Published: 07/06/2002, Volume II2, No. 5808 Page 8

One of the country's largest strategic health authorities has been caught in a row about where its headquarters should be based.

North and East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire SHA is awaiting a decision from the Department of Health on whether it can build new offices in York, after a consultation process brought strong objections from MPs and local councils in the Hull and Humber area.

The SHA was formed from a merger of North Yorkshire health authority, East Riding and Hull HA and South Humber HA.

During the period up to the formation of the shadow SHA, an independent appraisal of the possible options for locating the offices concluded that the best option was York.

But the proposal to site the headquarters at York University's science park, where the SHA is currently based, was opposed by Hull and Humber MPs Austin Mitchell, Alan Johnson, David Davis and Shona McIsaac, as well as local authorities, who felt the headquarters should be in Hull.

Mr Davis, who wrote to health secretary Alan Milburn about the issue and asked questions in Parliament, said: 'Given that 80 per cent of the population in the new health authority live in the Humber region, it seems illogical to place the new headquarters miles away, on the edge of York.'

Despite the opposition, the first formal meeting of the SHA, in April, decided to go ahead with the proposal.

The fact that substantial expenditure on a new building was being recommended meant that it had to be referred to the DoH, which it is thought is likely to approve the decision by early July.

SHA chief executive David Johnson and chair Professor David Johns recently met the four MPs who made their opposition clear.

Mr Johnson told HSJ that although the meeting had been productive, the MPs were still opposed to the move, and the location of the SHA had a symbolic significance for them, even though much of its work would be done throughout the area, rather than in York.

He said: 'Where we will be based is at the centre of the health economy. Those that are not in agreement are those in northern Lincolnshire and MPs and council leaders in the East Riding area.

'There is a symbolic issue, and whereas I understand their point of view, I think it is right we make our decision on rational issues.

The key issues are in terms of equity in terms of people working at the SHA.'

Despite the discussions, the MPs are still urging that the headquarters should be based in Hull. Ms McIsaac and Mr Mitchell have now written to health secretary Alan Milburn to urge him to reject the York option.