70% of residents back York’s continued independence

Arial view of York with Minster

Following cross-party support at Full Council on 29 October and evidence submitted by City of York Council to the government on 9 November, a report published today highlights overwhelming local support for York to remain an independent council on its existing footprint.

The report published by the Council 9 December has been submitted to government as further evidence to reject local government restructure in York.  It provides the views of York residents and stakeholder feedback, support for closer working with North Yorkshire County Council and considers the counter-proposal from neighbouring districts. 

Support from residents

Independent research commissioned by the Council to better understand the views of residents has found overwhelming local support to back York.  Working within the codes of practice of the Market Research Society, NWA Social and Market Research polled a sample of 504 residents and found:

  • More than two-thirds (70%) of all respondents said that they would prefer ‘York to remain as an independent council and to work closely with a single new North Yorkshire council’,
  • Only one-in-twelve (8%) overall said that they would prefer ‘York to become part of a new council, with City of York Council merged with the current Scarborough, Selby and Ryedale Councils’
  • the large majority (83%) of all respondents said that they feel a ‘very strong’ or ‘fairly strong’ connection to the ‘City of York’.

The research is published here: https://www.york.gov.uk/council/devolution-unitarisation/.

Support from stakeholders

City of York Council consulted a wide range of stakeholders about a potential local government reorganisation through a series of roundtable discussions.  In meetings with leaders from education, the voluntary and charitable, business, cultural and heritage sectors there is a strong consensus that the existing footprint should remain intact.  

Stakeholders expressed support for a variety of reasons, with stability and resilience noted as of paramount importance as the city recovers from the pandemic.

With letters of support sent direct to Luke Hall MP, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, stakeholders have commented –

“Given the need for the council to be prioritising Covid Recovery at this time, unnecessarily drawing York into structural changes at this time is unwelcome and would be detrimental to city wide efforts to build back better.” Jon Flatman, Chairman, York City Knights.

“York’s proportionate contribution to the proposed devolved region economically and in terms of its distinct identity, strengths and potential cannot be overstated, and for that reason the Chamber supports the opportunity to retain that distinct identity within the devolution and unitarisation proposal.” Andrew Digwood, President, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.

“We already sit in uncertain economic times and changes to the existing structure of York as an authority have the potential to create unnecessary uncertainty as we seek to make further investment around the city” Max Reeves, Director, Helmsley Group.

“We regard the retention of the City of York Council as a requirement for the alignment and streamlining we need in order to more readily break down boundaries between health and care and simplify joined up working.” Simon Morrit Chief Executive, York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; Phil Mettam Accountable Officer, NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group; Professor Stephen Eames CBE Chair, Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership.

Support for a strategic partnership across York and North Yorkshire

Following consideration of the proposed York and North Yorkshire Strategic Partnership Agreement at the Corporate and Customer Services Scrutiny Management Committee on 18 November, the committee has now written to the minister in support of the agreement.

The strategic partnership agreement published today sets out a joint agreement that describes how increased collaboration will accelerate recovery and avoid unnecessary costs and service disruption. 

Examples include:

  • Working jointly to recover from the pandemic
  • Coming together as equals regardless of population, land mass and GVA output.
  • Areas for collaboration such as responding to emergencies, strategic planning and housing, and environment and climate change

The district proposal

City of York Council confirmed in today’s report that although supporting the right of the Districts in putting forward a proposal, at no time has any of the proposals been ratified by the council, nor evidence provided to support the claims against York’s case.

At this stage, the council is unable to provide a detailed analysis of the full proposal as it has yet to be made public.  

Responding to such overwhelming local support Cllr Andy, D’Agorne, Deputy Leader of the City of York Council said:

“I would like to thank all residents and partners who fed back how important it is to them that York retains its unique character and size.

“Of course it is right that neighbouring authorities provide proposals they believe best benefits their residents, however, York residents have spoken. They overwhelmingly reject any notion of local government restructure here in York.

In addition, by signing the Back York petition residents will encourage the House of Commons to listen closely to York residents and businesses and to commit to working together on any decisions affecting York’s council.

All York residents and businesses are encouraged to get involved and show their support for York by adding their name to the Back York petition that declares they are “best served by having an independent council on its current boundaries”.

Show your support, and sign here: www.change.org/webackyork

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