Leader rejects claims residents on council’s borders are ‘forgotten’

North Yorkshire Council's County Hall headquarters in Northallerton. Picture: LDRS.

The leader of England’s largest local authority by area has rejected claims it has become distant and detached following the merger of eight councils, leaving residents living near the borders of Cumbria, Durham, Teesside, and West Yorkshire “forgotten”.

Councillor Carl Les said North Yorkshire Council was still performing all the functions carried out by district and borough councils before unitary authority was launched 15 months ago, often from the same offices and by the same people who were “just wearing a different ID badge”.

Coun Les was responding to concerns raised by the Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate for the region, Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, who said a regular complaint raised by residents in areas during her campaign was the Northallerton-based unitary authority had created a “remote and over-centralised” organisation.

She said: “This was raised most regularly in the towns that are close to the county boundary, such as in Settle, Stokesley and Whitby.

“Residents feel left behind, and that they have lost the point of contact that they used to have in a local officer.”

Jill McMullon, chair of Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council, said her fears the Upper Dales area would be “forgotten” by the authority had been realised following the abolition of district councils which served as “a safety blanket” for residents.

She said: “We most certainly feel put to one side. You try to speak to somebody, but you don’t get anywhere. While they said North Yorkshire would be one happy family, that most certainly hasn’t happened.”

Serving Monk Fryston and South Milford on the opposite side of the county Councillor Tim Grogan questioned whether some areas such were seeing “a passivity in enforcement” by the authority.

He said the authority had held 49 alcohol and taxi licensing hearings since being launched, 17 of which had been in Harrogate, 13 in Scarborough, but there had been just “a handful” of decisions regarding Skipton, Northallerton, Malton and Richmond, and only one in Selby.

Selby councillor Steve Shaw Wright said people there felt like they were “on the very edge of North Yorkshire and we do feel we are sometimes forgotten about”.

He said: “We do try to fight hard for our corner but always feel we are on the back foot.”

Coun Les said many people he spoke to recognised and welcomed the lack of confusion, and removal of the inefficiencies that could exist under the previous two-tier council system.

He said every resident, wherever they live, had an elected representative as a principal point of contact with the council and the public could also raise issues at council committees focusing on constituency areas or through parish councils which should have good contact with the unitary authority.

Coun Les said: “All the functions that were carried out before unitarisation are still being performed.

“That said, I believe that in matters of communication and engagement we can never be complacent, or stay still, and we can always look to do more.”

He added he intends to hold up to six meetings of the council’s decision-making executive a year “away from County Hall” in Northallerton, and the public speaking element of those meetings could be expanded if popular.

Coun Les said the council was also considering having an online public Question Time session ahead of the scheduled council meetings.

He said: “This is all part of wanting to be the most local large authority.”

2 Comments

  1. Looks like these are going like almost all BIG authorities.

    The prices go up and the service goes down.

  2. Jill is quite right, Hawes and similar Parishes are too far from the coalface and with in inward looking local authority (and I use that loosely) what can we expect but the crumbs that fall off the table.

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