The County Council’s leaders believe the move by the Borough Council to bring forward a vote on whether to join the Combined Authority of West Yorkshire Councils or to stay in the North Yorkshire, York and East Riding bid would mean taking a crucial decision earlier than necessary before clear options have been set out before members.
Councillor Carl Les, Leader of North Yorkshire County Council said:
This vital decision on whether Harrogate district should remain with North Yorkshire or move decision-making powers to West Yorkshire is far too important to be taken too soon or too quickly.
I would ask Harrogate councillors to wait a short time for every option to be put before them.
I am concerned that Harrogate Borough Council is bringing the extremely important devolution matter for determination to council next week when such a decision is unnecessary and premature. I believe that members of the council are being asked to make a choice whilst various devolution deals are still being negotiated with government.
Surely the right time to take that decision is when there are clear options set out fully and clearly for councillors to consider.
The county council believes that the economic and social needs of North Yorkshire’s districts, with their mix of urban and rural populations, could be overlooked by an overwhelmingly urban West Yorkshire authority.
Moreover the West Yorkshire option is likely to bring about major additional costs for services and therefore for council tax payers, due to an extra layer of bureaucracy.
Cllr Don Mackenzie, County Council Executive Member and a Harrogate resident, said:
Why make a decision now?
Why not wait until we have all the options set out very clearly before us. It is my firm opinion that the best solution for Harrogate is to stay in the North Yorkshire, York and East Riding devolution bid, which has at its heart the ambitions and priorities of North Yorkshire, and especially of Harrogate.
In sharp contrast, I believe that joining a Combined Authority of West Yorkshire councils, headed by a Labour mayor, and committed to raising an additional tax, would not focus on the needs of Harrogate, and particularly on the infrastructure improvements, like a Harrogate bypass, which already lie at the heart of North Yorkshire’s Strategic Transport Prospectus and its Local Transport Plan which has just been adopted.