LOCAL government reorganisation in North Yorkshire is of paramount importance to every resident and business, and it is our hope and belief that it can be accomplished in a spirit of co-operation that is to everybody’s benefit.

We continue to believe that working together in a calm and constructive atmosphere is the right way forward.

The Government’s position is that we can have devolution, of decisions and funding, but only if there is local government reorganisation, so we must work towards the best outcome for our residents that maximises new funding and opportunities to make North Yorkshire an even better place to live and work.

We believe that because one authority already successfully delivers the majority of services across an area of 3,000 square miles, a strong case can be made for a single, completely new, authority to do so in future, combining the services currently provided by the county council and those of the district councils. There is no criticism in this of those services or councils.

In no sense are the proposals being put forward by North Yorkshire County Council some sort of takeover. All councils will be dissolved and a brand new unitary authority would be created and its members elected by North Yorkshire’s people.

What we are trying to do is capture the best of both worlds in that new single authority, and at a reduced cost. We deliver strong, valued and well-respected services now. We don’t just want to shape the proposal so that it leads to a good new council; we want to shape it so it leads to an excellent new council.

We have invited every district council leader, every group leader and other third parties to have discussions with us in pursuit of that aim. We believe in working across political divides, public and private sector interests, and geographic boundaries, as we do so now.

We know that in a county with a population of 610,000 people there will be a wide range of views and absolutely respect the right of the district councils to put forward their own proposals, alongside ours. It will then be up to the Government to make the final decision.

The views of North Yorkshire’s people are of paramount importance to us, and we are absolutely committed to localism.

Last week, we held a webinar at which 250 representatives from town and parish councils from right across the county heard how Cornwall, which has already gone through this process, has successfully delivered localism, and the new authority would do likewise. A working group has been set up to take this forward.

Even though formal consultation with key stakeholders will be carried out by the Secretary of State once he has decided on the form of reorganisation he believes will work best, we are doing all we can to gather opinion.

We want the best for the people and businesses of North Yorkshire we serve, and believe that a single new authority offers the greatest opportunity to deliver that.

Carl Les, Leader, (Catterick), Gareth Dadd, Deputy Leader, finance, (Thirsk), Janet Sanderson, Children's Services (Thornton-le-Dale), Patrick Mulligan, Skills and Education (Airedale), Caroline Dickinson, Public Health (Northallerton), Don Mackenzie, Highways and Transport, (Harrogate Saltergate), Cllr Michael Harrison, Adult Social Care, (Killinghall and Nidderdale), Greg White, Libraries and Customers, (Pickering), Andrew Lee, Business, (Cawood), David Chance, Stronger Communities, (Whitby), North Yorkshire County Council.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

The Upper Falls at Aysgarth, pictured after heavy rain, by Tim Dunn, of Stokesley

County split

I HAVE been reading various articles and letters in the D&S Times and find it most disturbing that various councillors want to split up this magnificent county with such a great history and tradition.

For almost 50 years the county has done a great job handling about 80 per cent of all local government issues. It now seems logical for the county to absorb the other 20 per cent the districts have been managing. At the same time, the historic market town parishes can take back some of the duties they had back in 1973, be they called a parish, town or in the case of Ripon a City Council.

A typical example would be for Knaresborough as a castle market town, to once again manage its own market, Castle, Town Hall and Conyngham Hall. Harrogate and Scarborough can re-establish their historic town councils and concentrate on being a bespoke spa town and coastal resort.

The Minister for Local Government has already set up a York and North Yorkshire LEP and it seems logical for him to mirror that with York and North Yorkshire unitary authorities [perhaps Selby going in with York for geographical and numerical reasons].

North Yorkshire is the largest county in England and it is important that the residents show appreciation for the excellent work the county has and will do. It is important to retain and be proud of our remarkable county history and amazing natural and built heritage.

David Rhodes, Ripley, Harrogate.

The big issues

ALL the huffing and puffing about exactly what form unitary government will take as part of the devolution deal for North Yorkshire which has taken up much space in the D&S in recent weeks is all rather academic for most people who are not senior council managers with juicy salaries at stake or councillors who are worrying about the loss of their allowances.

All people really care about is whether their bins get emptied, their local leisure centre is run reasonably efficiently and someone keeps the streetlights on.

Whether their council tax is sent to them by someone in a council office in Northallerton, Richmond, Harrogate or Scarborough is neither here nor there.

I suspect a forthcoming public consultation on this issue is not going to get an enthusiastic response.

Geoff Cousins, Catterick.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Reeth in the valley by Heather Middleton

Dog's breakfast

I HAVE just seen the plan suggested by the district councils for the shape of unitary local government in North Yorkshire and what a complete dog's breakfast it is.

Drawing what seems like an arbitrary north-south line through North Yorkshire simply to make the numbers in each authority roughly equal truly is back-of-an-envelope stuff. I bet KPMG (the consultants hired by the districts to draw up a report laughably described as "independent") are laughing all the way to the bank with the £170,000 of our money the districts are spending on this.

When this exercise was carried out last about 15 years ago, consultants tried to carve up North Yorkshire into three unitary districts and we got really bizarre suggestions then. The same thing has happened now.

