‘Whitby’s Big Poll’ is front page news in the Whitby Gazette

Whitby’s big poll – Ditch Scarborough Borough Council for the Tees Valley Combined Authority..?

Whitby residents will be given the chance to have their say as a Town Poll is called on the big issue. Whitby’s MP has slammed a move to sever links with Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) as “a complete waste of time and money”. More than 40 years of political history could be ripped up if Whitby backs a town poll to ditch Scarborough Council, in favour of the Tees Valley Combined Authority. The town poll will take place in May 2018.

But MP Robert Goodwill says the poll is “a complete distraction”, adding that the move would not be a realistic one. He said: “There is no local government reorganisation on the cards, it’s a waste of everybody’s time and money. My advice to anyone is to not participate.”

Whitby residents will be asked if they want to leave Scarborough Council to join the Teesside authority in a vote next month which was brought about by members of the public. At Whitby’s Annual Town Assembly, chaired by the Whitby Town Council, a Town Poll was proposed by a member of the public, asking if a vote could be held to pose the question, which was backed by an overwhelming show of hands. The town council has confirmed that the poll will now be taking place and has notified the borough council. A spokesman said: “We have now put the poll to Scarborough Council and they are looking at the legality of the question and they will then come back to us and say ‘yes’ this is a valid question.”

The vote will then be held next month at a date yet to be set. But the cost is a bill the town council must foot, which is expected to be several thousand pounds. Mr Goodwill added that the answer moving forward might be to look at devolving more powers locally to Whitby. He said: “What I would like to see is Whitby Town Council taking over more powers, more town councils are taking on more local powers.

‘Town could make a move against SBC’

One group which has long been campaigning for action on Scarborough Council’s treatment of the town is Fight4Whitby. Member and former town mayor, John Freeman said: “The big part of the problem is that a large section of the population of Whitby is completely disenchanted with treatment from Scarborough over many years and SBC do not appear to be willing to make any changes.

“Teesside would appear to be a very good option – it’s an area that’s developing and looking forward. Whitby would be a massive asset to any area, rather than a drain.”

Many Whitby people remain dissatisfied with the SBC’s handling of key issues, including the state of the town’s piers, the selling off of the Tourist Information Centre and Whitby Town Council having to take on many of the public toilets to save them from probable closure.

The move to join with the Teesside authority follows an interview by Tees Mayor, Ben Houchen, who suggested that they are looking to expand into North Yorkshire. He told the Local Government Chronicle: “There are big swathes of North Yorkshire that are much more aligned with the Tees Valley than the rest of Yorkshire…a lot of people who live in North Yorkshire work in Teesside so you could argue there should be an expansion of the Tees Valley deal into North Yorkshire.” The authority is a partnership of five authorities: Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees.

Commenting on the likelihood the poll will vote to leave Scarborough Council and join the Tees Valley, Mr Freeman added: “I think the town is sufficiently dissatisfied to make a move.”

Whexit calls last year…

The Town Poll is not the first show of discontent. In February last year, public calls for independence, dubbed ‘Whexit’ came when Whitby Town Councillors backed a motion of ‘no confidence’ in Scarborough Council’s leadership. Putting forward a proposal, then Cllr Ian Havelock said that he had grown tired of an ethos of SBC “evasion and secrecy”, and called on his fellow Town Councillors to back the motion. They did so, with 6 votes in favour, 4 against and 2 abstentions. Whitby was formerly governed by Whitby Urban and District Council until it was abolished under the Local Government Act of 1972. The Tees authority offered no comment on the possibility of taking on Whitby, while Scarborough Council also gave no comment to the Gazette on the poll.

[The above story was published in the Whitby Gazette on Friday 27 April 2018.

With thanks and acknowledgements to The Editor, Whitby Gazette].

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