Plans to hand powers to town and parish councils to manage schemes across North Yorkshire are set to be progressed after a shortlist of bids.
Five of the expressions of interest are being recommended to move forward to a full business case. These include:
- Malton Town Council’s bid to manage Malton Market Place’s public toilet facilities, including cleaning and maintenance.
- A bid to manage the markets in Northallerton and Thirsk, as a collaborative venture between the two town councils.
- Richmond Town Council’s bid to manage the Friary Gardens.
- Filey Town Council’s submission to manage public benches in the seaside town.
- Knaresborough Town Council’s application to manage the town’s markets, storage facility and associated assets such as road closure signs.
North Yorkshire Council gave town and parish councils the chance to submit bids for a pilot scheme that could see them taking on the management of specific services in their area on behalf of the countywide authority.
The scheme has been developed following a submission to the Government ahead of the largest overhaul of local government in nearly 50 years in the county which saw the creation of North Yorkshire Council in April.
The council has pledged to place local communities at its heart while covering England’s largest county, and the pilot scheme, which has been dubbed double devolution, is a key platform to achieving this aim.
A dozen expressions of interest were submitted by town and parish councils, and North Yorkshire Council’s executive will meet on Tuesday next week (17 October 2023) to discuss which of the bids should be progressed. Services which could be taken on by town and parish councils include managing parks, markets and public conveniences.
North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for corporate services, Cllr David Chance, said:
We have made a commitment that local communities across North Yorkshire will be at the heart of all that we do as a council, making sure that we represent the views of the public.
Town and parish councils are integral to our county’s vibrant communities, alongside community groups, and we recognise their understanding of the needs, opportunities and strengths within their communities.
That’s why we are looking at this pilot scheme, working initially with selected town and parish councils, enabling us to progress cautiously, learning from the experience and developing best practice.
These proposed pilots are just the start of the process, and the hope is that more will be introduced throughout North Yorkshire in the future.
Bids for double devolution had to meet specific criteria that included a solid business case and delivery plan as well as being cost neutral to North Yorkshire Council.
A further two expressions of interest have been recommended to move forward to full business cases once they have been revised.
Skipton Town Council submitted a bid to manage the Town Hall car park toilet block, the Ginnel Woods, the Canal Basin and Aireville Park. It is recommended that the management of Aireville Park is removed from the bid as it has the Craven Leisure sports centre and an associated car park situated within it. The car park is used both by Craven Leisure and park users.
Whitby Town Council has bid to manage parks and floral displays excluding highways verges including Pannett Park, along with equipment and facilities, including depots linked to the services. It has been recommended that beach management services, including the letting of the seasonal beach huts and the retail concessions on the esplanade, should be removed from the initial bid, as these would not be cost-neutral to North Yorkshire Council.
Two further expressions of interest, submitted by Ripon Town Council and Selby Town Council, were deemed to be particularly ambitious and involved transferring a host of responsibilities. The executive will consider plans for project teams to work with Ripon City Council and Selby Town Council to bring forward double devolution proposals in the future.
Three councils, Settle Town Council, Little Ouseburn Parish Council and Stokesley Town Council, did not meet the specific criteria set out in the bidding process and it is therefore being recommended that their submissions do not go through to full business cases.
If the go-ahead is given for full business cases to progress, the decision as to which bids become a reality will be taken by the executive following consultations with the relevant area committee on North Yorkshire Council.
The executive will meet next week to also discuss plans for a report to be prepared about allowing future expressions of interest from other town and parish councils. If agreed, a report is expected to be presented to the executive in January next year.
Successful instances of towns and villages already taking on the management of local assets include the transfer of 31 libraries to community groups in 2015.
The commitment to this approach was cemented in October last year when the former North Yorkshire County Council’s executive agreed to grant leases for a further 10 years to support the continued operation and development of community-run libraries.
Under the community model, the library service continues to provide the infrastructure, including books and public computers, as well as paid staff support to ensure consistency across the county.