Purpose: This report seeks to inform the Executive Members, and asks the Leader to:
(a) Approve the submission of interim Ward boundaries for the new North Yorkshire Council for consideration by the Secretary of State.
(b) Approve a response to questions that are being asked prior to the drafting of the Structural Changes Order.
Considered– A report of the Assistant Chief Executive (Legal & Democratic Services) and Assistant Director - Policy, Partnerships and Communities seeking the Leader’s approval for the submission of interim ward boundaries for the new North Yorkshire Council, and a response to a number of questions being asked prior to the drafting of the Structural Changes Order.
County Councillor Carl Les introduced the report and thanked officers and members of the Working Group for their work on the review of ward boundaries. He recognised it was a complicated issue and drew attention to the following:
· The proposal laid out in the report was an interim solution only, and it was not a decision for the County Council but rather for the Secretary of State;
· The principles that had been applied to the review i.e. that single member wards were considered to be the best form of representation, the maximum limit of 90 Members set by MHCLG, and District Council ward boundaries had to be followed:
· The County Council was entitled to submit a supplementary proposal, and that two such proposals were being presented;
· He was minded to accept the recommendations of the Working Group set out in Appendix B, but would first give due consideration to a number of other options put forward by non-Executive Members;
County Councillor John Weighell, Chair of the Working Group confirmed that the rule of using present District Council ward boundaries with a leeway of +/- 30% had created a conflict with the principle of a Unitary Council of 90 members in single member wards. He noted there were three wards where it had proved impossible to achieve – Easingwold, Bedale and Selby West. He also noted it was geographically impossible in Whitby, but could be achieved mathematically.
He confirmed this had resulted in three different recommendations - Appendix B, which met in total the rules stated, and the two supplementary proposals (shown at Appendices C & D). He also confirmed the Working Group had not managed to reach a full consensus of agreement, and that there remained a number of contentious items.
County Councillor Helen Grant expressed disappointment that the parishes with the largest garrison footprint (Colburn, Scotton and Hipswell) were to be separated. She confirmed those parishes would be submitting representations to MCHLG to seek to keep the current garrison footprint.
County Councillor Stuart Parsons confirmed he could not support the Richmond proposal put forward by the Chair of the Working Group and that the original proposal put forward by officers and his alternative suggestion for the area (A8) had not been properly considered. He also suggested that neither the political leadership nor the administration at Richmondshire District Council were happy with the Working Group proposal for the area, and instead favoured the original officer proposal. It was noted that representations had also been received from Richmondshire District Councillor Pat Middlemiss and Scotton Parish Council.
In response, County Councillor John Weighell provided clarification on the Working Group’s views on the complex issues specific to Richmondshire.
Executive Members noted the different views and their merits but were minded to agree with the Working Group’s proposal for Richmondshire, recognising that this would not preclude other individuals/organisations from submitting their own alternative proposal to MCHLG. The Leader confirmed he was also minded to support the Working Group’s conclusion.
Members went on to discuss the other suggestions made by non-Executive members (A1 – A7):
· Members noted County Councillor Eric Broadbent’s suggestion (A1) that Selby should have 3 Councillors or be split into two wards i.e. Selby West with 2 Councillors and Selby East with 1 Councillor;
· It was noted that County Councillor John Weighell’s suggestion (A2) would have a knock on effect on the Easingwold district ward. He suggested it would be too small if split it into two, unless adding additional parishes from the Huby district ward, or unless joined with an alternative district ward as suggested by County Councillor Peter Sowray (A3) – The Leader confirmed he was minded to support suggestion A2;
· It was noted that the heading used for the suggestion of regrouping Barlby & Riccall and Cawood & Escrick wards (A4) was incorrect, but the content was correct. The Leader confirmed he was again minded to support the Working Group’s conclusion;
· County Councillor John Weighell confirmed the suggestion at A5 could not be looked at in isolation as it was linked to the supplementary proposal at Appendix D.
· The suggestion made by County Councillor Andy Solloway (A6) to group wards to form Skipton North & Embsay-with-Eastby ward and to form Skipton West & West Craven ward was discussed, but it was not supported as it resulted in a ward with two Councillors.
· County Councillor Phillip Broadbank expressed his concerns about the proposal for Harrogate as he felt it was particularly unfair to the residents of Harrogate & Knaresborough. He provided a detailed overview of his alternative suggestion (A7) to increase the number of Councillors in the Harrogate & Knaresborough constituency from 13 to 14 to ensure the area was not under-represented compared with all other areas in North Yorkshire. Whilst the complex issues affecting Harrogate area were acknowledged, the Leader confirmed he was still minded to support the Working Group’s conclusion bearing in mind it was only an interim view and a counter proposal could still be submitted. He also recognised that Harrogate would be best served by a Town Council, and it would address the issue of under-representation.
County Councillor Derek Bastiman left the meeting at 12:32pm to attend another meeting.
Barry Khan, Assistant Chief Executive (Legal & Democratic Services) confirmed the power to create the community governance review that would start the process of creating a Town Council currently lay with the District Council. He confirmed that as part of the Leader’s response to MHCLG a request would be made to allow preparations for the establishment of potential new Town Councils for Scarborough and Harrogate to be undertaken, if this is not progressed prior to vesting date by the District Councils. He also stated there was no guarantee that Government would grant such a power to the Implementation Executive.
The Leader went on to consider the supplementary proposals at Appendices C and D. It was noted that the first would result in the splitting of a number of two member wards into 1-member wards through the use of parishes as building blocks in a number of specific cases. In regard to the Washburn issue, it was noted that this matched the suggestion submitted by County Councillor Richard Musgrave (A5) to keep all unitary council wards within present constituency boundaries. On that basis the Leader, having considered the views of Executive Members was minded to support both supplementary proposals.
The Leader agreed to support the suggested revisions to a number of ward names (B1 – B3) and it was noted there would be a number of further ward names changes to consider now that the changes to wards had been agreed.
Finally, Barry Khan, Assistant Chief Executive (Legal & Democratic Services) confirmed that the Government had asked for the County’s and Districts views on a number of other issues that needed to considered when it drafted the Structural Change Order that created the new unitary authority. He drew attention to the summary of those issues at Appendix E, together with the proposed response on behalf of the County Council, and went on to categorise those issues into five broad areas requiring a response. He drew specific attention to a member-led proposal to ask for a moratorium on holding elections for 12 months prior to the vesting date in April 2023.
In response, the Leader confirmed his views in the report and that:
· The County Council’s suggested proposal to having ten Members from the County Council and one Member from each District Council properly reflected the reality in the County;
· A 12 month moratorium was a sensible approach;
Based on all of the information provided at the meeting and the views of all the members who had contributed, the Leader
Resolved: To approve:
(a) The submission of interim Ward boundaries for the new North Yorkshire Council, in line with the working group’s proposals as amended by the suggestion (A2) made by County Councillor John Weighell.
(b) The response to MHCLG with regard to the contents of the Structural Change Order, including a 12-month moratorium on holding elections prior to the vesting date in April 2023.