The move to a unitary local authority in North Yorkshire is set to hit a key milestone as representatives from the county’s eight councils look to adopt a plan to ensure “no discernible difference in services” over the transition.
The first meeting of the Local Government Reorganisation Implementation Executive on Wednesday will consider taking on a set of principles setting out the new authority’s top ambitions, such as tackling climate change, being locally accountable and empowering communities to take more matters into their own hands.
The move is part of first major change in North Yorkshire’s local government in almost 50 years.
The executive, to consist of county and district councillors, will be granted some legal powers for it to be responsible for the political governance of the implementation of the new authority before the May elections, when it will be replaced by an executive of the newly-appointed councillors.
North Yorkshire County Council leader Councillor Carl Les said officers from all the councils were developing options for the 90 new councillors after May to chose ones which would best suit the unitary authority when it comes into being in May next year.
He said: “It’s a big step in the progress of the smooth transition. We have said all along we want to keep the local in local government. We believe you can be an authority at scale and also locally accountable.”
Coun Les, who is also the county council’s Conservative group leader, said another of principles being recommended to the executive was for collaborative work, both with partners within the county boundary, such as police, fire and health services, but also with surrounding local authorities, such as York, the Tees Valley, South Yorkshire, East Riding and West Yorkshire.
He said: “It is a fresh start in as much as its a new council. We are putting a lot of effort into these work streams at the moment to be safe and legal, as well as making sure it’s business as usual, on vesting day so residents and the businesses we serve don’t notice a difference.”
As well as progressing with local government reorganisation, the councils along with the City of York Council are working together with an ambition to deliver devolution into the region to attract additional funding and powers.
Leading North Yorkshire and York council officers have recently held “positive” meetings with senior civil servants, while Coun Les and City of York Council leader Keith Aspden have held their first meeting with Levelling Up minister Neil O’Brien.
When asked how optimistic he was about the government agreeing to all the devolution asks, Coun Les said: “There’s always push-back from government and we just have to negotiate them the best we can. Hopefully we will be as successful in our devolution asks as the Mayor of Tees Valley has been in all the years he has been doing it.”