The only unitary local authority shape which makes sense for North Yorkshire is one based upon the existing county boundaries. We all know what North Yorkshire is and can readily identify with it. Quite what you would call a local authority combining Hambleton, Richmondshire, Craven and Harrogate I don't know. Even more puzzling would be one made up of Scarborough, York, Ryedale and Selby.

The districts say one unitary based on the county boundary would be too remote. Well, North Yorkshire is a remote place by simple fact of geography. Right now, in Richmondshire district, Hawes is remote from Richmond and Shipton-by-Beningbrough in Hambleton district is remote from Northallerton.

Under the districts' plan for a West North Yorkshire council, Great Ayton and Settle would be remote from wherever the new council would be based. In an East North Yorkshire council, Sandsend, currently in the northern-most part Scarborough district, and Kirk Smeaton, at the southern tip of the Selby district, would be remote from wherever that council would be based. Where those new councils would have their headquarters is an interesting question in itself.

If one North Yorkshire council based in Northallerton – the natural and long-established home of local government in the county – can make a reasonable fist of running schools and providing children’s and older people services across the county (as is the case at present) we have to believe such a local authority could do the same for the services provided at the moment by district councils.

A unitary county council based on current boundaries is a no-brainer.

Juliet Kingdom, Melsonby.

Diversion confusion

I FELT somewhat compelled to drop you a line about the recent problems that have arisen as a result of the management of traffic through Richmond town centre as a result of the closure of Victoria Road after the fire at the garage there.

Residents were faced with little clarity as to the diversion route as the signage provided by the county council’s Highways team was both inadequate and, especially, very confusing. In addition, diversion signage to Nuns Close car park, the main one for the town, was non-existent and added much to the disarray.

There was scant guidance for visitors and, for me, this was epitomised by the poor chap, with his caravan in tow and family on board who was posted down Rosemary Lane and, upon encountering Newbiggin, given little idea as to how he could continue his journey to the Dales. He was, like so many, very confused and angry at the lack of clarity.

And the snarl ups that resulted from this miasma of confusion meant that many of us locals avoided the town centre, and our usual shopping haunts, for a couple of weeks; a most disappointing thing to do as many local businesses are just about picking up again after months of closure.

Most of us would be loath to criticise the Highways’ team. Not so long ago they worked miracles keeping our flood stricken roads open and vital routes active. But, on this occasion, they fell short and we’d like to think that they’ll have learnt a crucial lesson here.

On a positive note, the fact that an incident that could have been far worse was contained by the speedy reaction of the staff and emergency services, has to be highly commended.

Gary Potter, Richmond.

Subscription TV

FIRST I'd like to thank Ian Wilson for taking the time to reply to my letter (D&S Times letters, Aug 28) giving his views on the BBC and the licence fee, if I may, I'd like to answer his excellent points in turn.

In the 1970s when there were only three television channels then yes I agree it was a public service, now when there are hundreds, no it's not. Equating the licence fee to council tax to pay for local services is certainly one argument, whereas I prefer to see it like road tax. If someone chooses not to own or drive a car, should they still pay the tax because the upkeep of the roads helps their community?

As for bias on news coverage, that is much harder to either prove or disprove as it relies too heavily on subjective experience. I could point to the comments from Emily Maitlis and Naga Munchetty as evidence of bias, whereas you might say that's holding governments to account. The outgoing Director General, Tony Hall, has called for more diversity and that might be to appear to be doing something to protect their revenue streams.

My personal perception is shaped by two stories I read on the same day in March on the BBC website. They referred to marches in New Zealand and America, one led with "Right-wing protesters clash with police", the other led with "Left-wing activists demonstrate against police". To me that's bias of perception and I don't like it.

As regarding Sky, yes I know it's a global corporation and it doesn't pretend to be anything else. I pay my subscription knowing full well what I'm doing and with two distinct advantages over everyone watching the BBC.

Firstly, I can cancel my subscription any time I want, without the threat of prosecution. And secondly, I'm also exposed to different points of views which give me a wider perspective. Try watching some clips of Larry Elder or Anthony Brian Logan to see a different perspective, or even Tucker Carlson from Fox News. There's a bigger world outside the BBC.

Mark Wake, Stokesley.

Health services

I REFER to the letter entitled Health Hub (D&S Times, Aug 28) and would like to reassure Mr Harden that I do not begrudge Catterick Garrison benefitting from a new health hub. I was also pleased to read that the location will be the site of the Duchess of Kent’s Military Hospital, the closure of which, over 20 years ago, was a sad loss not only to Catterick Garrison but to Richmond and the wider local area.

In the meantime I have had a response from our MP, Rishi Sunak, in which he assures me that “the development of new facilities to cater for the growing population on the Garrison does not necessarily mean a reduction in services in Richmond”. He goes on to say that “there are no plans to reduce the GP services in Richmond in order to build the new integrated care centre in the Garrison”. So, no need for the residents of Richmond to worry about the future of their GP services.

Patricia Kassell, Richmond.

Strange society

FOLLOWING recent events I wonder what kind of society we live in when a footballer earns the same in one week as a care worker earns in twelve years?

Sue Barton, Sessay.