'We did not sign up to this': reaction to news North Yorkshire to be one council

This decision now requires parliamentary approval, with the aim that the new council would take over from the existing authorities on 1 April 2023. Credit: PA Images

Councils in North Yorkshire have said they "did not sign up" for plans to replace the county and district councils with a single council covering the whole area.

North Yorkshire currently has a two-tier system of local government, with a county council and seven district councils underneath it.

In the biggest shakeup in its local government in 50 years - they are due to be scrapped, to be replaced with one unitary council providing all services. The City of York will remain separate.

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said this proposal "strongly met" all of the government's criteria, as it's likely to improve services, commands a good deal of local support and has a credible geography.

The announcement has been met by some criticism from area leaders who wanted to retain key services. 

Councillor Robson continued to say:

"The future of local government in North Yorkshire is a very different one. Timescales and the detail around this change are not yet confirmed but I will be working hard to ensure the impact felt by residents, businesses and staff is as limited as possible and that in the meantime we continue to offer the high quality, local and responsive service Hambleton residents expect and deserve.” 

A public consultation took place in the spring, with people also asked to consider a proposal put forward by existing district councils.

That would have seen two new unitary councils:

  • One in the west, comprising the areas of Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate and Richmondshire with a population of 363,000.

  • One in the east, comprising Ryedale, Scarborough, Selby and the City of York with a population of 465,000.

Mr Jenrick said that proposal appeared unlikely to improve services and did not have a credible geography.

Councillor Richard Foster, Leader of Craven District Council, said: “We are disappointed that the Government has chosen to implement North Yorkshire County Council’s proposal to form one council across the whole of North Yorkshire.

“We believed the East & West model had a great deal of public support and would have created two balanced unitary authorities, with similar population sizes and economic strengths. It would also have unlocked the potential of York, by including the city within the proposals for reorganisation.

“We will now have the most ‘un-local’ local government in the country, with one council covering an area bigger than as big as Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire combined. But it is now our job to make sure this works in every area across North Yorkshire. 

“We will work with all our partners to ensure the very best outcomes for our local residents, businesses and communities in the future. There is a great deal of hard work ahead of all of us, to make sure that our excellent services continue for the people of North Yorkshire, while we prepare for the new council to take shape by 2023. We will aim to ensure that the district and borough councils have a voice during the transition, so that local places and the interests of staff are represented.”

This decision now requires parliamentary approval, with the ambition that the new unitary council would take over from the existing authorities on 1 April 2023.

Mr Jenrick reiterated the government's enthusiasm for devolving more powers to local leaders, after the Prime Minister said last week that directly-elected mayors could be established for counties, as well as cities.