North Yorkshire’s residents will be able to vote for 90 new councillors who will represent 89 new divisions, later this spring. The announcement follows confirmation that the legal process necessary to support the formation of a single council to replace the eight current authorities providing public services here is under way.
A draft Structural Changes Order is now before Parliament and paves the way for elections on May 5 this year (2022). It also states the new council will be called North Yorkshire Council.
Cllr Carl Les is the leader of North Yorkshire County Council and chair of the senior councillor group, which includes all eight councils, overseeing the planning for the new ‘unitary’ authority. Speaking about the news, Cllr Les said: “This is an exciting moment for North Yorkshire and one which I hope people will look back on in the future as a game-changer for the county’s economic fortunes. The new single council will give our county a much stronger voice regionally and nationally and allows us to bring together the very best of all eight councils to build the best possible new one.
“These are very important elections, because the councillors voted in this May will serve the final year of the county council and then they will be the voice of the people for the first four years of the new single council.
“This continuity is important and means that decisions on what public services will look like in the future and matters like council tax can start being made ahead of North Yorkshire Council’s first day on 1 April 2023. They will make decisions on services that affect you, your families and communities, so make sure you have a vote. If you are 18 or over and are not registered to vote I would appeal to you to register now.”
Existing district and borough councillors will remain in place until April 2023. At that point, those positions will cease to exist.
The Chief Executive of North Yorkshire County Council and chair of the officer team leading the planning for the new council is Richard Flinton: “This is an historic moment for North Yorkshire. I am particularly pleased that the legal order references our ambitions to deliver on devolution. To drive strong and lasting economic recovery post pandemic for the county and wider region we will need the devolution of powers and money from national government. This will allow us to focus on our own priorities and will give us the resources to deliver them.
“The new council will also ensure crucial public services are fit for the future at a time when there are real pressures on budgets for a number of key areas, including adult social care and services for children with additional needs. This is a large-scale change programme, but all eight councils are already working effectively together to build a single organisation, and a single team, committed to delivering the very best for residents, businesses and communities here.”
Detailed planning to make sure the new council can safely function from day one has been progressing since the Government announced its decision to end the two-tier system of county and district or borough councils in North Yorkshire last year. A number of work streams are making sure the programme remains on track.
Paul Shevlin is the Chief Executive of Craven District Council and is the sponsor of the work stream looking at matters such as how the new council will work with communities and support local priorities. He said: “The new council will be local, with staff continuing to live and work in the communities they serve and there will be a main office in each district supported by customer access points across North Yorkshire.
“Community-led decision making will be bolstered by formal partnership networks bringing together residents, councillors, businesses, town and parish councils, MPs, community groups and partners like the NHS and police and fire service. Alongside these networks, area committees will hold the new council to account and oversee decisions on things like licensing and planning at a local level. We are busy laying the foundations of the council so that when the new councillors are in place they have a framework to build on. We want to be able to deliver on our ambitions and positive progress is being made.”
Cllr Les continued: “This formal order should also be very reassuring for our dedicated staff who are working extremely hard across all eight councils. The new organisation will be large enough to enable progression and wider opportunity and yet flexible enough to support them with the kit and training they need to provide the best possible public services in the heart of communities. This is a landmark moment for the whole county and our workforce should feel immensely proud of their ability to carry on delivering day-to-day services, while supporting a complex change programme. It is absolutely right to acknowledge that and say thank you.”
Subject to MPs’ approval, the order is expected to be enacted in March.