Harrogate Lib Dems slam devolution plans and fear loss of town's 'identity and influence'

The leader of Harrogate’s Lib Dems says the town must not be allowed to lose its “identity and influence” when devolution comes to the region.

Harrogate Lib Dem leader Coun Pat Marsh - As Liberal Democrats we are not opposed to devolution. But this is putting power into the hands of one person and distancing most of our district from the decision-making body."
Harrogate Lib Dem leader Coun Pat Marsh - As Liberal Democrats we are not opposed to devolution. But this is putting power into the hands of one person and distancing most of our district from the decision-making body."

Coun Pat Marsh, leader of the Opposition at Harrogate Borough Council and councillor for Hookstone ward, said she was not opposed to the idea of devolution but had serious concerns about its implications for Harrogate.

And she said the timing of the Government’s push for devolution during the pandemic was a mistake.

She said: “As Liberal Democrats we are not opposed to devolution. In fact, we support empowering local communities to have more control of local decision making by transferring this away from central Government.

“But we do have real worries about what is being suggested for North Yorkshire.

“We don’t think it is the right time to be carrying out massive reorganisation of local authorities while our public services struggle to deal with Covid-19.”

Harrogate’s Lib Dem leader said the creation of a metro mayor and super authority covering York and North Yorkshire was a contradiction of the meaning of devolution.

She said: “The very definition of devolution is ‘The transfer or delegation of power to a lower level, especially by central government to a local level’.

How can a regional mayor and new combined authorities do that?

“This is putting power into the hands of one person and distancing most of our district from the decision making body of a large unitary authority, whose demographic make up we are unaware of at the moment.”

Harrogate’s future influence lay in working with other district councils, Coun Marsh added.

“Harrogate district must not be left to play a minor role with decisions being taken quite remotely,” she said.

“If we are being pushed down that road we need to make sure that Harrogate district is joined with similar authorities.

"We must not lose our identity, our influence and our ability to determine our own future.”

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