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Harrogate Borough Council could be scrapped under devolution deal

Harrogate Borough Council could be scrapped under devolution deal

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Jacob Webster at 3:38pm 13th July 2020.

The leader of Harrogate Borough Council has said local decision making must not be diluted in any devolution deal.

  • Harrogate Council's leader says local decision making must be preserved in any devolution deal.
  • The authority is likely to be scrapped as local government is restructured.  
  • Changes are expected to be made from April 2022.

It's after it was revealed the authority is likely to be scrapped in a revolutionary restructuring of local government.

Councillor Richard Cooper said he is working together with other leaders from across York and North Yorkshire to kick-start a deal which will see the area’s seven district councils abolished and brought under the control of one or two combined authorities led by a metro mayor.

The deal is now being fast-tracked by central government to quickly unlock key decision-making powers and billions of pounds for the area – and councils have until September to come up with proposals for what the future unitary authority could look like.

Councillor Cooper argued council services are better delivered on a more local basis, but added the deal will be an opportunity to “positively shape” the way they are run.

Councillor Richard Cooper
Councillor Richard Cooper

He said:

“I am committed to working together with council leaders from across York and North Yorkshire to develop a proposal for unitary arrangements which are realistic and deliverable.

“However, I am determined that local decision making will not be diluted.  I still want our communities to be able to influence the services they value, appreciate and rely on.”

Currently, North Yorkshire County Council looks after education, highways, social care and transport, whilst the region’s seven district councils are responsible for planning, licensing, waste and council tax collections.

City of York Council is responsible for all of those services – and it is understood the council is considered too small for a stand-alone authority, covering around 200,000 people, but North Yorkshire with around 600,000 would be too large. 

One supersize unitary authority would therefore be far too big with 800,000 residents.

Councillor Carl Les, the leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said:

“Linking strong devolution deals to unitary status is the challenge government has issued.

“We are at a critical time for our county and region and can see the positive opportunities to simplify structures and access to high quality services, strengthen our economy and voice nationally to lobby for greater investment and save significant sums of money.”

Any of the councils involved in the process can submit a proposal to the government to be considered.  The government is planning to make the changes from April 2022.

Councillor Cooper said:

“We have been set a very ambitious timetable by the minister but it is one that we will meet.

“Ordinarily, making such a significant change to local government arrangements in less than two years would be a considerable challenge.

“We will work rapidly to ensure we meet the September deadline to bring forward an initial proposal for consideration.”