North Yorkshire single council plan gets backing

The bid for the creation of a single North Yorkshire Council and empower local communities in the region has been given strong backing by neighbouring Durham.

Durham County Council, which is of a similar make-up to North Yorkshire and became a single council 12 years ago, bringing county and districts together in one authority, says that ‘there is no other way of operating’. The authority’s chief executive officer said that the creation of a single council gave Durham the boost to deliver great services at scale but also to create a strong and innovative localism agenda which empowered local communities to create local solutions to services for their local areas.

To secure a devolution deal for the region, ministers at Westminster require the removal of the current two-tier local government system in North Yorkshire and for the councils to unitise at pace.

Not only will a single North Yorkshire council simplify things for people and businesses, North Yorkshire County Council believes that it will protect and strengthen the best of both county and district high-quality frontline services, a crucial factor in facing current challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a ‘double devolution’ proposal North Yorkshire’s plan would see greater powers and funding passed to parish and town councils than currently exist, for those that would welcome it. The plan would improve transparency through area constituency committees to oversee their local areas, champion their cause, strengthen relationships with their MPs and make important decisions locally on things including planning and licensing.

Carl Les, North Yorkshire’s leader, said: “We welcome Durham’s endorsement of our plan at this time. A single, sustainable council will end the duplication of a two-tier system and operate at scale to secure maximum efficiency and savings, driving innovation. We estimate savings in excess of £25m every year, offering the best value for money for everyone. No other bid would be able to match these benefits. Equally importantly it will protect a global and recognised brand which is crucial for our visitor economy.

“But it will also create great local opportunities, critical in the current climate. Our towns and villages have the unparalleled chance to attract a new generation as the shift to home working due to Covid brings changes to the country’s way of life. Our drive towards localism would help to bring renewed dynamism to these communities and further develop their individual character, attracting investment.

“Things will be simpler – by removing confusion over which council does what and providing a single contact point for people and businesses. The county will be stronger in the greater say communities, parishes and towns will have over decisions and in the county’s more powerful voice at national level.  And savings will be made - tens of millions of pounds every year -  by reducing duplication and by having one single council instead of eight.”

Durham was voted the best council in the country in 2014.