The leadership of North Yorkshire County Council has vowed to “chase savings” for residents and to bolster services from local government reorganisation as it launched an implementation plan to create a single authority for the county.
The authority’s finance boss and deputy leader issued the pledge ahead of its executive formally approving a blueprint which will be used to overcome a plethora of hurdles in reducing one county council and seven district and borough councils down to one single unitary authority.
Auditors’ analysis of the county council’s unitary plan has found it could save £30m a year by cutting red tape and reducing senior management and elected member costs.
In addition, by using the new council as a springboard for change, the auditors concluded savings could rise to between £50m and £67m a year, netting up to £252m at the end of the first five years, saving of up to £185 a year for households.
However, among the biggest concerns for residents before Vesting Day – the day the new unitary authority is launched on April 1 next year – will be how the council tax and other charges such as car parking and leisure centre fees are brought into line.
This year the district and borough councils’ element of the council tax charge ranged from Hambleton levying £165.83 to Harrogate’s £255.92 demand.
Residents are also likely to see changes in the amount they are charged for services such as garden waste collections.
Outlining the scale of the challenge facing officers over the next ten months, county council chief executive Richard Flinton said the plan highlighted the need to collaborate with other organisations, including businesses and the voluntary sector, as it is “very easy at a time of enormous change to be very internal focused.”
He said the plan set out the vision of what the authority was trying to achieve and provided key objectives for senior officers, who would be in place for the unitary authority by autumn, to follow.
Executive member for finance, Councillor Gareth Dadd, said one of the biggest drivers for local government reorganisation had been the potential savings that could be realised.
He said: “Through our usual budgetary processes I will be insisting that we chase not just the £30m, but £60m or £70m and more if we can get it.
“Whilst our priority at the moment must be getting to Vesting Day making sure all is safe and legal, after that we have got a job to do because by the end of this term in five years time we should be able to say we are well on the road to realising those savings.
“They may well be masked with austerity or left-field stuff coming forward, but at least we should be able to prove we have set out to achieve and largely achieved what we intended to do by submitting that bid to government. There can be no rowing back from that, along with no rowing back from localism.”