Letter: Size really matters in devolution debate
The debate about local government reorganisation and the appropriate size of a replacement unitary authority rather misses the point that we are not being offered a single tier of local government.
Most of North Yorkshire - Harrogate town being a notable exception - is also served by a network of parish councils. This smallest unit of administration has been around since medieval times and has outlived many changes to the bigger authorities.
Parish councils have an important role in bringing a truly local flavour to government and can engage more directly with the populations they serve. The bigger ones, often called town councils and, in the case of Ripon, a city council, can be given the power to take on the management of assets such as allotments or parks.
That said, we must accept that the major local government responsibilities for education, highways and social services need to be delivered by authorities large enough to carry these out with economies of scale. These are often the counties, in our case, North Yorkshire.
It’s all about choosing the right size of council to deliver each of the services.
The problem for Harrogate Borough Council is that it is neither small enough to be truly local (ask the people of Ripon and Knaresborough) nor big enough to provide many services efficiently.
I agree with David Rhodes, who has called numerous times in these columns for Harrogate to have its own town council. This would restore something like the pre-1974 position when the town looked after its assets and the county - then the West Riding - handled the bigger matters such as schools and main roads.
So I will be backing the single North Yorkshire county option with the recommendation that the whole of the county is also covered by parish councils who will be encouraged to administer some local services truly locally.