Government confirms that North Yorkshire is poised for a metro mayor in wake of huge reorganisation of local democracy

The Government has given its clearest indication yet that it is committed to installing a metro mayor in the wake of a radical overhaul of democracy in England’s largest county.

A view across towards Addlebrough, a fell in Wensleydale in North Yorkshire. The Local Government Minister Simon Hall has confirmed the Government's preferred option is for a metro major to be elected to oversee a new unitary authority in North Yorkshire. (Photo: James Hardisty)

Luke Hall, the Minister who is overseeing the massive re-organisation of local government in North Yorkshire, has written to council leaders to stress that the Government hopes to see a mayoral combined authority introduced in the county.

In his letter seen by The Yorkshire Post, Mr Hall has claimed that an elected metro major would provide a “single point of strong leadership” for the Government to liaise with in North Yorkshire.

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The leader of North Yorkshire County Council, Carl Les, welcomed the clarity which has been provided from the Regional Growth and Local Government Minister, and said he hopes discussions with officials in Whitehall to introduce a unitary authority to pave the way for a devolution deal will get under way later this month.

Coun Les said: “To now be making progress with the chance of bringing in a unitary authority and ultimately a devolution deal for North Yorkshire is a welcome relief, as it is vital for the county.

“The first meeting I went to when I became the leader of the council six years ago was to discuss devolution, so it has been an issue that has been on the cards for a long time.

“To get confirmation from the Minister that he is keen to start negotiations and also that the Government’s preferred option is for a metro mayor is heartening, and helps reduce some of the frustrations that have been felt throughout the years.”

The biggest overhaul of local government in North Yorkshire in almost half a century was announced in July by the Government to open up the possibility of securing a devolution deal.

Ministers had stipulated a key requirement of any move to shift decision-making and spending powers to North Yorkshire was for the current two-tier system of governance to be replaced by a single unitary authority.

But the new “super council” will not be in place until the spring of 2023 at the earliest, prompting fears that North Yorkshire will fall further behind other areas of the North that already have devolution.

In his letter to council leaders in North Yorkshire, Mr Hall said: “I thought it would be helpful to write to you about this and to reiterate that whilst we would not impose any approach on an area, our preference for North Yorkshire and York would be that you continue to pursue a Mayoral devolution deal with a mayoral combined authority (MCA).

“An MCA would provide an appropriate governance structure where an area comprises two unitaries as it provides a single point of strong leadership.”

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick announced in July that the chosen option was for a new single council structure proposed by North Yorkshire County Council over a rival bid brought by the seven district councils for two authorities split on an east/west basis.

Under the plans, York Council will remain a unitary council.

It emerged this week that a £38m fund, with contributions from all of North Yorkshire’s main eight councils, could be created to cover the cost of local government reorganisation.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive heard the total cost of forming a unitary authority remained uncertain, but it had been forecast by setting aside £38m, the investment would achieve the same level of savings.