Residents tell Harrogate MP delay in creating new town council is ‘totally unacceptable’

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Andrew Jones MP and local councillors have been told by residents that delaying the creation of Harrogate Town Council until 2025 is “totally unacceptable” and is damaging local democracy in the town.

Harrogate was set to get its own town council in May 2024 along with Scarborough but the process was delayed for a year after councillors on North Yorkshire Council, which is charged with setting up the new council, asked to redraw its ward boundaries.

It means there will have to be a third public consultation on the town council which will take place at some point this year.

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It’s been suggested by North Yorkshire Council that residents would pay between £40 and £60 on top of their council tax each year to pay for the new council.

The Harrogate MP has been told that delaying the creation of the new town council is “totally unacceptable”The Harrogate MP has been told that delaying the creation of the new town council is “totally unacceptable”
The Harrogate MP has been told that delaying the creation of the new town council is “totally unacceptable”

At a meeting of local councillors last week, a statement was read out on behalf of Barry Adams, who was representing more than 1,000 people that are part of Harrogate Residents Association, Granville Road Residents Group and Independent Harrogate.

Mr Adams said North Yorkshire Council is viewed as a “vast and disparate” authority by residents who are feeling “isolated and remote” from decision-making.

He said: “We are extremely concerned that town council elections have been delayed until May 2025 and the ongoing delay is totally unacceptable to residents and businesses of this town.

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“We simply want a town council and are fully aware of the implications and responsibility involved.

"There is no benefit in delaying the process on yet another consultation unless North Yorkshire Council wants to consult until it gets the result it wants.”

Town or parish councils are the first layer of local government and often provide services such as parks and public toilets, although under North Yorkshire Council’s “double-devolution” agenda they are being handed more responsibilities.

For example, Ripon City Council is set to run the city’s town hall and market square later this year.

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The meeting of was attended by Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones who said he backed the principle of a town council but that the year-long delay will allow more time to figure out what services it might deliver.

Mr Jones said: “We need to ensure that the town council is not duplicating the work of work of area committee.”

However, Councillor Chris Aldred, who represents High Harrogate and Kingsley for the Lib Dems, said it should be up to future elected councillors on the town council to decide its powers rather than officials.

Councillor Aldred said: “You can’t impose it from the top in Northallerton.”

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In response, Mr Jones said it was “slightly odd” to create a public body without knowing what it’s for.

He added: “A bit of work is needed to say what it’s for before you ask taxpayers to get their wallets out.

"I think that’s entirely reasonable.”

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