Towns and parishes explore a greater role under devolution – Harrogate could become a Parish Council. Over 250 town and parish councillors tuned in this week to learn how they could take on new powers to boost grass-roots decision making and empower local communities as part of a new future for local government in North Yorkshire.
North Yorkshire County Council held an online seminar about its developing proposal for a strong single unitary council for North Yorkshire working in a stronger partnership with town and parish councils and parish meetings. As a result of interest from the meeting, the county council has now set up a working group of town and parish councillors who have volunteered to look at the practical issues of making devolution and restructured local government work and explore ideas further and solutions to some of the questions raised. As the Government is requiring an end to the two-tier government in North Yorkshire to secure a devolution deal for a York and North Yorkshire combined mayoral authority, the county council is proposing a single, sustainable council which will end the duplication of a two-tier system and operate at scale to secure maximum efficiency and savings, driving innovation. However, under the county council proposal, the new single council would also be driven by a new dynamic localism. This would involve a ‘double devolution’ plan for greater powers and funding passed to parish and town councils than currently exist, for those that would welcome it.
The two areas currently without a town or parish council (Harrogate town and Scarborough town) would also be supported to establish one or more town or parish councils if that is what local people want. People, voluntary organisations and businesses would also be given a louder voice via 25 community networks based around market town areas as drivers of renewal and innovation from the bottom up. Area constituency committees would oversee their local areas, champion their cause, strengthen relationships with their MPs and make important decisions locally on things including planning and licensing. They would hold a North Yorkshire council to account.