Green Party call for a halt on devolution plans to allow for a genuine public consultation
The Green Party has called for the reorganisation of North Yorkshire to be halted.
- They also want the Conservative government in London to ensure that any future reorganisation should follow a genuine public consultation which is guaranteed to result in the devolution of power, resources and training to a more local level such as town and village councils.
- The ongoing pressures of the government measures related to Coronavirus.
On the 9 October 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government asked councils in North Yorkshire to provide proposals for unitary government in North Yorkshire, with proposals to be submitted by 9 November 2020.
The carrot of moving to a unitary government would be that it frees up Devolution money for the county.
The current organisation of local government has York City Council already a unitary government, along with North Yorkshire County Council running some services and the Borough Councils running others.
The Borough Councils have worked together on a proposal and NYCC has worked with York City Council.
Both groups have employed consultants to write reports to support their proposals.
The Borough Councils have put forward an East, West split of the County into two unitary councils and NYCC have proposed keeping York City Council as it is, and a single unitary council for everything else.
The Councillors at NYCC have voted it through and HBC have also voted the Borough Councils proposal through.
Shan Oakes, Parliamentary candidate for Harrogate has said:
At a time when the public’s faith in politicians is at an all-time low, the Green Party wants to make sure that our local authorities serve the residents of North Yorkshire as effectively as possible.”
That is why we want to make sure that councillors are elected using a fair voting system which means that the make-up of any new authority reflects the views of local residents.
We are really concerned that the Conservative government in Westminster is trying to force through these changes whilst the public are more concerned about the global pandemic and instead of enhancing democracy, it will lead to the opposite.
As proposals, how can any of them demonstrate support from the general public of North Yorkshire?
There has been no meaningful level of involvement with the public, but each proposal must “command a good deal of local support” and evidence “evidence of a good deal of local support” – as in the letter from the Ministry. But how can they do that?
Harrogate Borough Council has had very little involvement in the media engagement except to roll out the leader of the Council for a pertinent quote. Jut hours before the proposal was to go before a council cabinet, they hastily put together an online press meeting, presumably as a box-ticking exercise to claim the media had been involved and were supporting.
What the Green Party are calling for:
- A meaningful public consultation on any proposed new local government structures. Such a consultation should be conducted fully within communities; to include a postal mail leaflet at the very least and not just an online consultation. This is to ensure inclusion for those who are on low income or vulnerable and who might not have access to the internet. Those who are service users of adult social care, help at home, reliant on buses etc could be disproportionately affected by any council re-organisation.
- Any new Council must underpin its activity with the commitment to address the climate emergency on the lines of the Green New Deal.
- Any new Council should have no fewer elected Councillors than currently exist in the current District Council arrangements to ensure proper representation for communities.
- The Single Transferable Vote should be used to elect both Councillors and the Mayor as is already the case in Scotland. This would ensure the Council/s are more representative of what could be much larger wards/divisions.
- The Mayor’s Business Plan and Budget need to be agreed by a majority vote of the whole Council to be enacted in the same way as happens with the London Mayor needing the approval of the Greater London Assembly to proceed.
- A nominated Deputy Mayor should be part of a Joint Ticket with the Mayoral Candidate in the elections. Deputy Mayors should not be appointees. It is crucial that those in powerful positions are directly accountable to citizens.
- Only Elected members should be part of the Mayor’s Cabinet. There should be no unelected appointees.
Article originally appeared on Harrogate informer.
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