The number of councillors representing the Harrogate district as a whole could be reduced by nearly two-thirds after devolution, under proposals for a new super council in North Yorkshire.
A working group led by North Yorkshire County Council’s former leader Cllr John Weighell has concluded 89 councillors should be elected to serve communities stretching from Skipton to Whitby.
Under the current two-tier system, 57 councillors are elected to serve the Harrogate district on the district and county councils. Forty are elected to Harrogate Borough Council, which is the district authority, and 17 are elected to North Yorkshire County Council. Some people serve as councillors on both councils.
Under plans for the unitary council, just 20 councillors would be elected to serve the Harrogate district on the new super council — a drop of nearly two-thirds.
The proposals would see wards such as Harrogate Stray merged with Harrogate Hookstone to create larger new wards on the unitary council.
6,000 voters per councillor
The 89 councillors proposed for the whole of North Yorkshire on the super council would be 17 more than are currently elected to North Yorkshire County Council.
Each councillor would represent around 6,000 voters, which is almost double the number some currently represent.
There are concerns over councillors’ workloads under the new unitary authority because they will be responsible for matters currently covered by the county and seven district authorities.
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The number of elected members who will make decisions on the unitary authority and the composition of the wards they will represent is expected to be laid before parliament in January, ahead of polls in May to elect councillors to run the county council for a year and then sit on the unitary authority for a further four years.
Westminster to have final say
Proposed wards for the unitary council have been shaped by using parliamentary constituencies, district council wards or county council divisions.
Cllr Carl Les, the leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said:
“We will make a proposal, but it will be a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government decision.
“I’m pleased to see there has been proposed a very small number of two-member wards and no three-member wards.”
Cllr Les added that government guidance setting a maximum of 90 councillors for the unitary authority reflected the county council’s local government reorganisation proposal and would enable residents to be well represented.
The authority’s Labour group leader, Cllr Eric Broadbent, said while the proposal was following government-imposed rules, every political group appeared to be looking after their own interests.
“I hope that there is fairness all round. I’m keeping my eye on everything and if I get complaints from Labour members, I will propose changes.”