Harrogate's future - 100 businesses speak out for East West model of local government reorganisation

More than 100 businesses from across North Yorkshire who support the' East & West' model of local government reorganisation in North Yorkshire have spelt out what they say are the economic benefits of the option for change proposed by six district and borough councils.

Wednesday, 10th February 2021, 4:33 pm
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After the Government told councils it would be launching a consultation this month on proposals to reorganise local government in North Yorkshire and York, council leaders from Craven, Harrogate, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby have submitted a full business case to Government, proposing an East & West model as the best option.

The model would see Craven, Harrogate, Richmondshire and Hambleton join together to form a unitary council in the West, with a population of 363,000, and Selby, City of York, Ryedale and Scarborough join together to form a unitary council in the East, with a population of 465,000.

But North Yorkshire County Council has submitted its own different proposal to form a single unitary council across the whole of the county working in partnership with the City of York, which is already a unitary authority.

It would involve creating one single unitary authority for the majority of North Yorkshire, covering 618,000 people, while leaving the City of York to continue as its own authority with a population of 211,000.

The county council says it will get rid of unnecessary waste in the existing two-tier system of local government under its option, saving at least £30m a year through cutting red tape and reducing unnecessary senior manager and elected member costs.

It argues, its plans for new local government across all of North Yorkshire have the potential to transform public services within five years and save £252m to plough back into local services.

But the district council leaders now say more than 100 businesses from all across North Yorkshire have written letters of support for the East & West model.

They also say the model has received extensive pledges of support from individual members of the public and voluntary and charity groups.

Among the businesses supporting the district councils' model is Roger Tempest, Custodian of the Broughton Hall Estate near Skipton, which houses a business park with more than 50 companies employing more than 700 people.

He said: “The East & West proposal gives local businesses a strong voice in a smaller geographical area, rather than creating a vast unitary authority covering the whole of North Yorkshire.

“Local authorities need to be close to their local businesses to offer tailored support, particularly as we face the huge challenges of recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Kevin Towers, MCEO of Techbuyer, a global leader in the provision of data based in Harrogate, said: “We are a high growth employer, planning to add another 100 jobs in the next three years. We believe the East & West model will offer many advantages to local communities and the business sector.

“It will enable more place-based local government and joined-up thinking on planning, transport and development that will help promote and support sustainable growth. Our experience of developing new business units in a number of different countries suggests that this is the best route to success.”

Alan Cutler, Deputy Managing Director of The PEEL Entertainment Group, based in Skipton, said: “Two equally balanced unitary authorities in the East and West will help maintain close connections between local government and businesses.

“Looking further forward to devolution, the East & West model would create a balanced Combined Authority, which will be more effective in delivering levelling-up and clean growth, attracting and retaining a younger workforce and expanding our strong skills base.”

North Yorkshire County Council says its bid to lead a new single council has already won the support of its NHS partners, the police, the fire and rescue service, business leaders, charities and union officials.

County council leader Coun Carl Les said: We already deliver strong high quality local services to every household in the county and our proposal will build on that understanding and relationship with people and the places they live.

“A single new council for North Yorkshire offers individuals, businesses, groups and organisations the strongest possible voice and the ability to implement decisions locally via our commitment to double devolution.

“Equally, our proposal has extremely strong support from the business sector and a very broad range of partners.

"This is about what is best for every single person in North Yorkshire and York and we believe the Government’s consultation, which will start later this month, will provide the best opportunity to test the options and establish the strongest model for local government service delivery and to drive economic recovery looking ahead."

Among the local business leaders supporting North Yorkshire County Council is Gordon Gibb, chief executive of Flamingo Land Ltd.

Mr Gibb said: "As one of the UK’s most popular visitor attractions, we know the value of the North Yorkshire brand and its importance to the regional economy. We continue to invest in the future of our business and see the single unitary authority as essential for developing the next generation of talent for our workforce.”

But the district councils say their East & West proposal of two unitary councils with balanced populations, demography and economic power; a model that delivers a number of benefits for businesses.

They add that their bid would bring the following:

Councils that are close enough to local businesses to deliver the investment, solutions and support that they need – critical in the Covid-19 recovery period

Councils that understand the places where people live and work, and can put what matters to those places at the heart of future growth

Fair and balanced economies in a Combined Authority, delivering the aims of devolution

Inclusive growth opportunities along existing economic footprints

Investment and levelling-up of the area’s economy

Coun Richard Cooper, Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, speaking on behalf of the Council Leaders, said: “Our East & West model will help drive recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and build a better economic future for the whole area.

"It is the only proposal that delivers two equal partners to sit within a Mayoral Combined Authority – which is important for the success of devolution.

“District and borough councils already have a strong track record in bringing forward major economic development schemes for the benefit of our communities.

"Over the last five years, there has been nearly £900 million worth of investment projects delivered in the area.

“We know many of our businesses are concerned about the alternative bid for a ‘mega-council’ from North Yorkshire County Council, sitting alongside the much smaller existing unitary City of York Council, and would prefer the East & West model so that the full potential of devolution can be maximised. We hope their views will be taken into account when the Government launches its consultation.”

The district and borough council leaders are: Cllr Richard Foster (Craven), Cllr Richard Cooper (Harrogate), Cllr Angie Dale (Richmondshire), Cllr Keane Duncan (Ryedale), Cllr Steve Siddons (Scarborough) and Cllr Mark Crane (Selby).

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