‘York is getting away with murder’ over devolution deal say North Yorkshire councillors
North Yorkshire councillors have backed devolution for the area, despite cross-party concerns York’s residents will be bigger winners than those in the county.
Less than 24 hours after City of York Council gave their seal of approval to the deal, which will see new powers and cash transferred from London, the county councillors followed suit.
However, numerous North Yorkshire councillors underlined their view that York’s 200,000 residents, rather than North Yorkshire’s 600,000 residents, would be the winners in a mayoral combined authority with just two councillors from each authority.
In a lengthy debate, many members said the proposals would hand a disproportionate amount of power to York.
But others said, although the deal was far from perfect, there was little option than to agree to it if the area wanted extra money from the government.
Labour group leader Cllr Steve Shaw Wright said devolution would happen whether people in North Yorkshire wanted it or not, while Craven District Council leader Richard Foster said branded the deal was “York-centric”.
Humanby councillor Michelle Donohue Moncrieff said: “York is getting away with murder here. It is being given equal parity with 600,000 people here. Somebody needs to tell them the game is up.”
The council’s former leader Cllr John Weighell said: “We all know that devolution as it’s listed for York and North Yorkshire is not perfection. Even though we are not getting what we would like it is better to get something than nothing.”
Ripon councillor Andrew Williams said York was a “basket case of a council that the poor residents in York have to suffer” and that many people in York would like to see it abolished and being a part of a wider North Yorkshire.
He told the meeting: “It is a local authority, quite frankly, which fails the people of York every day it opens its doors for business.”
Seamer division member Cllr Heather Phillips was among few councillors who expressed any solidarity with York.
She said: “York, we welcome you. We want to work with you and we’ll be a better North Yorkshire when we do that.”
The authority’s leader, Cllr Carl Les, added the deal on the table was “just the start” of negotiations with the government to hand more decision-making powers and funds directly to the area.
He added: “We have got to move on. The past is the past, this is the future. This is how government prefers to work. And if we negate that we are going to lose out yet again.”
Coun Les said the deal would help avoid bidding wars, by moving decision-making out of Whitehall to York and Northallerton, there would also be safeguards in place on the mayoral combined authority to protect the interests of both councils’ populations.