Local elections 2022: North Yorkshire's 'defining moment' in biggest vote since 1974

Voters in North Yorkshire are being urged to take part in what is being termed the region’s most significant election since the 1970s as a huge shake-up of local government in the county gets under way.

The county’s electorate will go to the polls on Thursday, May 5, to decide the political make-up of a new unitary authority that will be launched in the spring of next year.

While a new unitary authority covering the county and replacing the existing county and seven district councils does not come into operation until next year, elections are to take place on the basis of the new organisation rather than the current models.

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It means that in total 90 councillors will be elected to serve one year for the final 12 months of North Yorkshire County Council before transitioning to the new unitary authority for a four-year term.

North Yorkshire's local elections will be different this year.

The current county council is controlled by the Conservatives, with the party holding 54 of the 72 seats.

The restructuring is linked to a planned devolution deal for North Yorkshire which could result in millions of pounds of extra funding, more decision-making powers and an elected mayor from 2024.

The changes represent the biggest shake-up in local government in North Yorkshire since 1974, when the current structure of local government was introduced.

Richard Flinton, the county returning officer for the election who is also the chief executive of North Yorkshire County Council, said: “The election on May 5 is such an important day not just for how the new council will be shaped, but also for everyone who lives and works in North Yorkshire.

“This is an opportunity for everyone who is registered to vote to help decide on who they want to represent them at what is a defining moment for North Yorkshire.

“The importance of these elections is hugely significant, as it not only lays the foundations for the decision-makers for the new unitary authority, but it also paves the way for a devolution deal for North Yorkshire and York.”

The Government has stipulated that a key requirement for any devolution deal for North Yorkshire is for the current two-tier system of local government, with the county council and seven district councils, to be replaced by a single unitary authority. City of York Council will continue as a unitary authority to run in tandem with the new North Yorkshire Council.

The deal to hand over decision-making powers and tens of millions of pounds in funding to political leaders in York and North Yorkshire is currently being negotiated with the Government, with an announcement on an offer for devolution expected this summer before public consultations are staged later in the year.

District and borough councils will remain until April 1, 2023, and the councillors serving on those local authorities will continue in their roles until that date.

Among those who will be voting in a council election for the first time is Ben Blaxall, an 18-year-old sixth form student from Harrogate.

Mr Blaxall, who is studying at Rossett School in Harrogate before starting an apprenticeship with the Department for Transport in Leeds in June, said: “This election is so important for the future - I am only one person, but I do understand the importance for everyone to have the opportunity to vote. It is for everyone to have their say on the future of North Yorkshire.”

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Local elections May 2022: What is at stake in my area of Yorkshire?

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