Two-thirds of North Yorkshire residents support splitting county in two with east-west split, survey suggests
More than two-thirds of North Yorkshire residents back proposals to split the county down the middle for local government reorganisation, according to a new survey.
The study by Knaresborough-based researchers The Buzzz suggests the majority of residents are in favour of plans to create two new council areas - one in the east and one in the west.
It also suggests only 30% of people back opposing plans for one so-called mega council to run the entire county.
The proposals are a part of a government request for North Yorkshire's current council structure to be simplified and are linked to devolution.
North Yorkshire County Council is behind the plans to create one so-called mega council in a restructure which would see the City of York left intact.
Meanwhile, the county's seven district council leaders are behind plans for the split down the middle which would see Harrogate, Hambleton, Craven and Richmondshire merge in the west, and Scarborough, Ryedale, Selby and York in the east.
Speaking on behalf of the district leaders, councillor Angie Dale, leader of Richmondshire District Council, said the study "clearly shows" most people believe the east/west split is the best way forward.
She said: “We believe it is by far the best option for our communities, keeping services local and effective, giving people a strong voice and fair representation, while delivering necessary and realistic efficiencies.
“We know from speaking to residents, businesses and other organisations that people have huge misgivings about North Yorkshire County Council’s model."
Simplifying council structures is considered essential by the government ahead of any devolution deal similar to those agreed by South and West Yorkshire.
Under the mega-council proposals, the single authority would serve a population of 618,000 while York would have around 211,000 residents.
However, the district councils' plan says the creation of two similar sized authorities would offer greater efficiencies long-term.
The Buzzz study surveyed 560 people and showed the pattern of preference for the east/west model was similar across the county.
In Harrogate, 75% of people said they preferred this model, while 78% said the same in Scarborough.
Richmondshire received an overwhelming 92% backing, while residents in York were split with 54% preferring the North Yorkshire and York model.
The final decision on which proposed structure to use will be taken by the government following a consultation in summer 2021.
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter