Devolution... for Whitby?

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Despite Scotland voting no to independence, Whitby residents are calling for a debate on the town’s own devolution.

The town should use a clause in the Local Government Act to split from the borough of Scarborough, say some residents who are disenchanted with the local authority.

Under little-known legislation, Whitby’s townspeople could call a referendum to break free from Scarborough although the vote would not be legally-binding.

One possible option would be to copy a type of vote held by the townspeople of Yarm.Earlier this year, 89 per cent of residents voted in a non-legally binding election to ditch Teesside and join North Yorkshire.

A Facebook poll asked readers if they would be in favour of a break away in light of the Scotland referendum.

Of the 110 people who responded, 99 per cent would be in favour of a breakaway from Scarborough.

Jan Davison feels that “Whitby should run itself.”

Sheena Falconer said: “I’m from Scotland and I’m sick and tired of reading about my family and friends in Whitby being classed as second rate by Scarborough. I love Whitby and we should all fight to keep it as beautiful as it has always been.”

Tania Marie Langridge added: “I’ve never seen a council treat an area and its people so poorly. I’ve lived all over the place to see for myself.”

“Whitby is slowly being strangled by the borough council,” according to Sue Arnott.

Linda Johnson said: “We in Whitby are the poor relations. We are just a cash cow.”

Ronnie Thornton added: “Get rid of the borough council and let Whitby reap some of our own rewards”.

Kierran Bills feels that “Whitby can work without the borough council”.

But borough councillor Joe Plant questioned the viability of a move away from the borough council.

“You can’t let your heart rule your head,” said Coun Plant. “It’s the fear of the unknown. We could all say we would be better off getting rid of the borough council but, sensibly, what would we go in to? It is unreasonable to say we would get rid of the borough council without knowing exactly what we were getting ourselves into.”

And with North Yorkshire County Council plagued by debt, some may see an upside in border-hopping, but Cllr Plant added: “My personal view is that I would want to keep my Yorkshire status.

“And we just wouldn’t be able to afford it – Whitby will never be able to go on its own again.”

Speaking of the Scottish referendum, he added: “What has happened in Scotland has changed politics forever.”

In the North East, the idea has been tentatively floated within the regional assembly of more devolved powers.

And in the wake of the historic vote, there have been calls for other councils across the country to shift away from Westminster, and over who controls the purse strings. “It has got people talking about politics, especially young people, and it’s about time that people have more of a voice,” said Cllr Plant.

Whitby MP Robert Goodwill, has urged caution. He said: “Unfortunately, whether you are in favour of it or not, Whitby breaking away from Scarborough Borough Council is just not going to happen.

“This is a notion which seems to re-appear every few years but the fact remains that Whitby’s population is far too small for the town to become a unitary authority.”

The Whitby Gazette attempted to contact the borough council for a comment regarding the viability of Whitby going it alone.

A reply is awaited.