Harrogate council has no plans to submit warding proposals for new North Yorkshire unitary authority

The leader of Harrogate Borough Council has confirmed it has no plans to submit alternative proposals for how many councillors should be on the new North Yorkshire unitary authority.

Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 5:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 5:20 pm
Harrogate Borough Council's headquarters at Knapping Mount.

Conservative councillor Richard Cooper said he would be "content" with either of the two proposals currently on the table for either 13 or 14 representatives for the Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency area, and seven for Ripon.

He said: "I do not believe the difference between having 13 or 14 councillors from the Harrogate district out of around 90 will make a material difference to our area's influence on the new council.

"I would be content with either proposal although I think that the county council's proposals have the edge on keeping like communities together.

"Since there are two acceptable proposals it does not seem sensible to try and submit a third."

If approved by the government, the boundary changes will come into being when a shadow authority is elected to the new North Yorkshire council in March 2022.

The new unitary authority will replace North Yorkshire County Council and the seven district and borough councils, including Harrogate, with the overall number of councillors being reduced to around 90.

The aim is to simplify the current system but concerns have been raised that residents' voices could be diluted, with those living in Harrogate and Knaresborough set to be most underrepresented in North Yorkshire.

Under a proposal submitted by the county council, 13 councillors in Harrogate and Knaresborough would each represent an average of 6,194 residents - more than any other area in the county.

Liberal Democrat councillor Philip Broadbank, who represents the Starbeck area, is strongly opposed to this and has submitted his own plan for 14 councillors in Harrogate and Knaresborough each with an average of 5,751 residents.

He said the county council proposal would be"unfair" on residents in the area and that having balance across the county is "absolutely vital" for elections.

It will be the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government which will decide on which proposal to take and once approved the new arrangements will stay in place until 2027 when the Boundary Commission will carry out a full review.

Councillor Cooper said the proposals should therefore only be seen as a temporary arrangement and that the "important point" is how key decisions which affect the Harrogate district are made by the new council.

He said: "The county council is talking about giving power to locality-based committees to decide what is best for their area.

"This needs to be done effectively and, in my view, the county council does not have a great track record on this.

"Communities will find it difficult to trust the new council if it is seen as a means of grabbing power and influence by a remote group based in Northallerton.

"I am sure that the new authority will want to avoid this and will delegate real authority to Harrogate district councillors to make decisions that affect our area."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter