Some important changes in local government are looming that will have an impact on our local economy and businesses. Currently some services in our district are provided by Harrogate Borough Council (HBC), while others are provided by North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC). The government wishes to abolish this two-tier system and reorganise local government in York and North Yorkshire. If this is done, it could unlock the door to a devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire delivered by a new directly-elected mayor. This would be worth at least £2.28 billion of investment in our local economy over the next 30 years. If there is no reorganisation, that investment will be lost.
There is heated debate about getting the size, geography and identity of the new councils right for local people and especially for local businesses. NYCC wants to merge all North Yorkshire councils into one mega-sized council covering a huge geography, 615,000 residents and thousands of businesses. York would remain a separate (and much smaller) neighbour, potentially isolated from the wider county.
HBC is opposed to the creation of one large unitary authority covering all 8,000 square kilometres of North Yorkshire, claiming it would be bad for business and bad for our local economy. There’s probably an element of self-preservation in their thinking too! They argue:
- It would create a single massive bureaucracy, remote from local businesses and the economy
- It would reduce the level of direct contact and influence that employers could hope to have on decisions affecting their future
- It would create a huge imbalance between North Yorkshire and York that risks undermining the new directly-elected mayor with distractions and division
There is a very short window – a matter of weeks – for HBC to put an alternative proposal to government based on councils that are closer and more responsive to business. Richard Cooper, leader of HBC invites local businesses to read this leaflet and share their views. He invites businesses to email him directly at email@example.com with comments and opinion.
Of course, there are two sides to every argument and NYCC is hosting a webinar on 10 Sep between 1-2 pm to give businesses, especially SMEs, an opportunity to get an overview of what local government reorganisation and devolution in York and North Yorkshire would mean for them. The event will set out the county council’s proposal for a single council for North Yorkshire as local government in York and North Yorkshire is reorganised as a prerequisite to securing the devolution deal. To register for the free event please click here.
The Chamber makes no specific recommendation on this topic as no doubt Members will have their own individual views on the issue.