Paying for bin collections and £117 more on council tax – the ‘price of devolution’?

Green bins awaiting collection in York. Photograph: YorkMix

Council tax could rise by about £117 a year, residents could be charged for green bin collections, and planning applications for sites in York could be decided by councillors in Scarborough – City of York Council warns if local government reorganisation plans go ahead.

Plans to merge York council with local authorities in Scarborough, Selby and Ryedale are under discussion.

The move is linked to a devolution deal for North Yorkshire and could see the region split in half to create two larger councils.

York Conservatives support the merger, arguing it could lead to cost savings, better quality services and may attract specialist staff. They say there will be “no reduction in local decision making where it matters”.

But Liberal Democrat and Green Party-led City of York Council oppose the merger, with council leader Keith Aspden saying it would “undermine local recovery efforts and weaken local decision making”.

What will it mean?

City of York Council HQ. Photograph: YorkMix

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked City of York Council what the merger could mean for residents and council staff.

A spokesperson said that if local government restructure goes ahead and York merges with Scarborough, Selby and Ryedale:

  • Council tax could rise by £117 a year for band D properties, according to Price Waterhouse Cooper Management Consultants
  • York residents may have to pay for green bin collections – with Scarborough and Ryedale Councils currently charging £38 a year
  • Children’s services “will be hugely impacted, having to redesign the way they operate to fit the new geography, at a time of national crisis”
  • Planning applications for York sites could be decided by councillors in Scarborough, Selby or Malton
  • All car parks, residents’ parking schemes and roads would be managed by one large council
  • There is a question mark over what the move means for council staff – as there would “likely be less council presence in the city ”
  • It is not known where the new council would be based – or what would happen to West Offices, York council headquarters
  • Schools may have to compete with other schools across North Yorkshire for investment
  • York could have to compete with other areas for cash for road repairs
  • Parking charges would be set by the new council and “may not reflect the needs of York’s businesses”
  • It may mean fewer York councillors on the new authority.

‘More efficient, better services’

But a spokesperson for York Conservatives said the merger would see “council services run on a larger scale and enable better services as a result whether efficiency cost savings or simply to attract better and more specialist people into particular areas, notably adult social care”.

They added: “There would be no reduction in local decision making where it matters in areas like planning, but economies of scale in various areas and improvements by taking best practice.

“City of York Council has seen numerous changes over the years – as a city council, part of the county and now a small, inefficient unitary and has had various boundaries over that time.

“At no point have people said they feel ‘less York’ and it is absurd that the Lib Dems talk of the current boundaries like they have been in place for hundreds of years when they have been in place for little more than 20 years.”