North Yorkshire to lose District Councils

North Yorkshire will become a unitary authority and will become responsible for delivering all local authority services currently delivered by the “county” and district councils, probably from April 2023. The unitary authority will have a population of around 618,000 but will cover an area of 3,341 square miles. The aim of the reorganisation is supposedly to pave the way for devolution but also to save money by bringing local authority services under the control of a single body.

I believe that this makes a nonsense of the rejection of a “One Yorkshire” style solution. The area is large and diverse and certainly covers more than one “go to work area” which was one of the reasons for focusing devolution on city regions in the past and was also cited as a reason for rejecting the idea of Yorkshire wide devolution. This idea looks to be taking the “local” away from local government and potentially making service provision a remote affair. The impacts on the quality of service and on accountability will need to be monitored closely.

I still believe that devolution to the whole of Yorkshire based around the concept of subsidiarity is the best model. Public services are thus provided at the most immediate level capable of providing an effective service. All public services within the county would fall under the remit of the regional government and would be delivered by it and the local authorities within the region. It is wrong to say that local authority services in North Yorkshire will now come under the control of a single body because Westminster also has control over so many aspects.

It is not clear what powers will be granted to the new unitary authority under any devolution deal, but deals agreed to date have not exactly been encouraging. There is also a danger that consolidation at this level could further weaken local democracy and put the future of local government, as a whole, at risk. The next step could see Westminster replacing local councils with mayors or nominees, all in the interest of efficiency savings, of course.

Given Westminster’s track record, we need less interference from them and more local democracy.

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