Craven councillors have warned they are facing a "virtually impossible job" to serve the needs of all their constituents on the new North Yorkshire Council.
In May’s elections voters will choose nine councillors to represent Craven on the new council – a big change from the 30 currently serving the district’s 57,000 population.
The arrangements have been proposed as part of reorganisation which will see North Yorkshire’s county and district councils – including Craven – scrapped in April 2023 when the new council takes over.
The aim is to streamline structures and save money, but councillors have warned that with larger areas to cover and more responsibilities over key services they will struggle to meet the needs of all their constituents.
Councillor Andrew Brown, leader of the Green Party group on Craven District Council, said: “The new arrangements leave councillors with a virtually impossible job to be well known in each of the local areas they are trying to serve.
“For example, one councillor will be trying to represent an enormous area stretching across Gargrave, Long Preston, Hellifield and Malhamdale.”
Councillor Andrew Solloway, who is leader of the Independent group on Craven District Council and also sits on the county council, added: “My concern is that planning, environmental health and licensing concerns that directly impact residents, as well as highways, will mean a big increase in workload for one councillor.
“I would have preferred a few more councillors, particularly in more urban areas and market towns.”
Overall, there will be 90 councillors representing 89 divisions on the new North Yorkshire Council, all of whom will be elected in May.
They will initially serve as county councillors for one year before transferring across to the new council in April 2023. After this, the next elections will take place in 2027.
The changes are linked to a devolution deal and will mark the biggest shake-up to local government in North Yorkshire in almost 50 years.
A deal could see billions of pounds in funding and decision-making powers transferred from central government to the county, with the possibility of a North Yorkshire and York mayor being elected in 2024.
Councillor Brown and councillor Solloway said they both recognised the benefits of devolution, but flagged further concerns over how the new council could take shape.
Councillor Brown said: “I continue to believe that large geographical areas and a first past the post voting system is to the advantage of the largest party and we risk having a council that is securely under the control of one single party.
“It also means the council risks not hearing the needs or the views of significant sections of the electorate. That is really bad for democracy.”
Councillor Solloway added: “The current yearly increase in council tax is not sustainable. National government needs to be putting more resources in and if and when they do, the new council has to be ready for that.
“We need to lobby hard for North Yorkshire to get some serious help with replacing its crumbling infrastructure, not just roads, but sewage, health services and other transport.”
Here are the Craven councillor wards for the new North Yorkshire Council:
- Glusburn, Cross Hills and Sutton-in-Craven
- Bentham and Ingleton (including Clapham)
- Aire Valley (including Lothersdale and Cowling)
- Wharfedale (including Barden Fell, Grassington and Upper Wharfedale)
- Skipton East and South
- Settle and Penyghent
- Skipton West and West Craven
- Mid Craven (including South Milford, Gargrave, Malhamdale, Hellifield and Long Preston)
- Skipton North and Embsay-with-Eastby