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Town poll to be held asking Whitby residents: 'Do you want to leave Scarborough Council?'

Could Whitby vote to leave Scarborough Council and join the Tees Valley?
Could Whitby vote to leave Scarborough Council and join the Tees Valley?

A seaside revolt is on the cards, with more than 40 years of political history set to be ripped up if Whitby backs a town poll to ditch Scarborough Council, in favour of the new Tees Valley Combined Authority.

Residents in Whitby will be asked if they want to leave Scarborough to join the Teesside authority in a vote, which was brought about by members of the public, to be held next month.

The move follows an interview by Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen this week where he suggested that the authority is looking to expand into North Yorkshire.

He told LGC: "There are vast 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.”

At Whitby's Annual Assembly, chaired by the 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.

Members of the public have cited key grievances they feel towards Scarborough's governance of Whitby.

One group which has long been campaigning for action 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 they 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."

Whitby's piers are the main flood protection for the town, but are said to be in a crumbling state, and despite a 2009 report from engineering experts, Royal Haskoning identifying vital defects, repair work is yet to happen. Outrage was also brought about when the council sold off the town centre's Tourist Information Centre, while locals have also highlighted that the town council had to take on a number of the local public toilet facilities to save them from probable closure.

Commenting on the likelihood the poll will vote against Scarborough Council, Mr Freeman added: "I think the town is sufficiently dissatisfied to make a move."

The poll is not the first show of discontent to come from Whitby towards Scarborough. In February last year, public calls for independence, dubbed a 'Whexit' came when town councillors backed a motion of 'no confidence' in the Scarborough Council leadership.

Town Cllr Ian Havelock said that he had grown tired of an ethos of "evasion and secrecy" within the borough council, and called on his fellow councillors to back the motion. They did so, with six votes in favour, four against and two abstentions.

Whitby was formerly governed by Whitby Urban and District Council until the 1970s when it was abolished under the Local Government Act of 1972.

Together with Whitby Rural District it formed the northern area of the district of Scarborough.

The Tees Valley Combined Authority offered no comment on the possibility taking on Whitby at the time of going to print.