Research study into top model for local government reform will go before councillors

East West local government reorganisation model

A KPMG research study showing an ‘East & West’ model of two balanced unitary councils is the best way to reorganise local government in the region, is set to go before councillors.

Councils have been invited to submit an outline bid to Government by November 9, proposing how unitary authorities could be created within North Yorkshire and York.

Over the summer, experts at KPMG were commissioned to assess a range of options and propose a model for local government reform based on research and evidence. 

The research study provides compelling evidence that the creation of two unitary authorities of balanced size would provide the strongest local leadership, the most effective services and the fairest democratic representation, as well as the most savings for local taxpayers.

The “East & West” model described in the study would see Craven, Harrogate, Richmondshire and Hambleton join together to form a unitary council in the West, and Selby, City of York, Ryedale and Scarborough join together to form a unitary council in the East.

According to the study, this East & West model would produce two unitary authorities with a similar population and economic size, that meet the government’s reform criteria. The East & West unitaries would provide the strongest approach to unlocking devolution – potentially worth billions to the region in investment - whilst also being the optimum size for effective strategic and local service delivery to citizens and communities. The model also offers the opportunity to improve services and efficiencies in the City of York.

The contents of the study have been shared with councillors this week, and are being published on district and borough council websites on October 23. All seven district and borough councils will then consider the study at democratic meetings in early November before the government’s deadline for submission.

If one or more council agrees to submit the KPMG research study, it will only form part of an outline bid to Government in November, if North Yorkshire County Council votes to submit their opposing bid for a ‘mega-council’ model.

The County Council’s model would create a unitary authority covering the whole of North Yorkshire, with a population of 618,000, while preserving the existing City of York unitary authority with a population of 211,000. This is contrary to the Government’s criteria, which sets the optimal population range for a unitary council at between 300,000 and 600,000 people.

Councillor Mark Crane, Leader of Selby District Council, speaking on behalf of the leaders, said: “This research by KPMG clearly shows that the East & West model of local government reorganisation is better than any of the alternatives.

“The KPMG study demonstrates that the East and West model will provide strong local leadership, the most effective services, the fairest democratic representation, the most financial savings. Our model, with two equal partners, also provides the strongest approach to unlocking devolution.

“We expect North Yorkshire County Council to submit a proposal for a ‘mega-council’, which would create a massive imbalance. North Yorkshire is five and a half times the size of Greater London; it’s as big as Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire combined.

“While we believe now is not the time for local government reorganisation, North Yorkshire County Council’s determination to drive their proposals forward will leave us with no option but to offer an alternative.

“If the County Council votes to submit their proposal and start the process of reorganisation, we are preparing to respond with what we feel is a much better model. If the County Council decides against submission of their proposals, we will not submit our model to Government and instead will continue to push for devolution without local government reorganisation.

“We continue to consult with local people, businesses and partners as we finalise our case for an East and West model.”

The district and borough council leaders are: Cllr Richard Foster (Craven), Cllr Mark Robson (Hambleton), Cllr Richard Cooper (Harrogate), Cllr Angie Dale (Richmondshire), Cllr Keane Duncan (Ryedale), Cllr Steve Siddons (Scarborough) and Cllr Mark Crane (Selby).

Selby District Councillors will consider the study at a meeting on 5 November.

Read the KPMG research here.