Ryeview – May 2007

Time to make a noise to halt ‘regional government’

John Clark writes…

First published: May 2007 – Gazette & Herald

Ryedale District Council is in a disagreement with the government. The government wants larger local government while RDC wants to stay in its present form. The next problem is North Yorkshire County Council has come over the horizon and offered the government a solution. NYCC will deliver a larger council for the government. The whole of North Yorkshire will become one ‘unitary’ council.

The proposals are, at best, remote and undemocratic and at worst an elected costly dictatorship. In recent years, many of RDC meetings have had the public gallery full to capacity. This is democracy at work. Future meetings would be held in Northallerton during the working day. How often is a meeting of nine ‘lackeys’ selected by the Chairman of North Yorkshire going to attract such public involvement?

As for it being local, the failure is summed up in one heading for their document. ‘Localism: the big picture’ (!) They refer to the solutions in rural areas as partnership working and rural bus services. If these are the solutions, why are they not doing it? Where are the reliable/frequent bus services? I wonder why they don’t mention well maintained roads. They state that only 4.8% of the population get to work by public transport (compared with the 14.9% national average). NYCC has clearly failed. This government will probably see these failures as a qualification for NYCC taking on more.

NYCC describes one of the key weaknesses in the current structure as ‘partnership working is complicated and bureaucratic and uses up valuable resources that could go into services’. On the opposite page, NYCC explains how it will work in ‘partnerships’.

The other major failing in the NYCC proposal is the destruction of our local democracy. For example, the local area of Pickering and Cropton has five District Councillors and one County Councillor. This will change to two councillors going to Northallerton. The proposal claims to make the councillors more visible and accountable. They are also expected have more time to engage with local people and organisations. Apart from being illogical, it implies that one new councillor will do a better job than five existing District Councillors – that is simply insulting.

What is the solution to this threat from the government and NYCC? RDC suggests – more partnership working. I don’t see how this addresses the governments request for the local council; to be larger. Ignoring this objective from the government will not work. It is like sharing a rowing boat with an elephant. If the elephant wishes to move then so be it. Maybe rather than suggesting that RDC stays the same, RDC should be proposing a merger with Scarborough Council. Not a partnership but a new council. This would give a larger population without becoming remote. It would be a positive proposal to central government. It would not need all the area committees, fora and hotch potch of different parish and town councils doing different things in different areas. It could be more efficient, local and more democratic than either partnership working or the county proposal.

One depressing twist to the whole process is that the County Council is using our money to argue its case. The District Councils are using our money to repel the bid. Yet when our money has been spent in this strange wrangle, we will have no say in the decision. In effect, an organisation the size of Regional government will be being delivered despite the known opposition. The public must make as much noise as possible in protest. Maybe the Gazette and Herald could lead.

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