A VETERAN councillor who will oversee a landmark debate over the future governance of North Yorkshire and York has called on members to show respect and not pre-determine their decision, despite passionate beliefs surrounding the issue.

North Yorkshire County Council’s chairman Councillor Jim Clark said the long-term consequences of next week’s vote over whether to submit to government the authority’s proposal for a single unitary authority covering the county were of such gravity that he would encourage as comprehensive a debate as possible.  

Cllr Clark’s appeal follows acrimony between the Conservative councillors who dominate the county’s political landscape over how the county, city of York and seven district and borough councils should be reorganised ahead of the government granting devolution to the area.

The row has seen councillors, many of whom serve as both district and county councillors, faced with having to choose between supporting the county and city’s vision of those authorities retaining their boundaries and the district and boroughs’ ambition to split in the area into east and west councils.

As the North Yorkshire County councillors will be asked to decide on whether to submit its proposal for the government to decide upon, it will be possible for councillors serving two authorities to support the submission of both district and county proposals.

The district and borough councils are also set to hold extraordinary meetings next week as submissions to government must be made by November 9, with the government choosing its preferred option before opening a public consultation.

It is believed the government will announce its final decision in February as negotiations with Whitehall officials continue over what extra powers and funding will be included in a devolution deal for the area.

While both sides have accused the other of peddling misleading information, Cllr Clark said all 72 county councillors set to attend the extraordinary meeting should on “facts rather than emotions”. The heart of the debate over the proposals has centred around the volume of savings that can be achieved and how responsive to local needs services would be.

Cllr Clark said: “It will be a challenge to chair this meeting and I want to give an opportunity for as many members as possible to speak because it is such a crucial decision. Councillors must listen to as much of the debate as possible and make a judgement based on that and the discussions they have had with their constituents. They must take into account all the facts as there has been a lot of emotional information put forward.

“I will ask the leaders of the various political groups to ensure councillors show respect to each other. People feel passionately about North Yorkshire. It is a great county and its future deserves great consideration.”