Councillors brand North Yorkshire devolution deal ‘York-centric’

County Hall in Northallerton.

Councils have pushed forward a move to transfer some central government powers to York and North Yorkshire, despite cross-party concerns York’s residents will gain more than the county’s residents and amid claims its benefits are “more propaganda than reality”.

Less than 24 hours after City of York Council gave its seal of approval to sending the results of a public consultation over a proposed devolution deal for the city and North Yorkshire, the majority of elected members to its Northallerton-based counterpart followed suit.

While the deal seeks to fuse the futures of the two councils, numerous North Yorkshire councillors underlined their view that York’s 200,000 residents, rather than North Yorkshire’s 600,000 residents, would be the winners in a mayoral combined authority with just two councillors from each authority.

During a lengthy debate on the devolution deal during a full meeting of North Yorkshire County Council, numerous councillors attacked proposals to hand a disproportionate amount of power to York.

Many councillors agreed that the deal was far from perfect, but there was little option than to agree to it if the area wanted extra money from the government.

The council’s former leader Councillor John Weighell said: “We all know that devolution as it’s listed for York and North Yorkshire is not perfection. Even though we are not getting what we would like it is better to get something than nothing.”

The authority’s leader, Councillor Carl Les, added the deal on the table was “just the start” of negotiations with the government to hand more decision-making powers and funds directly to the area.

He added: “We have got to move on. The past is the past, this is the future. This is how government prefers to work. And if we negate that we are going to lose out yet again.”

Coun Les said the deal would help avoid bidding wars, by moving decision-making out of Whitehall to York and Northallerton, there would also be safeguards in place on the mayoral combined authority to protect the interests of both councils’ populations.

However, opposition councillors said the deal would lead to decision-making becoming more concentrated in a small group of unelected people on the combined authority.

Green group leader Councillor Andy Brown said the authority was being offered “crumbs not substance” following decades of the government stripping back funding for County Hall, so the deal was “more propaganda than reality”.

Councillor Stuart Parsons, Independents group leader, said of the £18m extra annual government funding the deal would bring, up to £4m would be spent on staffing the mayor’s office, while Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Bryn Griffiths said the mayor’s office would be “yet another layer of bureaucracy to be funded by the poor taxpayers”.

Labour group leader Councillor Steve Shaw Wright said devolution would happen whether people in North Yorkshire wanted it or not, while Craven District Council leader Richard Foster said branded the deal was “York-centric”.

Humanby councillor Michelle Donohue Moncrieff added: “York is getting away with murder here. It is being given equal parity with 600,000 people here. Somebody needs to tell them the game is up.”

Ripon councillor Andrew Williams said York was a “basket case of a council that the poor residents in York have to suffer” and that many people in York would like to see it abolished and being a part of a wider North Yorkshire.

He told the meeting: “It is a local authority, quite frankly, which fails the people of York every day it opens its doors for business.”

Seamer division member Councillor Heather Phillips was among few councillors who expressed any solidarity with York.

She said: “York, we welcome you. We want to work with you and we’ll be a better North Yorkshire when we do that.”

1 Comment

  1. Perhaps the Tory County councillors who are so against Proportional Representation that they accuse those who propose it of “grandstanding” will now have a rethink.

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