Go back to drawing board on planned North Yorkshire council divisions - Yorkshire Post Letters

From: John Harris, Harrogate.

The future of North Yorkshire is in the spotlight. Photo: Tony Johnson.

The seven shire district councils have suggested an east/west division of the county area – with Harrogate District combined with Craven/Richmondshire/Hambleton.

The main reason for this seems to be to produce a balance of population and economic base with the other area combining Scarborough, Ryedale, York and Selby Districts.

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What is the rationale for suggesting the new unitary authorities must be of similar size and nature, albeit that a minimum/optimum population is understandable as some economy of scale is required for local government services?

How should North Yorkshire be governed in the future?

Where is any real identity of interest for Harrogate and Knaresborough with Richmond, Thirsk, Easingwold, Leyburn, Bainbridge, Ingleton, Settle, and even Northallerton, which in another context is criticised as being remote?

If we are to have two unitary authorities, far better to have two which can focus on their own different characteristics which recognise the economic and geographical reality on the ground.

It is notable that for years York, Selby and Harrogate districts have been closely aligned with the Leeds City Region partnership and we can all see the obvious reality of the travel to work areas, shared economic and service interests, transport connections, heritage visitor economy.

It is surely equally notable that there is a shared identity of interest in the country area with its series of attractive small market towns relating to a countryside rural agricultural ‘outdoor’ way of life based on the Dales and the Moors national parks and the coast.

We seem to be heading up a cul-de-sac – the seven shire districts recommend an artificial east/west split with the county council promoting their existing area (c.615.000) having entered into an unholy alliance of mutual support with the existing York City unitary council, despite a city population of only 210.000, way below the Government minimum of 300,000 (note that NYCC and York City recognise no balance of population and economic base as being necessary).

The Government look destined to be offered two equally unappealing and unconvincing alternatives – and in any event a promised White Paper on devolution in the coming weeks may change the ground rules totally (the optimum population figure is being rumoured to rise to 600,000 to achieve maximum cost savings).

We may soon be starting all over again.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson