Harrogate's MP reveals his stance on scrapping Harrogate council and devolution for North Yorkshire

Harrogate's MP has given his own views for the first time on rival visions for a major shake-up of local government in Harrogate and North Yorkshire.

Monday, 19th October 2020, 2:12 pm
Updated Monday, 19th October 2020, 2:20 pm
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones says he is categorically opposed to North Yorkshire County Council's vision of how local council reorganisation should happen.

While ruling councils across the county are in near unanimous agreement on devolution for York and North Yorkshire including an elected super mayor, there is deep division on how to slim down the district councils.

North Yorkshire County Council favours abolishing all existing district councils and creating a new unitary authority covering the whole of North Yorkshire while preserving the existing City of York unitary authority.

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On the other hand, the county’s seven district council leaders, including the likes of Craven, Richmondshire, Scarborough, Selby and Harrogate, support the creation of two unitary authorities with a similar population and economic size.

Up to now Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones had kept his peace on the subject.

But in his regular column to be published in this week's Harrogate Advertiser, Mr Jones reveals where he stands.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Jones supports the idea of devolution as a whole.

Mr Jones said: "The core question is could our local government be structured better to provide great services more efficiently?

"For me, the answer is yes. And the government has said to unlock devolution – the transfer of powers from national government to be exercised locally by a mayor of York and North Yorkshire - a better council structure has to be adopted."

Like many others, Mr Jones accepts the Government's argument that, to avoid duplication and justify the injection of millions of pounds of new cash in economic support at a North Yorkshire wide-level, local councils have to be organised.

Mr Jones said: "Currently, we have a district council based in Harrogate doing things like housing and homelessness prevention, planning, parks and gardens, environmental health and more.

"There are six more district councils in North Yorkshire doing similar things. We also have a county council dealing with adult social care, education and highways amongst other things based in Northallerton."

"For me, the simplest way to remove these duplications is to have one council fulfilling all these responsibilities."

But, like Harrogate Borough Council, Mr Jones is categorically opposed to North Yorkshire County Council's vision of how this will happen.

Mr Jones said: "Some people say we should have one mega-council run from Northallerton on the current county council boundaries.

"But that would create a whale of a council with over 600,000 inhabitants leaving neighbouring York a minnow by comparison.

"It is tempting to say that we want a single council for the Harrogate district and indeed that would be attractive.

"But it isn’t practical. Instead I am persuaded by the proposal model coming forward which describes an East and a West council for York and North Yorkshire.

"Our area would be in the West council along with Craven (based on Skipton), Richmond and Hambleton (based on Northallerton)."

But a split exists within Tory MPs within North Yorkshire.

Like Mr Jones, Julian Sturdy, MP for York Outer whose constituency falls in to the York City Council area, opposes North Yorkshire County Council's preferred option.

While fully supportive of devolution as a whole, he says it is time to divide North Yorkshire in two with an East-West split.

Meanwhile, Kevin Hollinrake , MP for Thirsk and Malton, also supports the idea of devolution and an elected super mayor but has remained neutral on the question of the different local council reorganisation visions so far.

The Government has now asked councils in North Yorkshire to submit their ‘asks’in a prospective devolution deal by next month.

No date has been set yet by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government for the Devolution White Paper to be published, which is a major part of the devolution process for York and North Yorkshire.

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