New council will help protect services and tackle financial challenges image

New council will help protect services and tackle financial challenges

A campaign is being launched ahead of a new council being established to cover the whole of North Yorkshire to reassure hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses that key public services will continue while major financial challenges are tackled.

The new North Yorkshire Council will launch in 10 weeks’ time on April 1, marking a watershed in the way local democracy is governed in the county.

North Yorkshire County Council will merge with the existing seven district and borough authorities to provide one single authority to cover the whole of England’s largest county.

Nearly 33,000 businesses and 615,000 residents in North Yorkshire are due to be given easier access to services ranging from education and highways to waste collection and disposal, planning and economic development through the new council.

Ahead of the new council’s launch, specific topics including tackling climate change, how the authority will operate and how new jobs and businesses are due to be attracted to the county will all be highlighted as part of the awareness campaign.

North Yorkshire County Council’s leader, Cllr Carl Les, said that the new authority would have the interests of communities at its heart, and would aim to be the most local council nationally despite serving such a vast geographical area.

However, the financial challenges which are being felt across the public sector nationally will present significant issues for the new council, which is predicted to have a shortfall of more than £30 million in its finances for the first year of its operation.

Cllr Les, who will assume the leadership of North Yorkshire Council from April 1, said: “The launch of the new council presents a defining moment for North Yorkshire and the way we can deliver services to the public.

“The chance to operate as one single authority will allow us to make significant savings and protect some of the most important local services at a critical time when everyone and every organisation is feeling the pressure from increased costs.

“There will be tough financial decisions ahead, but by making this change now, we are in a much stronger position to manage the rising costs and increased demand for services.”

The new council will be launched following the merger of the county council and the seven district and borough authorities to pave the way for a devolution deal, with the Government due to hand decision-making powers and millions of pounds in funding to local political leaders.

The move to the new council has been welcomed by organisations including the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, which was launched in 2016 as a leading voice of business and civic leaders across the North.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s chief executive, Henri Murison, said: “Given the challenges facing the public sector at the moment, the move to a single North Yorkshire council is hugely positive news for making efficiencies while protecting vital services for communities.

“Two-tier local government is outdated in the face of the multifaceted policy issues and challenges which face this huge and diverse county - from successful commuter villages and towns linked to Leeds and York, through rural farming communities to the mining and industrial growth opportunities around the coastal towns of Scarborough and Whitby.

“It made credible the proposed devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire, which is set to be transformative for the area, bringing in a massive £540 million over 30 years.”

The scale of the North Yorkshire Council’s operations will see it have an overall spend of about £1.4 billion, including £343 million on schools.

The new council is expected to recoup between £30 million and £70 million in its first few years of operation by joining up services and maximising spending power, which will then become annual savings.

The shortfall of more than £30 million in the new council’s revenue budget for the next financial year will have to be covered by the one-off use of reserves after some additional savings have also been proposed.

In the longer term, the financial gap is expected to widen and will need to be met by additional savings, and the new council will be working on a detailed plan for a major strategy to balance the authority’s books.

The pledge to ensure the new North Yorkshire Council remains at the heart of local communities will see residents given simpler and easier access to services which will be overseen by a single organisation, instead of the current structure of the county council and seven district and borough authorities.

There will also be a single website and phone number for communities to access support and services.

A main office is due to be retained in each area to provide public access to locally-based staff. A network of local access points in towns and villages is also set to be established.