A high-profile councillor has resigned from an authority which can trace its history back to the 17th Century, citing local government reorganisation as the reason.

North Yorkshire County Council’s Independent group leader Councillor Stuart Parsons said after representing residents on Richmond Town Council for 25 years and serving as the town’s mayor five times he was no longer able to manage the commitment of the parish-level authority.

He has announced the decision a month before the number of councillors serving on North Yorkshire’s county, district and borough councils will reduce from 319 to 90 as a unitary authority is launched.

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While some members of the district and borough councils have raised concerns over how well represented residents will be by fewer councillors, many of those elected to serve on the new authority say they will be taking on the work of four district or borough councillors.

The workload of councillors will be brought into focus next week at a full meeting of the county council when elected members consider a recommendation to award themselves £15,500 basic allowances for the coming year.

John Thompson, chairman of the Independent Remuneration Panel which recommended the allowance rate, said while councillors, as volunteers, should not paid at a commercial rate for their time, allowances should not be set at a level which acts as a disincentive to conscientious performance of duties.

He added: “It is also important to take into account the need to continue to attract the required calibre of candidate from a diverse range of backgrounds, to stand and serve as a councillor.”

Leading members of the county council have said although it represents a 50 per cent increase on what they received last year from the Northallerton-based authority, as allowances would no longer be paid by district and councils, many dual-hatted councillors were facing an overall cut in allowances.

Concerns have been raised that with the additional demands on unitary authority members, allowances need to be increased more to allow elected members to cover their costs and attract a cross-section of society to represent their communities.

Coun Parsons issued the statement following speculation circulating about the reasons for his departure from the town council, including that he was suffering ill health.

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He said: “I have resigned due to the pressure of work due to North Yorkshire County Council becoming North Yorkshire Council, so I need to concentrate all my energies on that area. It would be too much as I am taking over four district councillors’ work as well as my county council work.

“Having been elected to that body it is important that I do my best for every Richmond resident.

“It’s ridiculous expecting people to give more than full-time employment on what they’re offering to pay. Of course we stand to serve, but we also need to be able to pay the bills to survive. It certainly doesn’t encourage non-retired Tories to stand.”