COUNCIL elections in North Yorkshire have been called off as the Government launches consultation on proposals for unitary local government.

The Government has said North Yorkshire’s two-tier system of county and district councils must end to make way for unitary local government, unlocking the door to a devolution deal.

The Local Government Secretary has received two proposals for consideration.

Six of the seven districts within North Yorkshire (all bar Hambleton) have proposed two unitary councils - the East comprising Ryedale, Scarborough, Selby districts and the current unitary of York, and the West comprising Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate and Richmondshire districts.

North Yorkshire County Council has proposed a single unitary on the footprint of the existing administrative county, to operate alongside the existing unitary City of York Council. 

An eight-week consultation is now underway and if one of the options is chosen, the Government expects a new unitary council to be fully operational from April 2023.

As a result of the consultation, district and county council elections due to be held in North Yorkshire this May will be rescheduled to May 2022.

The move avoids the possibility of the electorate being asked to vote for councils while at the same time they are being given the opportunity to express their views on the possible abolition of those councils.

It also avoids members potentially being elected to serve short terms.

The elections for local Police and Crime Commissioners, as well as elections to any town or parish councils, will still go ahead in May 2021.

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said: “I have always been clear that any restructuring of local government must be locally-led and will not involve top-down solutions from Government.

“Now that councils in North Yorkshire have submitted their proposals, I am pleased residents, businesses and service providers will have the opportunity to have their say on what will work best for their area.

“With local support, changing the structure of local government can offer better value for money and improved services for residents.”

Residents, councils, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), public service providers, businesses and voluntary organisations in North Yorkshire will now get their say on which proposal, if any, is the best fit for their area.

Mr Jenrick will consider all proposals following the consultation before making a decision about which option, if any, to implement.

If any proposals are to be implemented, Parliamentary approval is needed before the legislation can be made.

The consultation period will run until Monday, April 19.

The consultation document is available here and those responding may do so on the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s online platform ‘Citizen Space’ or by email or post.