HE leader of North Yorkshire County Council has hit back at claims the authority used propaganda as part of its devolution campaign.

Coun Carl Les said he was 'disappointed' his authority was accused of spreading misinformation by the region’s rivalling seven district council leaders, who he's now targeted with fresh criticism.

It comes after the tit-for-tat battle between the two political groups spilled over when the authority issued a press release claiming its northern neighbour Durham County Council had shown 'strong backing' for its North Yorkshire super council plans.

While Durham’s chief executive did speak in favour of a unitary authority, leader, Coun Simon Henig, denied having made any such endorsement.

It prompted calls for North Yorkshire County Council to play fair with the seven district leaders saying :"the public deserve honesty and fairness as we work out the future of local government in North Yorkshire and York.

"But it is becoming clear that North Yorkshire County Council is instead resorting to propaganda to overstate support for its mega-council model."

However, Coun Les says the reference to Durham was misinterpred. He said: "The example of Durham was used to demonstrate how community engagement can still operate effectively in a unitary authority, not to endorse the bid which has not been finished yet. We have tried to be factual and play with a straight bat. I’m disappointed that the district leaders have characterised our press statements as a propaganda war. Their social media campaign may be seen as kettle and pot."

North Yorkshire County Council has said a so-called super council to serve 600,000 residents, leaving City of York and its population of around 200,000 intact, is the best way forward to replace the current system.

Meanwhile, the region’s seven district leaders are said to be exploring the creation of two councils of roughly equal size, around 400,000 residents, involving York in joint-proposals.

The political groups have clashed with district leaders saying a unitary authority is too big, and the county raising concerns over splitting North Yorkshire in two.

The deadline for final submissions is September and with tensions likely to heighten Coun Les has called for "mutual respect" between the two groups.

He said: "Let’s get on and prepare our respective proposals and on the assumption we all get a letter inviting us to do so, submit them to the Secretary of State and the Local Government Minister, the two most senior politicians in the land charged with making local government deliver, and let them test the bids against the criteria for success drawn up. So no more thinking of whipped votes, or stop an opposing team get on the pitch, please. Let’s proceed with mutual respect. We are all trying to serve our residents to increase efficiency and remove costs."