We should resist any new Local Government Reorganisation - 8th August 2007


The failure of the County Council’s pre-emptive bid to take over Ryedale and the other district councils is unlikely to be the end of the story. Sooner of later the leaders of the “Change for the sake of Change” brigade who have nothing to do but look for even more new and innovative ways to interfere with and undermine our local rural democracy will ask us to waste even more time and tax payers’ money in considering merger with other districts and the partition of our shire county.


We have been through all of this before. The busybodies in Whitehall never give up, as anybody will see, if they follow all the articles on Reorganisation on my website. First there was the 1996 reorganisation. This followed invitations to consider merger with other districts. The invitation was rejected by the public, which led to Whitehall trying to impose its own structure on North Yorkshire. They gave up, but only after taking half Ryedale’s population and putting them with  York, against their wishes, without any financial or other benefit to any part of the former County area.


Then there were the Regional Government proposals. We were going to have Regional Government from Leeds, an elected assembly of 30 members of whom only 2 would represent the whole of North Yorkshire, and a cabinet of 6 would have absolute power. This was to be conditional on the merger of districts and the dismemberment of NorthYorkshireCounty. These drastic, undemocratic and stupid proposals were so discredited and unpopular that the Government did not even dare to put them to the promised plebiscite in the Yorkshire and Humber Region.


After the failure of the Regionalisation proposals, Councils wrote to Whitehall and asked for an assurance that they could get on with their work without fear of further reorganisation. This assurance was needed for recruitment of staff, as the best candidates were unlikely to reply to adverts for jobs if  the jobs were likely to be insecure. The assurance was duly given. It was just a piece of paper, and that is about the only value anybody can attach to anything that comes out of Whitehall these days!


Then we had last year’s White Paper.The kind of issues which the White Paper  addresses are symptomatic of cites where councillors represent sometimes more than 5,000 voters and voter turnout for local elections is low, crime drugs and unemployment are high, there are large numbers of “ethnicities” and a considerable “multicultural” element, schools perform badly, and Council estates are decaying, vandalised and badly managed. In short, the White Paper is primarily concerned with cities with large neglected inner city areas – not rural counties like North Yorkshire.


The White Paper seeks to solve these problems by bringing local government closer to the people. North Yorkshire’s bid would have made local government more remote, but that did not stop Whitehall encouraging it.


This all goes to show that what government says is not the same as what they want. The larger the authority, the easier it is to control, and Whitehall’s real concern is control – not improvement.


No government structure can be perfect. There is always room for improvement, and we should work with government to improve. However, we should resist any further “reforms” which might weaken local democracy. Let’s have no more in-fighting between authorities, and present a united front to promote and defend an improved status quo.


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