19 crisis”.
On behalf of the borough and district council leaders in North Yorkshire, leader of Hambleton District Council Councillor Mark Robson said: “There is no doubt the COVID-19 situation has worsened nationwide and this will inevitably put extra pressure and new demands on district and borough councils to further support our communities and businesses as we work through this crisis together.
“Let me be clear, this critical responsibility must come first, and we must not be distracted by an unnecessary, resource-intensive and ill-timed local government reorganisation.
“The letter we have sent makes this point in the strongest possible terms and we look forward to the government response with what we hope is a sensible and realistic way forward for North Yorkshire in these difficult times.”
Since the government said council reorganisation would be required before the area was granted a lucrative devolution deal, councillors have engaged in an increasingly polarised struggle rarely seen in one of the country’s most Conservative-dominated areas.
The county’s executive has instructed its officers to start progressing the business case for devolution based on “the whole of North Yorkshire”.
The seven district councils would be abolished, with City of York Council, already a unitary authority with 200,000 residents, remaining unchanged.
The districts have claimed their plan to split the county into Ryedale, Scarborough, Selby, and York in the east Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate, and Richmondshire in the west would yield savings of more than £56m every year, more than double the £25m promised by the county.