Why York and North Yorkshire now need a mayor – Robert Goodwill

THE current pandemic has demonstrated how resourceful and able the people of North Yorkshire have been in the face of the biggest peacetime crisis to challenge us for over a century.

Will a mayor for York and North Yorkshire benefit rural areas? Photo: James Hardisty.

Our emergency services and NHS have made us proud, and we have seen how vital local government has been in maintaining vital services and delivering Government programmes to support individuals and businesses.

This is even though, unlike many other areas, we do not have a directly-elected mayor. This is essential for attracting investment, supporting businesses and protecting and creating jobs.

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We may not all agree with Andy Burnham, but no one could doubt that he has given his citizens in Greater Manchester a strong voice to challenge decisions made centrally and speak up for those who elected him.

Should York and North Yorkshire have its own mayor? Robert Goodwill MP makes the case.

An elected mayor for York and North Yorkshire will be vital as we rebuild our bruised communities and make the case for public and private investment.

Replacing the current wasteful and confusing two-tier system of local government in North Yorkshire is a prerequisite for this.

There are significant financial savings to be made as well as reducing the number of councillors so that you have one councillor for each area rather than the current two – thus removing the confusion about who is responsible for what.

The choice presented to us is clear. Either the current York City Council will continue as it is alongside a new unitary North Yorkshire or we could split the area into two East/West authorities.

Robert Goodwill is Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby, and a former Government minister.

Both sides have made their case. I believe you need strength, scale and experience. I have worked with North Yorkshire County Council throughout the Covid crisis. They have stepped up to the mark in an impressive way – whilst continuing to deliver nationally acclaimed children’s services and supporting the county’s most frail residents in an unprecedented period.

I see no value at all for residents or businesses in breaking the county in half. I see no merit in losing the established brand and identity of North Yorkshire by splitting the county in two. These would be just a few of the disruptive impacts should the East/West split proposed by some of the district councils be successful.

Alongside being impressed by the resilience shown by the county council in the most difficult of times, I like the fact that the bid its officers have produced for the Secretary of State’s consideration was produced “in house”.

It’s based on knowledge and expertise of excellent public services to every person in the county – something none of the districts have experienced.

I have studied the county’s financial case and I believe it to be realistic and achievable. Its proposed partnership approach alongside York will protect the city’s urban identity but allow for the maximum benefits of collaboration – benefiting the county and city but maintaining their unique character.

The money which could be saved and redirected into sustaining and strengthening local services and democracy is up to £67m a year. That means lower council tax bills! Also, the fact that York would be dragged unwillingly into a sort of arranged marriage does not bode well even if its headquarters would inevitably be in York itself.

I also believe that Scarborough and Harrogate would benefit from the county’s proposal to empower them. People in Scarborough itself, unlike the rest of my constituents, do not have a town or parish council.

The county’s proposal would offer strengthened town and parish councils. The county is all too aware how geographically large it is, which is why town and parish councils will have such an important role to play in the future, together with decisions like planning being made by local area committees of county councillors.

I think that residents will also appreciate that, alongside that community empowerment, the county council’s proposal also reduces the number of elected members from more than 300 to around 90 or so.

I support the bid that protects brand North Yorkshire; that delivers the greatest financial savings and that protects outstanding services.

A bid that ensures that we retain experienced leadership within a new county council with the size, scale and resilience necessary to service a county as rural as North Yorkshire, and that has shown that it can also lead in a crisis – that makes absolute sense to me.

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