Proposal for 89 councillors to form North Yorkshire unitary authority

Photo: Benjamin Hopkins.

Only 17 more councillors should be elected to serve on North Yorkshire’s forthcoming unitary authority than the existing county council, a cross-party group has recommended.

A working group led by North Yorkshire County Council’s former leader Councillor John Weighell has concluded 89 members should be elected to serve about 5,400 electors in communities stretching from Skipton to Whitby, just one less than the maximum allowed by government.

The recommendation to the council’s executive comes following concerns over unitary councillors’ workloads as they will be responsible for matters currently covered by the county and seven district authorities.

If the government approves a proposal for 89 elected members, it would see North Yorkshire’s 600,000 population with a higher proportion of representatives than the 99 that serve Leeds’ 800,000 residents, but a lower proportion than the 126 councillors who serve County Durham’s 425,000 population.

The number of elected members who will make decisions on the unitary authority and the composition of the wards they will represent is expected to be laid before parliament in January, ahead of polls in May to elect councillors who to run the county council for a year and then sit on the unitary authority for a further four years.

Proposed wards for the unitary council have been shaped by using parliamentary constituencies, district council wards or county council divisions.

The working group’s aim was to create proposed wards for the unitary council which each elect one councillor.

Nevertheless, in four places it was necessary to create proposed wards that would elect two councillors in order to achieve electoral equality.

The authority’s leader Councillor Carl Les said elected members of the authority’s views would be considered by the executive alongside the working group’s proposal before the council’s recommendation was submitted to government.

He said: “We will make a proposal, but it will be a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government decision.

“I’m pleased to see there has been proposed a very small number of two-member wards and no three-member wards, but we will have to wait until next Tuesday to see what else needs to be considered.”

However, Councillor Les added the government guidance which set a maximum of 90 councillors for the unitary authority reflected the county council’s local government reorganisation proposal and would enable residents to be well represented.

The authority’s Labour group leader Councillor Eric Broadbent said while the proposal was following government imposed rules, every political group appeared to be looking after their own interests.

He said: “I hope that there is fairness all round. I’m keeping my eye on everything and if I get complaints from Labour members, I will propose changes.”