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Leaders call on county council to end "propaganda" on bid for mega council

North Yorkshire’s seven district and borough council leaders have called on the county council to stop using “propaganda” as it campaigns to create England’s largest ever unitary authority.

It comes after a North Yorkshire County Council press release, issued on Wednesday, falsely claimed neighbouring Durham County Council had backed its plan for a single unitary for the county.

The release was accompanied by a video of Durham’s chief executive Terry Collins, who said “there is no better way of operating”. But just hours after its release, Durham’s leader, Councillor Simon Henig, categorically denied any such support had been given.

“We have not had a vote on this and would not seek to give our views on what should happen in other areas,” he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

While Cllr Henig said he would not back North Yorkshire’s bid, other leading politicians in Durham went further, and warned North Yorkshire against becoming a single unitary authority.

Independent group leader Councillor John Shuttleworth, who originally backed the proposal for a single unitary, said it turned into a “a total and utter disaster”, while Conservative group leader Councillor Richard Bell said the savings from becoming unitary had actually been “fairly modest”.

This public rebuttal prompted leaders of North Yorkshire’s seven districts and boroughs to call on the county council to “play fair” with the public as it campaigns to create its mega-council delivering all services across 8,000 square kilometres.

Speaking on behalf of North Yorkshire’s seven district and borough council leaders, Councillor Mark Crane said:

“The public deserve honesty and fairness as we work out the future of local government in North Yorkshire and York. But it is becoming clear that North Yorkshire County Council is instead resorting to propaganda to overstate support for its mega-council model.

“In contrast, we're listening to the public and we're thinking carefully, because we want to get change right. We are exploring all of the options with an independent study and we will ultimately be guided by evidence.

“Early analysis shows there are practical and democratic benefits to creating two unitary authorities with roughly even populations. This would result in new councils across North Yorkshire and York, both large enough to be efficient into the future but local enough to keep local connections to our communities.

“We promise to play fair, to be frank, and to be open and responsive to feedback, as we work with our residents, businesses and partners to build the very best proposal for new local government. We call upon North Yorkshire County Council to do the same.”

The district and borough council leaders are: Cllr Richard Foster (Craven), Cllr Mark Robson (Hambleton), Cllr Richard Cooper (Harrogate), Cllr Angie Dale (Richmondshire), Cllr Keane Duncan (Ryedale), Cllr Mark Crane (Selby) and Cllr Steve Siddons (Scarborough).

The leaders’ own approach to local government reform is set out at:

www.get-change-right-com The site also includes a feedback form and details of engagement sessions.

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