North Yorkshire 'falling behind every week' devolution talks with Ministers are delayed says County Council leader Carl Les

North Yorkshire is “falling behind every week” that devolution talks are not taking place with the Government, the County Council’s leader has said.

Bosses at City of York Council and North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) yesterday jointly briefed media for the first time about the next phase of plans to move ahead with changes to local government.

Various authorities in the county are divided about how to propose the area moves forward with a £2.4bn deal for devolved powers - the kind seen in South Yorkshire and coming to West Yorkshire - after Ministers said in July it would have to simplify the way local government works.

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North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) has controversially said there should be one unitary authority to cover the whole county, replacing the current two-tier system - where both county and district council are responsible for running the area’s services - and getting rid of the seven districts, but with the City of York Council left as it is.

Coun Keith Aspden, leader of City of York Council.
Coun Keith Aspden, leader of City of York Council.

However, district leaders have proposed that two separate authorities be set up to cover Ryedale, Scarborough, Selby and York in the east, and Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate and Richmondshire in the west.

York council, which unlike its surrounding counterparts is currently its own unitary authority, stated yesterday that there is “no functional, historical or logical reason to merge York with surrounding rural and coastal areas”.

It says that such a change would mean an anticipated £117 increase for Band D taxpayers in York, an eight per cent increase.

There would be disruption to services across York and the districts during a crucial recovery period and the end of the 800 year connection between the city and the council, they said.

Keith Aspden, leader of City of York Council said: “York’s unique character, beautiful heritage and strong history is recognised across the world. Protecting our identity, whilst keeping costs low and minimising service disruption for our residents, is of paramount importance for our future long term prosperity.

"Ultimately, any decision that affects York’s residents, businesses and communities, should be made in York.”

After receiving an invitation from Government to submit proposals to address the local government issue, it has been proposed to York council’s Executive that the authority remains as it is, which if agreed would be presented to the full council on October 29.

The council would then provide a submission to Government demonstrating why York council should remain.

Other reasons offered for why it should stay were that its geography is “distinctly different to its surrounding area” and that it has maintained financial stability since it was formed in 1996.

Yesterday’s briefing was described in terms of a “Strategic Partnership” between NYCC and York council.

Carl Les, the leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said: “It’ll take about a year to negotiate the asks, the devolution asks with Government.

“The sooner we get started, the sooner we will see the benefit. And conversely, the longer it takes to get started, the more people in York and North Yorkshire are losing out on the absolute benefits that we can see are happening around the country.

"I just look across the wall at the top end of the county and I look at what Ben Houchen is doing in Tees Valley and we are just falling behind every week that we are not negotiating with the Government and not achieving the benefits that can come from a devolution deal.”