John Clark writes…
First published: March 2015
‘Save our libraries’; ‘Save our buses’; ‘Save our Services’. These are frequent chants since the ConDem government savaged money to Councils. Liberals (not LibDems) would not have gone down the austerity route. Making the poorest and weakest pay for the squandering of the bloated bankers is clearly wrong.
Local councils have very little choice as to what to cut and no choice about cutting. In North Yorkshire Liberals believe savings could be made by removing a layer of bureaucracy. North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) and the Districts (Ryedale, Scarborough etc) each have a Legal Department, a Finance Department and a Human Resources Department. As a result North Yorkshire has 8 Chief Executives and 8 Heads of each of these Departments (not to mention 8 lots of councillors). Most of these could be combined across the whole of North Yorkshire.
- Savings as outlined above
- Only one council for people to contact on all issues
- Northallerton is very distant from Ryedale – both for the public and for councillors
Some local knowledge could be missing.
- Reduction in democracy – Ryedale could have 10 councillors instead of the present 36.
- Most of these disadvantages could be reduced by having a strong area committee. This committee would meet every 2 weeks to decide Planning, Leisure, Housing and other local issues.
At the December meeting of RDC a motion was passed (with Liberal opposition) to create a ‘Joint Committee’. This body would be responsible for transport and infrastructure. Yes, you guessed right, it would be a third tier of Local Government. It will, of course, have a Chief Executive, a Finance Officer and more bureaucracy; completely the wrong direction for saving money.
In February the Liberal Group on RDC asked the council to enter into discussions with NYCC and the other Districts; we asked them to look at the possible way forward for a North Yorkshire-wide ‘Unitary Council’. Our proposal was massively outvoted.
At the council meeting some concern was expressed about the possible negative impact on the people who work at RDC. These proposals would not impact on the workforce. Environment, Housing and Planning officers would all continue with the same jobs as present and still work in Ryedale. Those who would feel the changes would be the senior managers.
After a two year wage freeze local government employees have from the 1st January received a 2.2% award over 2 years. This National Agreement was for the lowest paid up to those on a maximum of £42,032. Not in Ryedale. They took the increase up to those on £70,000. Why? No answer. This is the group on £50,000plus, above which the redundancies would fall across North Yorkshire if we have a Unitary.
The savings from a Unitary (£20m to £40m each year) across North Yorkshire would be more than enough to continue with the buses and libraries completely uncut. Big problems need big solutions, not pay increases for a layer of senior managers that is not needed.