JOHN Weighell has called for North Yorkshire’s local authorites to be merged as he steps down as leader of the county council.
County Coun Weighell insisted turning the county and seven districts into a unitary authority would save money and protect services as councils deal with lower funding levels from the government.
He has led the council since 2001 as the Conservative group enjoyed a series of election victories to retain control of the authority, including most recently in 2013.
County Coun Weighell said: “My role has been shaping polices and services within what we can afford from government grants and council tax.
“Wherever possible, we have made savings from the council’s bureaucracy rather than frontline services.
“We’ve also promoted innovation and found new ways of working, for example with partners and communities. Basically, we’ve worked as hard as we can to protect important services for the public.
“However I see the budget becoming more challenging. As money for all councils becomes even scarcer, I hope we carry on looking for efficiencies, including merging the county council and district councils to form a single council.
“That would save money for the council tax payer and help to protect services.”
Coun Weighell said he hoped standing down now would give his successor time to prepare for the next elections in 2017.
The county council put forward proposals in 2007 to merge the area’s authorities but they were rejected by then Communities Secretary Hazel Blears after what became a highly acrimonious debate.
The county council will elect a new leader on May 20.