From Councillor Paul Andrews (Malton Ward)



2 The Beeches, Great Habton

York YO17 6RS

Telephone 01653-669023 Website www.paul-andrews.net

e-mail: paul@sail-apollo.fsnet.co.uk

May 2007


Dear sir,


County Council Merger Bid


I must reply to the letter from the four County councillors who found my article “The County Council merger bid must not succeed” uncomfortable reading.


They say the County Bid was not promoted out of a desire for self-preservation: County was merely responding to a Whitehall invitation. Well, County did not have to respond to the invitation with a bid to take over the districts. There were other alternatives. So I do believe their main motive is self-preservation.


They say decision making will not be remote. This is arrant nonsense. The new Council will have 144 members who will meet less than quarterly. Only 12 of these members will represent Ryedale. Most of the rest will know very little about Ryedale. The more densely populated urban areas will have more representatives than Ryedale. The 144 will deal with the budget and decide how to delegate decisions to the Cabinet and Area Committees. It follows that the cabinet, comprising only 9 members, will make all major policy decisions and many more decisions besides. Membership of the Cabinet will be confined to a single political party, which will have absolute power. Because the County is so huge and diverse, they won’t have time to give adequate consideration to all the matters that require their attention, and this will lead to rubber stamping some decisions and delaying others. We all know how long it takes to get a decision out of County now.


County does do a good job on education: in other matters, particularly highways, this is debatable. As regards education, this is largely dictated by central government, and the County has very little discretion. Moreover, schools are by law required to have devolved budgets, which are set by national criteria and they are semi-autonomous.


The County Area committees are different. They have to operate within budgets and  policies which are handed down to them from the County cabinet. They will have no right to a precept, no power to levy council tax, and just 12 local Ryedale members will have no chance if they want to challenge their budget or the County’s policies. The cabinet will decide how to allocate resources all over the county, and there will be winners and losers, which could depend on the outlook of the political party which forms the cabinet.


This is not local democracy.


As regards finance, I have learnt to be cynical about what government accountants say on the costs of a future reorganisation which they want. I have been in local government since 1973, and seen many reorganisations since then. In all cases, Government told us there would be savings. In every case, the result was a rise in the rates or Council Tax.


Why should it be different this time?


I also fear for Ryedale’s reserves. The costs of reorganisation have been assessed at between £13.5M (by County) and £40M (by the Districts). Where is this money going to come from? There is no written assurance in the County proposals which would prevent Ryedale’s £8M  reserves being wasted on this unnecessary administrative exercise.


Yours faithfully





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