A SINGLE unitary authority is to be created in North Yorkshire in a move which will see the seven district and borough councils fused with the county authority, the Government has announced.

The authority will be paired with City of York Council as the area moves towards devolution and an elected mayor covering both unitary council areas.

The decision has been met with dismay by district and borough council leaders, who had proposed splitting the county and York on an east-west basis into two unitary councils with similar population sizes, but they said they would work with the county council to forge the best result for residents.

Announcing the decision, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick said he considered the single authority covering North Yorkshire met all three of the criteria the government set.

The government has concluded proposal to keep North Yorkshire County Council’s boundaries was likely to improve local government and service delivery across its area and would command a good deal of local support across the whole area of the proposal. He said the new unitary council would have a credible geography.

Mr Jenrick added: “I have also decided not to implement the proposal for two unitary councils – one council comprising the existing areas of Ryedale, Scarborough, Selby and the current unitary of York, and the other council comprising the existing areas of Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate and Richmondshire. I considered that this proposal did not meet the improving local government and service delivery and credible geography criteria.”

Mr Jenrick said he would seek parliamentary approval for the necessary secondary legislation to implement the decisions, laying draft structural changes before Parliament about at the end of the year, which would feature provisions for elections in May 2022 for the future unitary councils.

Councillors across the county have since been locked in a bitter struggle over the reorganisation, which has saw them warned by the county’s civic leader that they faced having a council system shaped by Whitehall mandarins unless they worked together to find a solution.

However, after the announcement Richmondshire District Council leader Councillor Angie Dale said the authority would accept the decision and work to produce the best outcome for residents.

The announcement came hours after a full meeting of North Yorkshire County Council hearing leaders of the rival proposals say it was vital local authorities accepted the result.

Former Ryedale council leader Councillor Keane Duncan said: “Previous examples of local government reorganisation have shown that legal challenges rarely if ever lead to success and do not serve the interests of taxpayers.”

The decision comes a year after local government minister Simon Clarke told the leaders of the county’s seven borough and district councils, county council and City of York Council, that local government reorganisation had become a requirement of devolution and a key part of the government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy for the area.

But opposition parties have maintained the reorganisation should be postponed as it would soak up council resources at a time when they are facing unprecedented pressures.

Within weeks of the minister’s request it emerged the county’s seven district and borough councils had poured hundreds of thousands of pounds of council tax into a “fighting fund” to battle against North Yorkshire and City of York Council’s plans to maintain their boundaries in the new unitary authorities.

There was further ill-will as Hambleton council dropped out of the district councils’ partnership backing east and west unitary authorities, with its leader stating he could not support anything that would not benefit the district’s residents.