Harrogate's future: Major shake-up of North Yorkshire councils 'now on' as government consultation launched
The leader of Harrogate Borough Council has declared the controversial reorganisation of local government in North Yorkshire is "now on" after the launch of a long-awaited consultation on two rival proposals.
In what acts as the starting gun for the most radical reforms in the county since the 1970s, the government has this week begun an eight-week consultation on whether a single authority for all of North Yorkshire or two bodies split on an east/west basis should replace the current two-tier system.
It also acts as confirmation that the May elections to North Yorkshire County Council have been postponed because of the likelihood that the authority will soon cease to exist.
Harrogate Borough Council - along with Scarborough, Ryedale, Craven, Selby and Richmondshire councils - is behind the proposals to split the county in two, while North Yorkshire County Council is proposing a single authority for the whole county.
Councillor Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said: “The review of our local councils in North Yorkshire is now on and we have a choice.
“One of those choices is the whale of a mega-council based in Northallerton running all the services in the Harrogate district alongside a minnow of a council based in York. The other, which I back, is of two equally-sized councils, one on the east of the county and one on the west.
“My concern is that a remote council based an hours drive away won’t care about our parks and gardens, our leisure centres and swimming pools or the support that we give to the homeless and street beggars.
“We can though back the more local option keeping services closer to those who use them and harnessing the local community’s knowledge and experience to improve our area making it an even better place to live, work and visit.
“I believe a single council for our area is a good thing and so I welcome this consultation beginning."
The reorganisation of councils is linked to a devolution deal with the government which could see billions of pounds and decision-making powers under the control of a North Yorkshire mayor brought to the region by 2023.
Councillor Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, has also welcomed the launch of the consultation which he said comes at a "critical time" for councils plotting their way out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: “The last year has shown that we need a strong council, not only to help with global crises like the pandemic, but local challenges like extreme winter weather and everyday issues like protecting our vulnerable residents, working with volunteers, the NHS and through our social care and public health teams.
"A single council would provide the critical mass, scale and financial sustainability, which are essential to deliver outstanding services while also retaining the resilience to tackle the challenges facing the whole county after the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic."
Councillor Les added: "We have grave concerns about the proposal that would break the county into east and west North Yorkshire. Dismantling the already unitary City of York, breaking up outstanding countywide services and setting up two completely new councils would be the most complex reorganisation ever undertaken."
The consultation will run until 19 April and is asking residents, businesses and public organisations how vital services such as adult social care, education, transport, planning and waste collection should be delivered in the future.
To have your say go to https://consult.communities.gov.uk/governance-reform-and-democracy/northyorkshire/
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter