You may not be aware of the government’s intention for a significant restructuring of local government in our area. To help you get up to speed and engage with the debate, you might find the following notes a useful starting point.
The Conservative Party’s manifesto for the 2019 general election stated:
We remain committed to devolving power to people and places across the UK. Our ambition is for full devolution across England, building on the successful devolution of powers to city region mayors, Police and Crime Commissioners and others, so that every part of our country has the power to shape its own destiny. We will publish an English Devolution White Paper setting out our plans next year.
- The intention is to publish a White Paper, Devolution and Local Recovery, in Autumn 2020.
To date most devolution deals have taken place in urban areas with the establishment of combined authorities (eg Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Tees Valley, North of Tyne) and most have involved mayoral elections. The combined authorities and mayors work with local authorities, focussing mainly upon economic development (such as Business support, investment, transport, planning). As most of these local authorities already had unitary status, these deals did not require local government reorganisation. Each deal is negotiated privately with government
The next stage involves decentralisation within more rural areas and a number of negotiations are currently taking place.
The local government minister, Simon Clarke, has stated that
- the White paper will provide a roadmap for establishing a series of new mayors
- unitarisation is a vital first step for negotiating mayoral devolution deals
- places have the ability to come forward with (their own) new mayoral devolution deals
- the current focus is on the north where the government is “pressing ahead” with negotiations for mayoral devolution deals in Cumbria, York & North Yorkshire, and Hull & East Riding
- the government wants to see responsible and effective mayors representing 100% of the north
So, a devolution agreement would require a reorganisation of local government away from the current 2 tier system, to a unitary approach to service delivery. Linked to this would be the formation of a Combined Authority with an elected Mayor. The timeline is very tight, with bids to be submitted by September 2020 and, if successful, authorities to be established as early as May 2022.
There are currently 2 proposals being suggested, one by the County Council, and one jointly by the Borough and District Councils.
The County Council is preparing a bid based on building a new single council which would deliver all services across North Yorkshire and respect the independent status of the City of York Council – which is already a unitary or single-tier authority. (See: https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/stronger-together)
The Borough and District Councils have proposed the creation of 2 councils, broadly split along east- west lines: one would serve communities in Ryedale, Scarborough, Selby and York, and one the communities in Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate and Richmondshire. (See: https://www.get-change-right.com). However, this would require a change of status for the City of York Council.
Both sites have opportunities to provide views and feedback.
It is not clear if it is possible to maintain the status quo.
There is one devolution deal to date which is of interest, being more comparable with the rural deals currently being negotiated. A devolution deal with Cornwall was agreed in July 2015. The deal was agreed with Cornwall Council and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly NHS Trust. However, that deal did not require a combined authority or elected mayor to be established.
This is the only deal so far to be agreed with a single unitary authority: the powers have been devolved to Cornwall County Council. The deal follows Cornwall Council’s publication of a document entitled The Case for Cornwall in March 2015. Cornwall has also progressed the joint delivery of health and social care services between Cornwall Council and NHS Kernow CCG.
Cornwall’s population (2018) was 565,968; North Yorkshire’s is approximately 605,000.