Liberal Democrat calls for public vote on ‘power grab’ devolution deal

North Yorkshire County Council’s opposition leader is calling for a public vote on a controversial devolution deal that could see the region ruled by a powerful new mayor.

Liberal Democrat Bryn Griffiths says the public should be given all the facts and allowed to make their own decision on the transformational changes.

A devolution deal was announced this week that will see a mayoral combined authority being established over the City of York and North Yorkshire in May 2024.

Cllr Griffiths – leader of the official opposition Liberal Democrats and Liberal Group on North Yorkshire Council – said: “I have serious reservations about this deal.

“It’s being framed as devolution – but it’s quite the opposite in reality.

“Firstly we’ve moved from smaller district and borough councils to one enormous unitary authority, and now we’re set to get a mayor ruling over all of us and the City Of York, with more power and less local accountability and scrutiny than any of our councillors or MPs.

“The mayor will have the authority to impose an additional council tax precept on households and to raise business rates.

“He or she will be able to make decisions on major investments without overview and scrutiny by elected councillors. This is a potentially high-risk strategy that could lead to high-profile investments in cherry picked locations, without serving local needs across the county.”

The deal signed by Levelling up Secretary Greg Clark in York on Monday will allow the mayor to control up to £18m a year of government investment funding into York and North Yorkshire for up to 30 years.

Cllr Griffiths added: “The potential investment is significant – and it had to be to try and convince anyone that this is a good deal for our area. However, what will happen to the deal when the government changes as we expect it will in two years’ time – will the promised money still be on the table? There are many who feel this is a power grab by the Conservatives, that they’re hoping to buy themselves another powerful political figure to take control away from locally elected representatives.

“The Liberal Democrat and Liberal group in common along with other opposition councillors in North Yorkshire think we should let the public decide whether this is a price worth paying for our area.”