Local elections 2022: The future of the Harrogate district is in your hands

Harrogate's historic towns and charming countryside may be immovable, but tomorrow's local elections will mark a major shift in the district's political landscape.

By Jacob Webster
Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 4:38 pm
Tomorrow (5 May) is the day that 21 councillors will be elected to represent the Harrogate district on the new North Yorkshire Council.

When voters head to the polls on 5 May, they will elect 21 councillors to represent the district on a new unitary authority for the whole of North Yorkshire.

And unlike the current two tier council system, the new North Yorkshire Council will run all services from social care to bin collections, and education to planning.

This will mean the end of North Yorkshire County Council, Harrogate Borough Council and the six other district councils - but not until April 2023 when the new council is created.

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The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour Party, Green Party and Yorkshire Party - along with 10 Independents - have all fielded candidates for the election.

Those voted in to represent residents will make key decisions on how their money is spent and how services are run at this crucial time of change.

Richard Flinton, election returning officer and chief executive of North Yorkshire County Council, said: “The election on May 5 is such an important day not just for how the new council will be shaped, but also for everyone who lives and works in North Yorkshire.

“This is an opportunity for everyone who is registered to vote to help decide on who they want to represent them at what is a defining moment for North Yorkshire.

“The importance of these elections is hugely significant, as it not only lays the foundations for the decision-makers for the new unitary authority, but it also paves the way for a devolution deal for North Yorkshire and York.”

Before the shape of the new council had been agreed last year, the government had stipulated that a key requirement for any devolution deal was for the current two tier system to be scrapped.

And while these tiers of local government will be removed, it is likely another will be added with the creation of a Harrogate Town Council.

A devolution deal could mean millions of pounds in funding, more decision-making powers and an elected mayor for North Yorkshire and York by 2024.

This has long been the ultimate prize in the eyes of politicians right across the region.

However, the move to a new council has not come without contention.

The single unitary authority proposal was put forward by North Yorkshire County Council, while all but one of the district and borough councils backed a rival bid for two authorities split on an east/west basis.

It resulted in a rare ruckus between the county's Conservative-led councils, as some opposition parties also argued the case for their own proposals.

Regardless of the outcome, the focus for all parties and independents is now on tomorrow's election which could prove to be a tense and dramatic affair with fewer seats up for grabs.

In total, 90 councillors will be voted in to represent 89 new divisions across North Yorkshire.

The deadline to register has passed and those who are already on the electoral register should have received a polling card.

Polling stations will open from 7am to 10pm on 5 May.

Those who are unable to vote in person because of their employment or a disability can apply to vote by an emergency proxy.

For more information go to www.harrogate.gov.uk/voting-elections/county-elections

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter