‘It’s appalling’: Peer issues scathing assessment of move to one North Yorkshire council

Lord Wallace of Saltaire.

A House of Lords peer has strongly criticised devolution in North Yorkshire calling it an “effective destruction of local government” for the region.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire, who is a Liberal Democrat, was speaking on June 16 during a debate in the second chamber about how to reinvigorate local democracy.

On April 1, the seven district and borough councils in North Yorkshire as well as the county council were replaced by a new unitary authority called North Yorkshire Council.

The aim was to streamline structures and save money but with larger areas to cover and more responsibilities over key services there have been concerns that some councillors will struggle to meet the needs of all their constituents.

Despite having a stated ambition of being a “truly local” council, the number of councillors has reduced from 319 to 90 across North Yorkshire.

For example, Craven District Council previously had 30 councillors representing the district’s 57,000 residents who were also served by North Yorkshire County Council councillors.

But the area, which includes towns such as Skipton and Settle as well as rural areas that border Lancashire, now has just nine councillors for the same geographical area.

With most meetings taking place in Northallerton, it means councillors and members of the public in the furthest reaches of Craven face almost a two-hour drive to get to County Hall.

Speaking in the House of Lords this month, Lord Wallace said:

“I find what has happened recently in North Yorkshire the most appalling, and when I heard someone assure me that no councillor in North Yorkshire would need more than two hours to drive from the ward they represent to council meetings, it showed me just how far we have gone.

“Decent places such as Harrogate, Scarborough, Richmond and Craven, which had working district authorities and which represented real places, have been dismantled and they are now trying to set up very large town councils for them.

“We have the prospect of a mayor, somehow, for North Yorkshire and, incidentally, one for East Yorkshire. That is the effective destruction of local government and I really do not understand the rationale for it.”

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service in March, Conservative council leader Carl Les defended criticism about the reduction in councillors.

Cllr Les said as one of three elected members for Bedale, councillors there had been “falling over each other” as there had been “very little to do”.

He said: “Representation by numbers doesn’t work. What matters is if you’ve got energetic people in the cohort of 90. The great benefit of reducing from 319 is that we have saved £750,000.

“I think we’ve got enough members to represent the people and continue the political process. You don’t have to go to a parish meeting to understand what’s happening in that parish.”


  1. We have found the NYCC Portal impenetrable.
    Our parish Council has no power and many local issues are overlooked

    • Couldn’t agree more. The whole thing is a total shambles that will take years to improve.

  2. I whole heartedly agree.Ryedale has ceased to exist too and £3million pounds of LIF funds has been Grabbed by North Yorkshire saying Ryedale didn’t have the Authority to spend their own money!! Raised in Ryedale for Ryedale!!!
    Meanwhile they spend £750000 on paying off 4 people in Harrogate.

  3. At last a voice of reason ‘Big is Not Best’ , 90 cannot cover the workload of circa 300 and representent the local communities effeciently no matter what duplication of representation may have been previously in place, as for the Savings they will be eroded by the increase in administration, salary and social costs to support what will become an unmanageable behemoth!

  4. I and many others totally agree with Lord Wallace. AND it there is a saving of £750.00 where is that money going? Certainly not on the roads which are in a disgraceful state causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage to cars and endangering the lives of motor cyclists.

  5. I agree far worse service for developers wishing to invest in region Planning service impenetrable
    system broken before it has started
    jill davis Davis Planning Partnership

  6. £750,000 is a drop in the ocean. It’s an unashamed move towards more centralisation and government control. The effects of the real cost cutting will be felt further down the line.

  7. It is good that the HofL has recognised local government is in utter disarray. Levels of Governnce and Accountability are appalling. Potto council, near to me, had a Public Interest Report last year and tried to appeal against it. When this failed, the council simply wrote in the meeting minutes that all 17 audit recommendations had been sorted out, but they haven’t been. All the problem continue. The Redmond report from 2-3 years ago identified accountability was very weak for corrupt small councils and DLUHC has done NOTHING about it since. I look to the HofL to kick-start a new and effective set of sanctions (S28(6)Localism Act is useless) to be created and enforced as a means of holding corrupt and failing small councils to account.

  8. What a mess. North Yorkshire county Council strikes again. The funding wil stay around county Hall. The rest of the county will be left to rot.
    I have an idea! Let’s devolution NYCC. Replace the managers with people who care.

  9. By comparison to local government reorganisation in the late 90s this whole scale reorganisation seems to have gone under the radar

  10. Whilst agreeing with the gist of what Mr Wallace has said I must point out that councillors can attend meetings remotely so don’t need to drive anywhere. Alternatively they could use public transport, especially given that County Hall is right opposite Northallerton station.

  11. I whole heartedly agree, as a resident in the former Selby District Council area we feel like we’re a forgotten place. Our town previously had three councillors, one labour,one conservative and a one that wasn’t sure which party he was in. We now have just the one labour councillor who drives up and down the A1 like a fiddler’s elbow to attend meetings and carry out his work.
    We now find that our Council charges have increased, to come in line with the more exclusive areas, we are to be charged for green waste collection that was previously free and I understand that there is an intention to put up car parking charges in Selby and the other towns to fall in line with Harrogate.
    Selby District Council’s finances was managed effectively and was one of the few in the area that was not in debt. It seems we will be paying more for less services.
    I find Carl Les’s suggestion that he North Yorkshire councillors have nothing to do insulting and will be taking his comment to our now overworked councillor.

  12. Just another case (centralization) to cut running costs and to hell with the consequences.
    When will this government ever learn?

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