UKIP bid for unitary authority dismissed

County Hall, the cenre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton will be 100 years old on Tuesday January 31.
County Hall, the cenre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton will be 100 years old on Tuesday January 31.

A bold bid to create a unitary authority to run North Yorkshire has been dismissed by the county council.

The proposals would see the county’s existing eight authorities streamlined into a single tier, or two smaller all-encompassing bodies to administer the region.

It would save millions of pounds, say UKIP councillors who made a notice of motion to debate the bid, reducing the burden on the tax-payer and simplifying systems.

But the bid has been dismissed by North Yorkshire County Council’s (NYCC) executive, who say now is simply not the time to consider such a change.

“There’s no excuse in the longer term for two tier working,” said council leader John Weighell. “It’s costly, and it’s leads to duplication.

“The motion says the right things. But it’s not on the agenda at the moment.

“Therefore it is wasting everybody’s time and distracting everybody from the job we have to do - and at the moment that is to make savings.”

UKIP county councillors David Simister (Bilton and Nidd Gorge) and Sam Cross (Filey) had first raised the issue in February, calling on the authority to begin talks with councils in Scarborough and Harrogate, Hambelton, Craven, Richmondshire, Selby and Ryedale.

Merging them under a unitary authority would make massive savings, they said, simplifying procedures and systems.

“We have one county council and seven district councils covering North Yorkshire,” said Coun Simister. “We have eight chief executives, eight boards, jobs replicated throughout the district.

“If you amalgamated them, we could cut out a huge swathe of bureaucracy.

“It works well in York, in Leeds and Bradford. And without a shadow of a doubt it would make huge savings.

“It would simplify things and bring a greater levels of service to the electorate.”

But the bid was dismissed by NYCC’s executive last month and, when it was raised again at the authority’s annual meeting in Northallerton last week, it was ruled out again.

“It’s not, at this moment in time, backed by the present Government,” said Coun Weighell.

“The motion is totally unrealistic - it’s not going to happen at this moment in time.

“It will come back. There’s not the slightest doubt about that. We need to save £74m in the next five years. A single authority would save about half of that - without having to make any cuts.

“But nothing will happen at all before the next general election. It may take longer than that.”