North Yorkshire politicians told to 'get a grip' over millions in payouts and fanciful promises

Politicians in North Yorkshire have been told to “get a grip” following millions spent on “golden goodbyes” and “preposterous proposals” despite rising taxes and growing deficits in local government.

This week the Taxpayer Alliance revealed that Yorkshire’s councils spent more than £26 million on staff who received more than £100,000 of salaries, bonuses and compensation in 2022-23.

Among them five people from Hambleton District Council received over £1.7 million, including £1 million of compensation. All but one of whom left the authority voluntarily ahead of its merger with North Yorkshire Council despite being assured of roles in the new body.

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This is despite the “perilous” state of North Yorkshire’s finances, with the new council facing a £40 million black hole of funding.

Keane Duncan outside the Grand Hotel in Scarborough.Keane Duncan outside the Grand Hotel in Scarborough.
Keane Duncan outside the Grand Hotel in Scarborough.

The cost of this reorganisation has cost £6 million so far, with £38 million set aside from the reserves of the former county council.

Last year North Yorkshire’s councillors voted in favour of giving themselves a 10 per cent payrise, which one councillor described as “indefensible” during the cost of living crisis.

Taxpayers in the area have seen their council tax rise by almost 5 per cent from this month, with second homes set to be charged double from next year.

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It comes as Keane Duncan, the Conservative candidate for next month’s mayoral election to lead the new North Yorkshire combined authority, was accused of gimmicks by pledging to buy Scarborough’s Grand Hotel from its owners if he wins May’s contest.

He said that the hotel’s regeneration was vital to the “renaissance” of the town, but refused to provide details of how much it would cost taxpayers, though it is expected to cost millions of pounds alongside potential private investors.

Labour yesterday accused Mr Duncan of “back of a fag packet” maths over his announced policies which it suggested would cost anywhere between £72 and £860 million over his tenure as mayor if elected.

David Skaith, Labour's candidate for York and North Yorkshire Mayor, said: “This plan will either bankrupt the new mayoral authority or leave people bitterly disappointed as one by one the promises are met by reality.”

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Mr Duncan, rejecting Labour’s estimates of his policies as “wrong”, said: “We need a mayor with big ambition to take York & North Yorkshire forward into the future.

"My plans are bold and different, but I can confirm they're affordable and deliverable.”

Benjamin Elks, grassroots development manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance said: "North Yorkshire's finances are in a perilous state, and there is little reason for taxpayers to feel optimistic.

"From preposterous proposals to purchase hotels, to golden goodbyes handed out like candy to departing council bosses, North Yorkshire's politicians are cooking up a recipe for disaster for local residents.

"Elected officials in the region need to get a grip and focus on delivering crucial frontline services without the gratuitous gimmicks."