THE chairman of North Yorkshire Rural Commission has urged the Government to ensure long-awaited plans to bring key decision-making powers to North Yorkshire are realised to help to tackle a host of issues affecting countryside communities.

Richard Flinton, who is also chief executive of North Yorkshire County Council, said the county is on the cusp of securing a multi-million pound devolution deal with negotiations between senior councillors in North Yorkshire and York and the Government now entering their final stages.

With the first anniversary this month (JULY) of the publication of the commission’s final report, its chairman, the Dean of Ripon, John Dobson, said: “The chance of a devolution deal could transform the fortunes of people living and working in North Yorkshire, but especially for countryside communities.

“So many of the issues which were highlighted in the Rural Commission’s final report have affected the countryside for decades, but the opportunity of devolved powers being handed to North Yorkshire represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle them.”

Talks between councillors and council officers with Ministers and civil servants from Whitehall began in earnest at the start of this year in the hope of securing the devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire.

The biggest shake-up in local government in North Yorkshire in nearly half-a-century is currently being undertaken to pave the way a devolution deal.

The Government has stipulated that a key requirement for any devolution deal for North Yorkshire is for the current two-tier system of local government, with the county council and seven district councils, to be replaced by a single unitary authority. City of York Council will continue as a unitary authority to run in tandem with the new North Yorkshire Council, which will launch on April 1 next year.

A deal to hand over decision-making powers and tens of millions of pounds in funding to political leaders in York and North Yorkshire is currently being negotiated with the Government, with an announcement on an offer for devolution expected this summer before public consultations are staged later in the year.

The leader of North Yorkshire County Council, Cllr Carl Les, said: “A devolution deal for North Yorkshire would provide the chance to take more control over vital decisions that affect the hundreds of thousands of people who live and work in the county.

“Negotiations have entered a critical stage, but we are hopeful that we can secure the best deal possible for both York and North Yorkshire.

“In doing so, we will be able to tackle major issues that affect both urban and rural areas, and ensure that the Government’s ambitions to truly level up the nation’s economy can become a reality.”

The Commission highlighted the need for decision-making powers for key issues such as education, transport infrastructure and economic investment to shift away from Westminster to the county to help to tackle a host of long-running issues affecting the countryside.

The problems highlighted by the Rural Commission included a lack of affordable housing, poor public transport links and a huge issue with digital connectivity for both mobile and internet coverage in countryside communities.

A final report is due to be published by the taskforce later this year outlining how the Rural Commission’s recommendations can be taken forward.

The Rural Commission itself met 20 times, taking evidence from more than 70 participants, including MPs.