Liberal Democrat councillors on Harrogate Borough Council decided to walk out of extraordinary council on Wednesday evening, saying that the meeting was an unnecessary waste of time and taxpayers’ money.
The meeting was called to pull together a Council response to the Public Consultation on the Local Government Reorganisation. The Council has already responded, after the November 2020 meeting, when the majority of the Council supported an East West option and submitted that to Government.
The Liberal Democrats has said that Government clearly knows that Harrogate Borough Council does not want a whole North Yorkshire option. Why does the Council need to respond to the public consultation questions, how can all points of view be collated in the response?
Councillor Pat Marsh, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Harrogate Borough Council, said:
I and my fellow Lib Dems have responded as individuals, taking part in the Public Consultation. As neither of the 2 options on the table are what we feel would be better for our Residents in Harrogate District and because the 31 majority Conservatives would dominate the responses there seemed little point in remaining in the meeting.
We feel strongly that if we are being forced into this then the truly best option for our residents is the North South option, which has been dismissed by the Conservatives. This would have linked Harrogate to York, Selby and Craven, those links economically and culturally are the best for us, as are the connections by rail rather than by car.
We wrote to the Minister in December 2020 putting forward our case for the North South option and have never had a reply, not even an acknowledgement, which shows that he is only listening to Conservative voices.
We are being forced down this path at one of the most difficult times and despite this consultation many, many, Residents are unaware of what is going on and will have the Ministers Option forced on them.
Councillor Philip Broadbank, who is also a North Yorkshire County Councillor, said:
I cannot understand why this special Harrogate Borough Council meeting is being held. North Yorkshire County Council has reminded its elected Members that the consultation is taking place and encouraging them to individually respond by the 19th April deadline. The Minister is well aware of the two schemes submitted by the County and District Councils, so nothing has changed there.
The North/South option should have been included and properly considered as this was the best Unitary option for our District. There is also a danger that the changes will be rushed through at a time when the impact of the Covid pandemic will have not been properly assessed.
Such a major and important change to the structure of our local Government needs to be properly worked through in detail.