THE recently launched consultation on the reorganisation of local government across North Yorkshire is a welcome opportunity to give the county a stronger voice, empower local communities, and deliver more effective and efficient local services.
Such reorganisations are always disruptive, with hard working councillors and officials at every level of government affected. I know first-hand from my 26 years as one of the Members of Parliament representing North Yorkshire in the House of Commons just how dedicated and passionate these individuals are, and it is vital that they are respected throughout this process.
With the consultation launched, however, there is now a decision to be made; should these district councils be replaced by two new unitaries, separating the east and west of the county, or by a single authority stretching across all of North Yorkshire?
To my mind, the best choice is the latter. As our country recovers from the damage of the Covid pandemic, it is more important than ever that local services, from schools to social care and everything in between, are run effectively.
Breaking up an established county council, with a strong track record of delivering for local people, to create two new councils without the experience in providing county-wide services, would generate needless challenges.
Leaving aside the issues of transition, a single authority would also be more sustainable in the long term.
North Yorkshire, with its breathtaking national parks and rolling hills, is the third most sparsely populated county in England, behind Northumberland and Cumbria.
In places of such low population density, services are more expensive to deliver, making scale and critical mass essential for financial sustainability. It is no coincidence that Northumberland is already a single unitary authority, while Cumbria is also considering becoming one.
North Yorkshire has for many years enjoyed highly effective local government and it is vital that this good record is maintained in the future. I do hope that the Secretary of State will make the right choice and deliver the single unitary authority, stretching from Richmond to Ryedale, that will protect services for local people.
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