RYEDALE District Council (RDC) has agreed to share some of its key leadership staff with North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), in a move that some councillors warned raised the spectre of it becoming a unitary authority.

The motion, approved at an extraordinary meeting of full council at Ryedale House last Thursday, will mean that RDC can appoint a new chief executive who will also be assistant chief executive of NYCC.

A similar joint arrangement will be in place for RDC’s new head of finance.

Cllr Luke Ives, introducing the motion, said: “We’ve got a really important decision to make. Local government has faced huge cuts to their budgets by Government. We’ve got lots of duplicated back office services - this is a way of allowing us to work better together.”

RDC has been operating under interim chief executive Clare Slater since the previous head of service Janet Waggott left last year. Ms Waggott became chief executive of Selby council, but also assistant chief executive of NYCC.

Since her departure, the council advertised the post of chief executive internally, but received no candidates. Cllr Ives said: “That probably says something.”

The Liberal party tabled an amendment to attempt to force the council to advertise externally for a chief executive, but this was voted down.

Cllr Mike Potter criticised the authority for making no progress.

“The first approach when you have a job is a proper open recruitment process,” he said. “It was last May when the chief executive announced her resignation so it’s not far off a year. Where’s the urgency been to leave us in the same position?”

Cllr Elizabeth Shields said: “I firmly believe that this council is quite capable of making a decision on its own appointment. We do not need to be subservient to the county.

“It’s important that we have someone from outside, someone fresh to look at the whole council.

“But I fear that sooner or later we shall just be subsumed into the county council.”

Cllr Paul Andrews said: “We’ve had massive staff cuts. I believe about 80 staff have left,” and added that the council “may as well become unitary” if this is the way it is going.

But Cllr Janet Sanderson said: “I really don’t understand the hostility here. We already have great examples of district and county working together.” She gave the example of the homelessness prevention officer working across the two authorities.

Cllr Ives added: “This is an opportunity to move forward, to work with others and to turn a moment of crisis into a moment of opportunity.”

The motion was approved with 19 votes for, eight votes against and no abstentions.

The decision was welcomed by NYCC.

Cllr Carl Les, leader of NYCC, said: “We’re looking forward to the opportunity of working more closely with Ryedale District Council.

“As councils, we share both the people and place we serve and it makes sense to look at how we can do this better together.

“We have similar arrangements in place in Selby, where we share our resources to improve the services we deliver jointly to our community.

“We look forward to extending our closer working with Ryedale and the opportunities that this will bring.”