COUNCILLORS say residents are “furious” at the £20,000 cost of a consultation over a merger they never wanted - and have ruled out holding a public meeting because there is nothing new to say.

A major consultation exercise is being held affecting over 9,000 people, to see if Bedale town council and Aiskew and Leeming Bar parish council should merge. It’s been triggered by a clause which forces a referendum if a petition is signed by 250 people in each parish. Both councils have said in the past they don’t want it.

At a meeting of Bedale council, members said residents had been astounded at the cost of the exercise which Hambleton district council is responsible for carrying out. Information and consultation documents have been sent to all residents and businesses affected.

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Cllr Malcolm Young said the area was changing because of new housing but there was a lot of concern. “People have got absolutely furious about it because it is a lot of money. Of all the arguments I’ve heard I haven’t heard of any benefit. This pulls at the heart strings, a lot of the older generations think of themselves as a separate identity,” he added.

Cllr Mike Barningham said Aiskew and Bedale were almost like one geographically with a beck between them, but Leeming Bar looked like a different community. “Bedale and Aiskew is almost like one anyhow, the argument to keep it as it is is a little bit flawed,” he added.

Cllr Clive Pointon said: “The older generations of Bedale and Aiskew see themselves as a separate identity, while a lot of new and younger people have the idea that Bedale and Aiskew are the same place.”

Clerk Charlie Hart said Hambleton had ruled out holding a public meeting on the merger and asked if Bedale wanted to arrange one.

“Clearly people are feeling things are happening without their knowledge or consent. To give people the chance to speak and to listen, it might help,” he added.

But Cllr Amanda Coates said: “We would love to have a public meeting if we had any answers but we don’t. All the information is out there.”

Cllr Pointon added:”I think the vibe is people are astounded at the money being spent in the first place. I don’t think they would want us to spend more.”

Householders have until April 21 to respond.