York & North Yorkshire Chamber president, Andrew Digwood, has responded to the consultation taking place around plans to restructure local government across the county. The consultation, which is being run by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, is seeking views on the future of North Yorkshire and businesses and residents are being asked to respond to two proposals which have been put forward. One proposal will see the abolition of the seven district authorities and the county council, to be replaced by a single unitary authority, whilst the second would see the abolition of North Yorkshire County Council along with the City of York Council to be replaced by two completely new unitary authorities split east and west, roughly along the route of the A1 and based on the merger of existing district authorities.
Speaking on the consultation, Andrew Digwood said, “Having discussed with members our position is to support the proposal put forward by North Yorkshire County Council which would see the current district structure replaced with a single unitary authority. Our decision is based on a number of factors not the least of which is a smoother and less disruptive transition to this new structure compared to the breaking up and reordering of seven district and one county council and the abolition of City of York Council.
“A unitary North Yorkshire Council will bring economies of scale and streamline those services which are of greatest importance to our business community as we look to emerge from the Covid pandemic. A county wide economic strategy with a single local plan and accompanying planning system setting out future development opportunities, employment land allocations and housing numbers would bring confidence that in turn would drive private sector investment.
“The elimination of duplication of processes and services and the provision of a ‘single front door’ for businesses to access support and assistance would bring clarity and consistency across the county.
“Whilst the inner workings of local authorities might not seem like a high priority for businesses we would nevertheless strongly encourage them to respond. The reorganisation of local government across the county opens the gates to a much bigger prize, that of regional devolution of powers and funding from Whitehall. The ability to make regional decisions over the future of our economy, deliver 21st century infrastructure and drive inward investment, skills and innovation cannot be understated. This is a once in a generation opportunity we cannot afford to let local politics and rivalries get in the way of our future prosperity.”
The consultation is open until 19th April 2021 with a decision expected in the autumn.