Two council leaders locked in a boundary dispute have engaged in an extraordinary exchange of accusations.
The dispute centres on Hull City Council’s decision to set up an independent commission, chaired by local industrialist Tom Martin, to examine whether 12 parishes now in East Riding of Yorkshire Council should join the city.
Hull has argued that its tight urban boundary damages its economy as none of its hinterland is within the city.
East Riding has retaliated by launching a referendum in the parishes affected on their future status, running from 8-26 September.
In a message to voters, East Riding leader Stephen Parnaby (Con) questioned the commission’s independence from Hull and accused the city of wanting to set up and dominate a combined authority that would in effect resurrect Humberside CC, abolished in 1996.
He said: “East Riding is not questioning the integrity of the commission’s membership, but has grave misgivings about how truly independent it is from the city council.
“How was the commission established? How is it run? Who appointed the commission’s membership? Who gave it its terms of reference? The answer to all of these is Hull City Council.”
All options before it were “Hull-centric”, Cllr Parnaby said, while the status quo was not included and East Riding had been invited to participate only as an observer.
“It is not unfair to say that it is Hull City Council’s aim to lead a combined authority in the Humber region [with] the potential to return to the days of Humberside County Council, which never won the hearts and minds of local people,” he said.
But a statement from Hull deputy leader Daren Hale (Lab) retorted: “Cllr Parnaby’s talent for self-publicity is well known but he goes too far in impugning the integrity of the independent commission and its members, and in seeking to drive an unnecessary wedge between Hull and East Riding councils.
“Cllr Parnaby and his chief executive have refused the offer from Hull to meet and discuss combined authorities and joint services and have continued to voice this opposition to both. They have also refused the independent commission’s offer to take part.”
“It is time to put up or shut up and stop the scaremongering by raising the spectre of a return to the boundaries of the former Humberside County Council, and by spending £60,000 of his council tax payers’ money on a selective ‘referendum’ where people have been given multiple votes with no official mark on.”
An East Riding spokesman told LGC that a formal ballot paper had been issued in the 12 parishes and that unmarked papers referred to were for a public consultation in the rest of the council area.