The reorganization of local government in North Yorkshire is ‘blatant gerrymandering’ by the Conservative government and will create the least democratic local authority in Europe, it has been claimed.
Some elected members sitting on the county’s seven district and borough councils say that following recent county council-led briefings on the changes, it has become increasingly clear that the next North Yorkshire council was introduced by the government to consolidate power in the hands of the Conservative Party from April 2023.
While North Yorkshire’s 225 district and borough councilors represent the same residents as the 72 county councillors, the Conservative Party holds 74% of county seats but only 51% of elected members of district and borough councils .
District and borough councils have almost 29% independent and green councillors, but less than 17% in county council. The Labor and Liberal Democrat groups in the county council both have less than half the share of seats they have in district and borough authorities.
Although opposition councilors have alleged that the new authority’s 89 divisions, many of which resemble existing county council divisions, have been designed to favor the Tories, the senior Tories leading the changes have rejected the suggestions that the boundaries of the divisions were politically motivated.
Green Party and Catterick Independent Councilor Leslie Rowe said a study by the District Council Network had found that creating unitary authorities for the counties would lead in the case of North Yorkshire to the least democratic local authority in Europe, each of the 90 councilors representing approximately 7,000 people. .
He said: “Compare that to the council in Barking and Dagenham, which is also being reorganized, with each councilor representing 3,200 people there.
“Obviously, the only justification for this costly reorganization of local government is to consolidate power in the hands of the Conservative Party.”
County Council Leader of the Opposition and Richmond councilor Stuart Parsons said the creation of the new authority was “blatant political gerrymandering” on the part of the government because the small neighboring county of Cumbria was divided into two tips to ensure that the curators controlled at least one local. authority there.
He said: ‘It’s pretty obvious this is Conservative Party politics and they hope they can dominate the new local authority in the same way they dominated the county council but were less successful in some borough and district councils. .
He said: “They don’t like not having control and are very upset when they lose control of a board.
“However, it could well backfire on them.
“The public is not thrilled with the Tories at the moment and there is a great opportunity in May to get as few Tories re-elected as possible.”
However, the leader of the authority’s Liberal Democrat group, Councilor Bryn Griffiths, said while the local government reorganization was a political decision, he believed the changes presented an opportunity for a more politically diverse council spanning the county.
He said: “If the candidates listen to their communities and put forward the opinions of their community, I think there is a better chance of having a more representative riding, but if you don’t have proportional representation, you’re drunk.”
County Council leader Councilor Carl Les said claims that the new authority would be the least democratic in Europe were false because at least one unitary council, Leeds, had a smaller proportion of councilors compared to to residents.
When asked if the reorganization was politically motivated, Count Les replied, “No. This is a move to ensure that we get the benefits of negotiating devolution requests with the government.