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York calls to retain its own council as Government launches consultation

Published Tuesday, 23 February 2021

City of York Council is preparing a strong response to a Government consultation, launched today, on the future of local government in York and North Yorkshire.

Retaining City of York Council alongside a new unitary authority for the rest of North Yorkshire will pave the way to quicker devolution, additional investment into York and minimal disruption to Covid-19 recovery.

The consultation will consider two proposals to remove 2-tier local government in North Yorkshire:

  • The East/West model proposed by the six of the seven District Councils which removes all existing councils in North Yorkshire and York and merges them into two new unitary authorities;
  • The North Yorkshire proposal to create a single new unitary authority covering North Yorkshire County Council’s existing footprint, with York remaining as a unitary authority in its own right.

As an existing unitary authority, City of York Council is clear that there is no functional, historical or logical reason to merge York with surrounding rural and coastal areas, as proposed in the East/West model. Full Council voted overwhelmingly in October 2020 to Back York, rejecting the notion of a merger and supporting City of York’s continuation as a council in its own right. As a result, two submissions were made to Government evidencing the benefits of City of York and the risks of any merger. This highlighted the strength of existing partnership working and the potential for a Strategic Partnership to support efficient service delivery alongside a new North Yorkshire unitary authority. It also described the additional cost to taxpayers and the impact of disruption to key services, partnerships and York’s identity resulting from a merger. These submissions can be found here:

While supporting the right of the Districts to put forward a proposal, at no time have any of their assertions been validated by City of York Council. The council does not consider that their proposals recognise York’s unique identity and geography, distinct from the rural and coastal districts.

Local consultation and polling via a telephone survey showed that City of York Council residents do not support a merger into an “East North Yorkshire” council. When asked, 70% of local people felt York should remain a unitary authority, able to concentrate on the city’s recovery at this critical time, in a strategic partnership with a new North Yorkshire Council.

The Government’s statutory 8-week consultation asks key stakeholders to express a view on the proposals submitted, as well as giving local residents, businesses and organisations a chance to express their views direct to Government.

Cllr Aspden, Leader of the City of York Council said today:

The Government have made it clear that they wish to replace the 2-tier county and district structures in North Yorkshire with new unitary models and therefore, we hope that local residents, businesses and organisations will take the opportunity to give their views on the proposed local government restructure in North Yorkshire. As an existing unitary authority, City of York Council is clear that there is no functional, historical or logical reason to merge York with surrounding rural and coastal areas.

“Following consultation and independent research, we believe proposals that cause as little disruption as possible to allow City of York Council to concentrate on the city’s recovery at this critical time is the right way forward. For this reason, the best way to support strong recovery, secure devolution quickly, and support the Levelling-Up agenda in York and North Yorkshire, is with City of York continuing as a unitary authority, working in a strategic partnership with a new North Yorkshire Council. Any other model of local government would fail to effectively represent York’s history, communities and the unique characteristics of the city.

“We know from our consultation that local residents do not support a merger and instead, wish to retain local decision making in York, rather than break the 800 year historical connection between the city and the Council. We understand that the district proposal has been published as part of the consultation, and it is important to highlight that this proposal is not supported by City of York Council. We are clear, any change to York’s boundaries to include rural and coastal areas would either increase the cost to residents, or stretch services further, thus making it harder to meet York’s own unique challenges.

“Given the significance and potential consequences of local government reorganisation in our region, we are encouraging residents to Back York, support the retention of York’s own council and have their say at https://consult.communities.gov.uk/governance-reform-and-democracy/northyorkshire/, so their voices can be heard by the Government.”

Cllr Andy D’Agorne, Deputy Leader of City of York Council, added:

Residents, businesses and partners have told us that what matters is retaining our size and not having to pay for a local government restructure, through increased council tax, which would be a consequence of merging into a larger council, and that is why I would encourage everyone to share these views directly with the Government.

“The importance of protecting our identity, protecting the right for local decision making to be made here in York cannot be under-estimated at this crucial time in our history, so please do visit https://consult.communities.gov.uk/governance-reform-and-democracy/northyorkshire/ to have your say.”