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Biggest Tory council pledges to work with opposition

Tuesday, 9 July 2024 12:25

By Stuart Minting, Local Democracy Reporter

Cllr Carl Les, North Yorkshire Council.

The leader of England’s largest council by population not run by Labour has pledged to work with Keir Starmer’s government and put aside tribal politics for the benefit of residents.

Leader of Conservative-run North Yorkshire Council, Councillor Carl Les, said while the General Election result had been “very disappointing” for the Tories he had written to incoming MPs to offer congratulations and to invite them to attend the authority’s regular meetings focused on their constituencies.

The invitation to collaborate with the authority follows its leaders heralding the close relationship they have had with the county’s MPs, who until last year had all been Conservative.

The July 4 poll saw North Yorkshire’s political map redrawn, with Tory seats lost in Scarborough and Whitby to Labour and in Harrogate and Knaresborough to the Liberal Democrats, while the Selby constituency the Conservatives had lost last year remained Labour.

Coun Les said:

“These people are elected to represent their constituencies and we will work with whoever is elected for the benefit of the residents.”

He rejected claims that during the previous 14 years of Conservative governments, the Tory-led council had not been sufficiently critical of the government or lobbied adequately for North Yorkshire residents.

The authority has faced accusations of failing to persuade the government about inequitable funding for public services in the expansive rural county, ranging from the fire brigade and health services to schools and social care, with many pointing the finger of blame at urban-centric national funding formulas.

Coun Les said:

“We have lobbied the government very hard on all the issues that concern us and have given them our views, and in many cases the government has actually listened to us.

“Residents are best served when local government and national government are actually talking to each other. We will continue to lobby them on issues that concern us and I hope their ministers listen to us in the same way our ministers listened to us.”

Councillor Les said the authority had enjoyed a closer relationship with the county’s MPs since Covid and had reconfigured some of its committees to get more engaged with the Westminster politicians.

He said:

“I have written to the incoming MPs to say we have had a way of engaging through a monthly meeting, but if they want to come up with another way of engaging that’s fine as well.

“We are going to work with the Government as much as we can, but we have a track record of working with opposition members, for instance the leaders of City of York Council and on the Yorkshire Leaders Board.

“We have a history of putting aside tribal politics after an election and getting on with the job of working together for the benefit of the people.”

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