I didn’t think much would be different, but how wrong I was. The council on this side of the border is a refreshing change and a pleasure to deal with. A sign of a good council is how it gets rid of the things we no longer want.
Rubbish was always difficult to dispose of when I lived in Scarborough and Whitby. I felt that it seemed to be the job of the tip attendants to stop you getting rid of stuff or charging you for it.
I once had my vehicle practically searched by a grumpy worker checking to see if the cardboard boxes were domestic or commercial. He thought a 1972 vintage VW camper was a works vehicle and it took many minutes to persuade him that the recycling had come from my house.
In Whitby, even the brown gardens bins came with an annual charge, and twigs had to be of a certain size or else they were deemed as branches.
How that has all changed in the East Riding. My local tip will even take rubble for free and the staff are friendly and on hand to give proper advice about recycling. Garden waste is removed twice a month with no charge. When there is a need to ring the council, the service navigators who answer the phones are helpful and courteous. Quite surprising when dealing with a public body.
It was, therefore, with more than a pinch of salt that I took the news of a new North Yorkshire super-council coming into being in 2023. I do not think for a moment that life on the Yorkshire coast will change one bit.
Our beautiful county is vast and nearly stretches the width of the country. I cannot believe for a moment that the needs of Settle and Filey will be really understood by the majority of elected officials. Power has to be devolved to local groups, especially in a town like Whitby where the control of the harbour needs to be put back into the hands of those who work there.
If a super-council is to be successful, then the real needs of people living in outlying areas have to be taken into consideration. Speaking as someone born on the Yorkshire coast, I have seen at first hand the problems faced by local businesses when dealing with North Yorkshire County Council. Trying to apply for a table licence outside a cafe I owned was like jumping through smaller and smaller hoops. In the end, I gave up.
Having lived in Whitby for eight years, I am fully aware of the distrust and scepticism about the town being run by Scarborough Council. Many locals felt that Whitby was just being treated as a ‘cash cow’ to support the rest of the borough and finance the herd of white elephants that graze at both ends of Scarborough’s Marine Drive. I have to ask, will a super-council be any different?
The people on the coast deserve better treatment and I only hope a super-council will give it to them.
Like towns in Cornwall, will it have the courage to squeeze second home owners who drive up house prices for locals? Will it bring much-needed employment back to the coastal towns and support the fishing and shell fish industry? Will it bring better services and open government?
I doubt it. It will just be business as usual with the same politicians licking up the gravy train as they try to maintain the status quo.
North Yorkshire has diverse needs. The Dales cannot be lumped in with coastal towns. The super-council has to be aware of this. It also has to open up and allow residents quick and easy access. Not everyone wants to go online or wait 30 minutes for the call to be answered by a recorded voice with a list of options. Residents have to feel that their problems and concerns are being taken seriously and not batted into the long grass.
Caring for the daily needs of 600,000 county residents should be the prime concern. It is only right that the people of North Yorkshire be treated with respect. It needs more than just area committees to oversee the work involved. We want better transport links, cheaper business rates and a ban on second home owners destroying our village communities.
With set-up costs in the region of £38m, the new authority has to be different from the structures it is replacing. There is even a groundswell of feeling from people I have spoken to that the name of the council should be changed back to North Riding of Yorkshire. That would certainly be a fresh start and one that is badly needed.
GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster. He lives in East Yorkshire.
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