York Labour has blasted the government’s proposals to reorganise local government in the city and county of North Yorkshire as ‘arbitrary and inadequate,’ and says that any reorganisation should be come from an independent, evidence led process with full Parliamentary scrutiny. Plans by ministers to rejig council boundaries could turn York into an ‘underfunded backwater’ warns the party.
In its response to the government’s consultation on reorganising the boundaries of local government within North Yorkshire, Labour says that York has been significant seat of power, self-determination and identity for over 800 years. The city is not only a national icon, but is a magnet for visitors and inward investment. Diluting the unique identity, economy, culture, heritage and social context of York would cause considerable damage to the city’s future, says the party.
The consultation response, backed by the city’s councillors and York Central MP Rachael Maskell, adds that there are significant flaws in the options proposed by North Yorkshire County and by the district councils. But only the North Yorkshire plan for a single unitary authority within its existing boundaries will preserve the integrity of the existing elected council in York.
The district council option, which will split the county into two East/West unitaries, with York amalgamated with Selby, Ryedale and Scarborough councils would create “an unnatural fit.” with no coherence, splicing the dominant rural economy of North Yorkshire East to an urban authority with completely different priorities and concerns.
The East authority would lack political legitimacy and reduce democratic accountability and make services less accessible, particularly for disadvantaged groups who find it difficult to travel. Meanwhile York’s economic connections are with the Leeds City Region and would be damaged by becoming part of a predominantly rural authority. The response states that “the evidence of past reorganisations, amalgamating areas of completely different nature, character and attitudes, is not good.”
Nor is there evidence of any savings to be made. Research showed that past re-organisations in local government had failed to show any significant reductions in spending. Splitting up children’s services, waste collection and disposal, adult health and social care, or planning would be costly and of no benefit.
Labour adds that the greatest challenge facing this or any government in the coming years is climate change. “We see no sign that this aspect has even been considered in the reorganization proposals. Neither proposal really addresses the economic necessity for their remodelling nor the means by which local democracy can thrive.” Instead, it suggests that a regional body should be set up to tackle the challenge of climate change.
York Labour Party chair, Dr Rory Allen said, “The case has not been made by the supporters of either of the options put forward for fundamental reorganisation of Local Government in North Yorkshire, either in respect of an improvement in democratic accountability or efficient delivery of services.”
He added, “The people of York, which the authority is there to serve, identify powerfully with their city. York Labour does not believe that it is right to dilute the unique identity, economy, culture, heritage and social context of York.”
To see the full response to the government consultation, please click here