Further calls for release of 'secret' report which recommended splitting North Yorkshire in two
There have been more calls for a report which recommended splitting North Yorkshire into two new council areas to be released to the public and councillors.
Harrogate's Liberal Democrats have added their voices to calls for the region's seven district councils to release the publicly-funded papers produced to comply with a government request for reorganisation ahead of devolution.
The independent report was produced by consultancy firm KPMG and gave 10 options as to how North Yorkshire's councils could be rearranged.
Judith Rogerson, parliamentary spokesperson for the local Liberal Democrat party, said Harrogate Borough Council must release the "secret" report "immediately" and that leaders should explain why they opted for a East-West split of the county.
"Residents need to be sure that what is being proposed is driven not just by what’s politically convenient, but what will deliver the best deal for their community," she said.
"As things stand it's difficult to understand why the East-West split is the preferred option."
The government said in July that for devolved funding and powers to be transferred from Whitehall to North Yorkshire, the current two-tier system of local government would have to be replaced with unitary authorities.
A bitter row has since ensued, with county council leaders proposing just one authority for the whole county and district leaders pushing for two councils either side of the A1.
However, it has now emerged that the whole process may be in jeopardy because the government might not have the capacity to drive it through while dealing with the pandemic and Brexit.
North Yorkshire County Council has insisted the region could cope with the changes during the coronavirus outbreak, while the district councils have said devolution should only go ahead at this time if local government reorganisation is scrapped.
Councillor Pat Marsh, leader of Harrogate's Liberal Democrats, said she has asked on "several" occasions for the KPMG report to be released and criticised the district's Conservative leader Richard Cooper.
She said: "If Conservatives aren't going to consult with residents on the future of local services, the very least they can do is be transparent about how decisions are being made.
"It would appear that Richard Cooper would rather rule by decree than risk hearing a differing view."
Councillor Cooper hit back saying he has not received any requests to release the report and that such a decision is one that would not be taken by him.
He said: "Releasing the report to councillors is an officer decision and not a political one. That is, it is up to the chief executive to decide when is the correct time to release the report and not a matter for politicians."
A spokesman on behalf of the district leaders said the report will be released - but only after it has been agreed by elected members within all seven councils and submitted to the government.
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter