City of York Council leader Keith Aspden and deputy leader Andy D'Agorne put forward their views on devolution and local government reorganisation in a joint statement

As many residents will have seen from recent media coverage, conversations are currently taking place about how devolution can be secured for York.

A devolution deal could potentially unlock significant investment over the next 30 years, with a focus on improving the economic prosperity for all residents and businesses. However, any devolution deal has to be right for York and be of direct benefit to our residents, communities and businesses.

As part of these discussions, the Government have made it clear that any area seeking devolution must also include plans to remove 2-tier county and district local government structures from their respective areas.

To achieve this, there are only two options being put forward. The first, would see York remain on its existing footprint, whilst North Yorkshire creates a new unitary authority, comprised of the borough and districts within its footprint. The second, proposed by the district authorities, is an east/west split that would see York merge with Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby, covering a huge geography that would stretch 65 miles north to south, and 45 miles east to west.

For York, we firmly believe that York’s footprint should remain unchanged, in order to retain local decision making in the city, focus our efforts on recovery from the pandemic, avoid significant disruption and cost, and continue to deliver value for money services to residents, businesses and communities.

From the analysis carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), it can be seen that a change to City of York’s existing footprint will see an anticipated 8% rise in Council tax for local residents. In addition to this, there will also be significant disruption to local services and existing partnership arrangements, and of course, the erosion of the city’s historical identity.

We know that through consultation, many residents, business and communities simply do not want their priorities being diluted through a larger and rural geography –one which has no functional, historical or logical link to York. Instead, residents feel strongly that we should, quite rightly, focus our efforts and resources to secure a strong recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic.

For this reason, the best way to avoid significant disruption at this critical time, secure investment in the city quickly, and focus on our recovery, is with City of York continuing as a unitary authority. Any other model of local government would fail to effectively represent York’s history, communities and the unique characteristics of the city.

York’s beautiful heritage and strong history is recognised across the world, and we are a city with a series of unique strengths and opportunities. Instead of talking about changing York, we should be making the case for York. That is why our position is to put forward a proposal which retains City of York Council on its existing footprint, as any change to include surrounding rural and coastal areas would make it harder to meet York’s own unique challenges.

Quite simply, decisions that affect York’s residents, businesses and communities, should continue to be made in York.