With many years of talk regarding devolution, you would have been excused for thinking it was never going to happen.

But with the Government’s levelling up agenda accelerating plans, it is now undeniable that change is coming to North Yorkshire.

The Government are currently consulting on proposals for unitary authorities, which would together create a combined authority headed by a mayor charged with the task of attracting jobs, investment, and business to our region.

You only have to look to our regional neighbour in the Tees Valley to see how an effective mayor can revitalise an economy and steer their region on course to a future of success and prosperity.

As we emerge from the pandemic, it has never been more important to ensure that we get change right.

City of York Council has allocated an ample share of their communication budget – or residents’ council tax money – on promoting only one option available for devolution, which would effectively mean no change to York.

I will therefore take the chance to use my column to promote the other option, which I feel has the potential to solve many longstanding issues affecting our city while cashing in on the full potential of devolution.

As I have previously written in my column, I favour the East-West model which would halve the county of North Yorkshire to create two unitary authorities with a roughly equal population and economy. It would also position our county’s two major urban areas – York and Harrogate – in different councils.

The two councils would also have two natural focusses with the West side comprising of the Dales and the East side featuring the Moors as well as our stunning coastline.

I understand that some are hesitant about York becoming only one voice amongst those of Scarborough, Ryedale and Selby.

But to me it is clear that currently our local authority is too small to be truly effective.

We already coordinate NHS, fire and police services across a larger geographical footprint than our city, so why can we not do the same for local government?

It would allow us to streamline services and deliver a minimum of £33 million in savings, which could be passed on to residents.

Although some in the opposition seem to disagree, our city is far more than her local government boundaries.

In fact, City of York Council has only been in existence for the last 24 years and prior to this York was represented on North Yorkshire County Council.

Many of my constituents still write to me comparing current service provision to when Haxby was in Ryedale District, Poppleton was in Harrogate Borough, Dunnington was in Selby District and services were administered by North Yorkshire County Council.

The old York City Council will even be reborn in the guise of our city’s own locality forum, which will retain powers to decide planning matters, spend highways budget and award community grants.

So, with our local voice on key matters protected, we can join forces to with our neighbours to pool expertise, attract investment and deliver big projects – something City of York Council has sadly proven incapable of doing efficiently.

Since I was first selected as the Conservative Party candidate for York Outer in 2007, City of York Council has had four administrations with four different political make-ups.

We have had a local plan, scrapped a local plan, rewritten a local plan and are now seemingly making no progress on adopting the local plan.

Our Community Stadium took two decades to progress from idea to reality, running overtime and over budget.

With a track record of instability hampering progress, I do not hesitate to endorse an alternative.

If you are wary of a politician’s endorsement then I am proud to be supporting change with some of York’s leading businesses, all of which have enough experiencing interacting with City of York Council to make an informed decision.  

Leading figures within the department store Browns of York, estate agents Hudson Moody, York Dungeons, Bettys tearooms and the Star Inn group of restaurants are all backing East West showing cross sector support. 2021 is a year of change and we believe we need to get change right with the East-West model of devolution for North Yorkshire.