Covid recovery and council restructuring to be new focus of Harrogate's scrutiny commission

Harrogate's Covid recovery and local government reorganisation will be the main focus areas of the borough council's overview and scrutiny commission this year.

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 10:49 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 10:50 am
Harrogate Borough Council's headquarters on St Luke's Mount.

Members of the commission - which is made up of a cross-party mix of 12 non-executive councillors - have today (7 June) agreed to focus on the two areas as part of their work to hold the cabinet to account for decisions on how public services are run.

The commission aims to review issues of local concern and makes recommendations on the way services are provided.

Its main focus this last year has been the council's response to the Covid outbreak, with budgeting and performance also being regular areas of focus, as well as a currently-underway review into the controversial UCI Road World Championships.

Speaking at a meeting tonight, councillor Michael Harrison said it made "perfect sense" to focus on the newly chosen areas as they would be two of the most pressing issues in local government this next year.

Meanwhile, councillor Pat Marsh also said it was important not to "lose sight" of other key areas including council risk and finances.

"These are all very important," she said. "I know Covid and the response to that is something we need to keep monitoring, as well as what comes out of local government reorganisation when we get to know what that is, but don't let us lose sight of why we are here."

Under plans for local government reorganisation, North Yorkshire's two-tier council system looks set to be replaced by either a single authority for all of the county or two bodies split on an east/west basis.

The aim is to save money by bringing all services including highways, planning and education under the control of a streamlined structure but council leaders are deeply divided and can not agree how to go about it.

A government-run consultation on the two options has now ended, and a decision on which path to take is expected from Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick next month.

If approved, a new council structure could be fully operational by April 2023.

Meanwhile, the overview and scrutiny commission's review into Harrogate's hosting of the UCI Road World Championships was launched last year and a public consultation is currently underway.

Members of the public are being asked to share their views on the 2019 cycling event which was hailed as a success by organisers but criticised by many traders who complained of a negative impact on footfall due to road closures and diversions.

The nine-day event will also be remembered for leaving West Park Stray severely damaged after the parkland was used as a spectator area during heavy rainfall, with repairs works and upgrades later costing £130,000.

To have your say go to www.harrogate.gov.uk/consultations-engagement/say.

The consultation will end on 16 June.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter