YORK council is launching a major consultation on the way the city should be run.

A mailshot will be going out to every household in the city from Monday. The key question: should York be part of a larger combined authority that includes Ryedale, Selby and Scarborough? Or should things stay more or less as they are?

An online survey has already been launched here.

Under the government's devolution programme, district councils such as Ryedale are effectively being done away with.

In the local government reorganisation that will result, there are two options on the table for York and North Yorkshire:

  • split the county east/ west, with York forming part of a new eastern authority that includes Ryedale, Selby and Scarborough
  • a 'doughnut' approach, where York would remain an independent authority, but would be surrounded on all sides by a new North Yorkshire unitary authority.

Both York and North Yorkshire County Council favour the latter. Many of North Yorkshire's district councils, however, favour the former.

The changes will go hand-in-hand with moves to create a new, directly-elected Mayor for the whole of York and North Yorkshire.

That directly-elected Mayor could be in place as early as 2022 under government plans, City of York Council leader Keith Aspden said at a briefing today.

He or she would have responsibility for strategic decisions and investment - and would also take on the role of police and fire commissioner.

Cllr Aspden stressed that the process could have major benefits for York.

Provided the city accepted the idea of a directly-elected Mayor, it would be able to tap into as much as £2.4 billion of government cash over 30 years. That money would be administered by the new directly-elected Mayor, with input from council leaders - and could be used for major transport projects (such as re-opening Haxby station) and for major developments like York Central.

But the city council has also made it clear that if local government were to be re-organised with York as part of a new combined authority including Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby, there could be huge costs that would have to be born by local taxpayers.

The cost of re-drawing council boundaries and in effect creating a whole new council could be 'tens of millions of pounds', Cllr Aspden said.

And York residents would also see their council tax hiked. Council tax in neighbouring councils is 'significantly higher' than in York, he pointed out. "York residents pay low council tax, with the 7th lowest level of any unitary authority in England, and significantly lower than neighbouring councils," he said.

"Any merger with more expensive neighbouring authorities would require council tax levels to be harmonised across the new area."

District councils in North Yorkshire disagree.

A proposal to split the county into two authorities, with York forming part of the eastern authority, has already been submitted by Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby councils.

“Our model will likely achieve greater financial savings in the long-term, stronger democracy and more effective services, while best delivering the Government’s devolution agenda," said Councillor Keane Duncan, leader of Ryedale District Council.

York has until the end of October to submit its own favoured proposal to Government. "It is incredibly important that local residents, businesses and organisations have their say on these key issues," Cllr Aspden said.

Take part in the online 'Our Big Conversation' consultation here. Alternatively, mailshots will be arriving through doors from Monday.