A cross-party group of Ryedale councillors has united to voice support for the ‘east and west’ unitary proposal for the future of local government.

Councillors drawn from parts of four different political groups have signed a letter to the government voicing support for the move which would see two new councils created.The 16 signatories to the letter, sent to local government minister Luke Hall MP, state they believe the ‘east and west’ option is a better alternative to the plan for all of North Yorkshire (excluding York) to be governed by a single council.

Under the ‘east and west’ proposal, the county would be split into two new unitary authorities. The ‘east’ would include Ryedale, Scarborough, York and Selby, while the ‘west’ would include Harrogate, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Craven.

Cllr Keane Duncan, leader of the Conservative Group, said: “We believe the ‘east and west’ option is best for local democracy by keeping decisions as close to our residents as possible. The ‘east’ council area includes our nearest neighbours and is tied together by the all-important A64. This option will allow local government in our area to stay local, be responsive and genuinely reflect the communities we serve.”

Cllr Di Keal, leader of the Liberal Democrat and Independent Group, said: “We firmly believe that it is wholly wrong for the government to be planning local government reorganisation in the midst of a global pandemic and a national emergency and that the model we currently use in North Yorkshire is the best for local representation. However, as they seem determined to forge ahead, the ‘east and west’ model is in our opinion the best option. Ryedale has some commonalities with the other authorities in the ‘east’ and we hope to work together with partners to secure the retention of decision making on key issues, such as planning and housing supply, as close to the local level as possible.”

Cllr Steve Arnold, leader of the Ryedale First Independent Group, said: “The decision made by the government will have a huge impact for many years to come. It’s vital, therefore, that we get it right and get the best outcome for Ryedale. I do not believe bigger is better when it comes to council services, but if we are going to be forced to change, then Ryedale deserves the most local possible arrangement. The ‘east and west’ proposal creates two councils that are large enough to achieve economies of scale but small enough to keep the local links that are so important.”