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Harrogate’s business community to hear opposing post-devolution administration options

Two opposing views on how North Yorkshire should be administered post devolution will be heard by Harrogate’s business community at an online meeting next week. 

Whilst North Yorkshire County Council Leader Carl Les and Chief Executive Richard Flinton will put forward the case for two unitary authorities – York and North Yorkshire – Harrogate Borough Council Leader Richard Cooper and Chief Executive Wallace Sampson will outline alternative plans for two unitary councils covering the York and North Yorkshire footprint.

The four will be appearing at Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce’s September meeting, Devolution in North Yorkshire & Unitary Proposal, being held via Zoom on Monday, September 7.

In a letter to Chamber members, Coun Cooper said: “I am opposed to creating one large unitary authority covering all 8,000 square kilometres of North Yorkshire, because I think it would be bad for business, and bad for our economy.

“We are passionate about business in the Harrogate district. The council has been at the heart of the coronavirus response, working to support business recovery and releasing c£50m in business grant aid.

“We were only able to do this quickly and at scale because of our knowledge of our local economy, our close links with local businesses, and our long experience of delivering grass-roots services.

“It is essential that we do not lose these valuable qualities in the coming local government reorganisation, as I hope you agree.”

In response, NYCC Chief Executive Richard Flinton wrote: “Following discussions with the City of York, who are clear they wish to retain their existing unitary authority on the current boundaries, we are developing our proposal as a single unitary authority covering the existing North Yorkshire County Council footprint.

“This would therefore meet the Government’s requirement of a maximum of two unitary authorities in the area.

“What should be made clear as a comparison is that a unitary authority would deliver services in the order of £600m a year over this area. Currently North Yorkshire County Council delivers £500m worth of those services, so the increase in service delivery is only around 20 per cent.

“The most significant services in terms of cost and size are Adult Care, Children’s services, Highways and Waste disposal. All these services are already delivered by the County Council and are delivered to a very high standard against national benchmarks.”

Sandra Doherty, Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, said: “With the Government due to make its decision on devolution for North Yorkshire imminently, we felt it was important for our members to hear from the County Council and the Borough Council.

“Here in Harrogate, we are particularly caught in our current two-tier system. For business to grow whilst recovering from the last few months’ Covid-19 setbacks, we need an agile council which could simplify processes and bring our local voice together with others in North Yorkshire.

“Harrogate is not just a town for tourists, a town to shop or a town to wander through the flowers. Here in Harrogate we have a vibrant business community often bursting with ideas and innovations and national brands.

“We need a local government to act for us in ensuring we are well represented in what would become a great North Yorkshire.”

Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce’s meeting begins at 6pm on Monday, September 7.

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