Harrogate Borough Council will be abolished but what happens next to town's public assets
Harrogate Borough Council’s fate is now certain - it will be abolished in less than two years’ time as part of the biggest shake-up in local government for almost 50 years.
After the Government announced it would back its version of a new super authority to run the county from 2023 with the possibility of an elected super mayor to follow, North Yorkshire County Council pledged Harrogate’s interests would not be left behind in LGR (Local Government Reorganisation).
North Yorkshire County Council leader Coun Carl Les said: “We are not just talking about devolving powers down from Whitehall to the county, we are talking about a double devolution of new powers coming to town and parish councils.
“Harrogate is going to be hugely important in this.”
LGR may not be the world’s sexiest acronym but its impact on how council tax payers in Harrogate live their lives is likely to be felt in some way for decades.
But the reaction in the town to the news has been muted with Harrogate council saying it will work to carry on its existing projects and support a smooth transition to the new local government system.
Wallace Sampson OBE, chief executive of Harrogate Borough Council said: “We are disappointed that Government has chosen to form one council across the whole of North Yorkshire.
“Despite the outcome, Harrogate Borough Council will continue to exist until 2023 and we have no plans to sit back until this time.”
But business and community groups say there are more practical implications for important parts of Harrogate life than is visible at first glance, with a long list of questions which need to be addressed.
Among the important issues they are raising now include:
What will happen to existing council staff?
Who will now have responsibility over the Stray?
What happens to Harrogate council’s support in the arts and leisure sector such as Harrogate Theatre?
What happens to Harrogate Convention Centre?
What happens to the council’s headquarters at Harrogate Civic Centre, built recently at a cost of £13million.
What happens to the council’s former headquarters at Crescent Gardens?
Who will stand in elections to the new super authority?
What will happen to Harrogate council’s support for homeless projects?
Will a Harrogate Town Council have to be created?
Despite the upheaval involved with transferring all current council services and powers to a new single unitary council based in Northallerton, including the abolition of Harrogate Borough Council, all concerned are emphasising that things will carry on largely as normal.
North Yorkshire County Council leader Coun Carl Les welcomed the news Northallerton’s bid had won over a rival plan by the county’s seven district councils, including Harrogate, by saying it would not not only save an estimated £25million every year in efficiencies but it was a natural fit for residents in terms of delivering services.
As the elected body already handling 80 per cent of all services, North Yorkshire says it is ready for its new, bigger role even if it admits there are many decisions about policy and strategy to be made before April 2023.
Harrogate Borough Council says it is disappointed at losing out but it, too, is keen to work for a smooth transition to the new authority in 2023.