Harrogate may get a town council in devolution plans for North Yorkshire

Harrogate may be set to have a town town council in devolution plans for the York and North Yorkshire region.

Friday, 31st July 2020, 11:27 am
Updated Friday, 31st July 2020, 11:34 am
North Yorkshire County Councils chief executive Richard Flinton said local accountability was as important as efficiency savings in the coming shake-up for local democracy.

Leaders at North Yorkshire County Council are trying to reassure district councils such as Harrogate - set to be abolished to make way for a new ‘super authority’ - that local interests will not be eroded in the rush to finalise devolution.

As part of the biggest shake-up in local government since the 1970s, they also say it is likely that new town councils would be introduced as borough councils bite the dust with the possibility of some powers over services.

Councils are being urged to submit their devolution proposals ahead of the Government's September deadline, with NYCC being the first to outline their plans.

County council leader Carl Les said: “I don’t want to shape a good unity authority. I want to shape an excellent unity authority.

"I disagree with the argument that district councils are more local than the county council. We already deliver most of the services which tax payers in the Harrogate district enjoy.”

And North Yorkshire County Council’s chief executive Richard Flinton said local accountability was as important as efficiency savings in a new era for local democracy.

Mr Flinton said: “The Government has told us that you only get devolution if you end the current two-tier council system. Eighty per cent of all the spending on services in our county is already in the hands of the county council.

“Under our proposals for a new unitary authority, we will keep the teams which deliver services locally based.

“Just as happens right now with the Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee of county councillors, we will do the same in the new authority based on the areas of MPs.

“There will also be a bigger role for town and parish councils for areas which don’t currently have them, including Scarborough and Harrogate.”

Questioned by the Harrogate Advertiser on what sort of powers new town councils would have, Mr Flinton said: “If town councils want to provide some smaller services, we would try to help them.

“It may be that Harrogate’s could look after the Stray or handle litter picking or the town’s toilets.”

The County Council’s vision would see the existing City of York unitary authority sit alongside the new North Yorkshire authority under an elected mayor and cabinet for the whole of York and North Yorkshire. It argues by streamlining the delivery of services in the county, it would bring enormous savings.

Even as the county council is busy preparing its submission in time for the September deadline, Harrogate Borough Council is liaising with the six other district councils to come up with a different new single authority based on a population of 400,000.

But the county council believes a division between York with a population of 210,000 and North Yorkshire with 600,000 is a natural fit, even though the Government’s own preferred population size for unitary authorities is from 300-400,000.

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