The leader of North Yorkshire County Council has claimed it is “more local” than any other authority in the region because it employs more staff and delivers more services in each district.
Councillor Carl Les was speaking at the launch of a long-awaited consultation on how North Yorkshire’s councils should be reorganised under what will be the most radical reforms to local government in the county since 1974.
His authority has proposed a merge with the county’s seven district councils, while the districts themselves have put forward a plan for two authorities split on an east/west basis.
At the heart of the debate is whether North Yorkshire – the largest county in England – is too big to be run by one authority, with critics of the single council plan arguing it would be out of touch with local issues.
But councillor Les said that because North Yorkshire County Council already delivers the majority of services and has a workforce exceeding 15,000 staff, there is evidence that one authority could operate at such a scale.
“We deliver 80% of local government services to every postcode in the county, every town, every village, every street and often into your home – you don’t get much more local than that,” he said.
“And we employ more staff in each district than the district councils do – you also don’t get much more local than that.”
Council leaders were told by the government last summer that devolution – where spending and decision-making powers would be transferred from Whitehall to North Yorkshire – could not happen unless the existing two-tier system of local government was abolished.
Currently some services are carried out by the county council and others by the seven districts, and the leader of Harrogate Borough Council has argued handing over control of local services to one North Yorkshire authority would be a “backward step” for local government.
Councillor Richard Cooper said: “Try as they might it is very difficult for the county council to persuade people that it is the local option when it comes to re-organising local services.
“People can see that the county council cut funding for Harrogate Theatre, cut money for people in danger of homelessness, take forever to fill potholes and don’t clean our road signs often if at all.
“But don’t get me wrong. The county council delivers many good services and I’m proud to be a member of it.
“However, taking our many treasured local services like our swimming pools, leisure centres, award-winning parks and gardens and handing them to a remote council based in Northallerton just seems like a backward step to me when there is another, better option available.”
A final decision on which model to adopt will be taken by Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick and if agreed a new council structure could be created by April 2023.
The consultation will run until April 19.
To have your say go to https://consult.communities.gov.uk/governance-reform-and-democracy/northyorkshire/