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Calls for North Yorkshire Council to hand more powers to local committees

Monday, 19 December 2022 18:25

By Thomas Barrett, Local Democracy Reporter

County Hall, Northallerton (Image: NYCC)

Councillors in Craven have called on the new North Yorkshire Council to give area committees powers to make decisions.

Currently, county councillors in parliamentary constituency areas such as Skipton & Ripon and Harrogate & Knaresborough meet every few months to discuss and debate issues from education and transport to housing and the environment.

Area Constituency Committees can propose motions and make recommendations to the council’s executive, but in practice, the bodies have have little power.

The impending abolition of the seven district councils in North Yorkshire will concentrate decision-making into the hands of the new unitary authority in Northallerton, which has led to concerns that local councillors will find it harder to influence decisions affecting their areas.

At a meeting of the Skipton & Ripon’s area committee last week, Andy Brown, Green Party councillor for Aire Valley, said local government reorganisation presents an opportunity for area committees to become “more than talking shops”.

Cllr Brown said: “We have to decide whether the area committees are with people with a vision for the area and are thirsty with ideas, or do we want to lobby the MP and listen to a few reports?

“We’d like to be hearing officers on important issues like economic development, we’d like powers on things like planning. We’d like to send a message to the executive that local area committees need to be significant.”

A similar sentiment was voiced by North Yorkshire Independent councillor for Glusburn, Cross Hills & Sutton-in-Craven, Philip Barrett, who said he wants to see “major changes” to how area committees operate. He said: “We don’t just want a revamp, we also need a budget. The executive has been very centralised, it needs to let go of some powers and trust the area committees so it can function and play an active role. They are the local link to the areas, we want to make sure that’s a meaningful one so the public understands we play a vital role.

“We want areas to deliver things like highways, economic development not just planning and we need to be able to influence far more than the existing area committees can do”.

Last week, North Yorkshire County Council announced the new authority will create six new planning committees to oversee decisions across parliamentary constituency areas to run alongside the current area committees.

Conservative councillor for Mid-Craven, Simon Myers, who also has responsibility for planning on the council’s executive, said he supports area committees “taking some of the burden” off North Yorkshire Council. 

Cllr Myers said: “I was involved with running Craven District Council for many years and I know how many decisions we took. The idea that the executive can take all those decisions from Bentham to Scarborough is to me, too much work. I can see using area committees to take some of that burden as a valid thing to do.”

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