ABOUT 3,000 public sector jobs could be lost in North Yorkshire’s county town if proposals to divide the county into two local authorities are agreed, it has been claimed.

Some prominent Conservative members of Tory-led Hambleton District Council, who are also North Yorkshire County councillors, said they feared “an economic catastrophe” in Northallerton unless at least one local authority centre of administration remains there.

In an unprecedented move, the councillors have issued an appeal to the district council, which is among a group of seven district councils pushing for a two unitary authority solution for the county, to stand by their commitment to stand up for local residents and businesses alike when they make a decision to support any proposal.

The call comes days after the district council sent 4,600 letters to businesses asking for their support in preventing North Yorkshire County Council’s ambition for a single unitary authority for the county becoming a reality.

The letter states district councils had been “at the heart of the Covid-19 response”, saying many district council staff had worked “around the clock  as key workers to keep our district safe, clean and attractive”.

It states: “We firmly believe council services should be delivered locally and be responsive to the unique needs of their local communities in order to offer a sustainable, high-quality and effective service.

“Put bluntly, we think it would be impossible for this to happen if there was only one council for the whole of North Yorkshire. In reality this would be a council which would be so big it would stretch from Scarborough to Ingleton – that’s 100 miles and a three-hour drive.

“At Hambleton we are passionate about what we do and are certain one large council is not the est option for our businesses and residents. A smaller council with a focus on individual local communities is so much better placed to listen and respond quickly with a bespoke service suited to that area and community.”

However, in response, Thirsk councillor Gareth Dadd, Northallerton councillor Caroline Dickinson, Swainby councillor David Hugill and Northallerton county councillor David Blades highlighted that there are about 3,000 office-based posts supporting county and district services in Northallerton and Hambleton as a whole, excluding those that work on the front-line.

They said while the posts would continue whatever the new structure, splitting the county in two would inevitably move half the structure, about 1,500 jobs, from Hambleton to the new authority.

They said the remaining posts would be under serious threat from being moved to places such as Harrogate or elsewhere within the new authority.

Cllr Dadd said: “How would the economy of Hambleton be improved with such a dramatic loss of potentially 3,000 jobs, especially to the towns of Northallerton and Thirsk?

“Where will the centres of administration be located? We hear their opposition to a single council, but not their propositions. How does the rightly proud record of Hambleton council working for local residents and businesses, many employed by county and district council, square with the possible devastating impact  in the district on a decision to favour two new authorities  as opposed to a county-wide unitary and losing potentially 3,000 jobs from this local economy?

“This is something I hope the district leadership will think long and hard about before reaching their final decision – looking after local interests, not self-interest. It would be an act of local economic disaster.”

Cllr Dickinson added the impact on trade, especially within Northallerton High Street with jobs being lost to the town and the spend they bring must not be underestimated.

She said: “Devolution will bring more money into North Yorkshire , for Devolution to happen the Government has said local government must re-organise from two tiers to one.  I want to see the best possible outcome for the people of Northallerton.”

.Cllr Hugill added: “A relatively high number of residents in my division especially in Brompton work at County Hall and the Civic Centre in the town. I cannot support any proposal that would lead to the loss of those jobs. In fact I see a real opportunity for Northallerton to further establish itself as the regional centre for local Government should a new unitary authority be based there.”

Cllr Blades added: “I cannot stand by and allow this prospect of mass job movements from the town go unchallenged. We all have a duty to fight for the interests of our electorate, business and people, and that is what we should do.”