SOME may think that this is a particularly inappropriate time to introduce Local Government reform, with all our administrative structures under severe pressure from the pandemic. The cynical might wonder if some in Central Government see this as an opportunity precisely because people’s minds are focused elsewhere.

Such shake-ups are rarely good news for Craven because it is a border area, nestled between different historic counties and major modern conurbations. In a situation where Ministers want bigger local authorities and yet more economies of scale, Craven is not so much nestling anywhere as stuck between a rock and a hard place.

One potential outcome of any change, naturally being pushed pretty hard by North Yorkshire County Council, is the creation of a single unitary authority covering the whole of its current vast area, stretching from Skipton to Scarborough.

This may seem a likely candidate for success, since it would fulfil the Government’s apparent requirement for cash savings due to lower numbers of council officers and elected councillors. Whether this would be a good outcome for local democracy and responsiveness to local needs is another question. Personally, I have doubts.

A few years ago a veteran councillor, whom I seem to recall once railed against county council decision-making because Craven was allegedly not being given sufficient attention, told me that a unitary county authority would work because we could have local committees looking at local issues, and there could also be strengthened town and parish councils.

However, I would suggest that if we look at our neighbouring towns in West Yorkshire we find that many residents are not at all satisfied that the combination of local committees and town and parish councils are sufficient to protect their interests. In addition, many rural Craven communities are not big enough to sustain meaningful parish organisations.

There is also a rival suggestion to the county council’s, for two unitary authorities in North Yorkshire rather than one. Even this would not entirely solve Craven’s problem, that it is a distinct area whose interests could be threatened by any combination with a larger population centre.

Perhaps the best hope is that someone in London sees sense and puts the whole thing off until after the current crisis has been resolved. It is perhaps not a great hope, but recent events suggest the Government may have lost a little bit of its swagger and may even be prepared to listen a little. Ultimately the question is whether Craven people feel that local representation is worth fighting for.

JA Hitchon,