The government has indicated that devolution is coming to York and North Yorkshire, and that this will include a directly-elected mayor, but also the reorganisation of local government to a unitary model.
This will have a significant impact on our members and our branch. 60% of our branch members work in local government, at North Yorkshire County Council, Selby District Council, Hambleton District Council and Richmondshire District Council. We also represent members working for town and parish councils across North Yorkshire.
If the government does go ahead with devolution, it will be the biggest shake-up of local government in North Yorkshire since the current structure was created in 1974/5.
We know that our members in local government have been working tirelessly on the frontline of the response to the Covid-19 emergency, and that the last thing our members need is the uncertainty and upheaval of local government reorganisation. At the same time, we are pragmatic and the best way to protect the interests of our members is for us to engage with government, our MPs and our employers to try and shape the future of local government in York and North Yorkshire so it meets the needs of our members and the communities they serve.
We have created these pages to help keep our members updated on the government’s plans and the work we are doing on your behalf to influence these proposals.
What are the options being put forward?
We know that there will be two options presented to the government by the existing councils.
Proposal One; the ‘one council’ option – submitted by North Yorkshire County Council, with the support of City of York Council. This proposes York remains a unitary council as it currently is and that a new unitary council is created for North Yorkshire.
Proposal Two; the ‘east/west’ option – submitted by six of the seven District Councils (Hambleton District Council does not support this proposal). This proposes that two brand new unitary councils be created based on an east/west split. One council for the Harrogate, Craven, Hambleton and Richmondshire areas, and another council for the Selby, York, Scarborough and Ryedale areas.
Which option is best for local government workers and our members?
All UNISON local government branches came together to agree our test for deciding which option is best for our members. We agreed that our priorities on your behalf are to:
- Protect jobs and avoid compulsory redundancies
- Level-up terms, conditions and pay
- Minimise disruption to staff and services
Your branch committee has considered both options carefully and has agreed that the NYCC ‘one council’ model best meets all three objective above. The branch committee in particular felt that the ‘east/west’ split would be too risky for our members who work at the county council and the district councils as it would mean all staff would transfer to a brand new employer on day one with all their terms and conditions up for renegotiation.
Under the ‘one council’ option, local government workers in York would be unaffected and workers at the existing district councils would transfer to the new council on their existing terms and conditions.
The branch has agreed to support the ‘one council’ option as it best meets our objectives of protecting jobs, leveling-up terms, conditions and pay, and it causes the least disruption to staff and the services they deliver.
We held an open meeting for all our members at the three district councils that this branch covers (Selby, Hambleton and Richmondshire) on 29 October 2020. The meeting was very well attended.
What happens next?
The government has started a public consultation, which will run until 19 April. It is really important that our members respond to the consultation.
The new arrangements would probably come into effect from 1 April 2023, with new elections happening in May 2022. However, if the government chooses the ‘one council’ option it could be brought into effect from 1 April 2022 as it is a more straight-forward proposal.