Harrogate's opposition parties look to York link-up in new devolution speculation

York may be the answer to Harrogate's devolution worries, the town's opposition parties say as they weigh up how change in local government is going to effect residents.

Friday, 14th August 2020, 12:44 pm
Is a link-up with York the best future for the Harrogate district as the Government gets set to bring devolution and a local government shake-up to the region.

But to say it’s a complicated picture as the September deadline for ideas on devolution in York and North Yorkshire nears, is to state the obvious.

With each existing local authority within the York and North Yorkshire area permitted to make a submission on its own particular vision of the future, it’s not impossible, in theory, that the Government may find itself shortly having to decide between a whole raft of different options.

It may not be a subject guaranteed to prick up the ears of all voters, but it is one which certainly does matter - for it will determine who delivers on daily services, where those decisions are made and how much money they will have to spend.

To complicate matters further, as the September deadline set by Local Government Minister Simon Clarke nears, different political parties in each authority may also have different viewpoints on the matter.

Charged by the Government with clearing away the district council tier of local government to make room for a top tier of an elected mayor for York and North Yorkshire, Tory-led Harrogate Borough Council may already be on a possible collision course with Tory-led North Yorkshire County Council.

While NYCC favours a new ‘super council’ with a population of 600,000 based in the whole of the region except the City of York, HBC is currently talking to the six other districts to put a case together for a smaller grouping of 400,000 approximately.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems and Labour parties in Harrogate and Knaresborough have been working on their own responses to the devolution idea, designed to bring financial efficiencies and an economic stimulus post-Covid.

Although there have been no official talks between the two rival parties, the Lib Dems and Labour conclusions after weeks of work do appear to share broadly similar ideas of where to go next.

Common to both their analyses of which version of a devolution would be in the best interests of residents in the Harrogate district are:

A firm rejection of North Yorkshire County Council’s proposals for a new Northallerton-led unitary authority

An acknowledgement that a new elected York & North Yorkshire mayor as part of devolution might get acess to extra money

An acknowledgement that there may be some efficiency savings coming from forming a new new unitary authority or ‘super authority’ but concern about its impact on local level democracy

Preference for a new unitary authority based on a north/south and rural/urban split with Harrogate in the ‘urban’ authority made up of York, Selby and Harrogate

Support for the introduction of proportional representation for the election of the mayor and councillors in whatever form of devolution is eventually selected.

While both opposition parties for Harrogate and Knaresborough appear happy to work for a common cause with anyone on their wavelength, neither is under any illusion that it’s likely to be their visions that hold sway.

There’s a lot of competing voices when it comes to devolution...

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