North Yorkshire County Council was commended last night as one of the country’s leading local authorities for its innovation in delivering effective services and protecting the frontline in a time of national financial stringency.

North Yorkshire had been shortlisted in this year’s Local Government Chronicle awards, one of the most coveted awards available to local authorities nationally.

As the leading rural authority, North Yorkshire came second overall to Sevenoaks as one of six finalists for Council of the Year and was also highly commended for its children’s services.

It was also named a winner for its partnership with the police and health services in the safeguarding of vulnerable children and work with their families.

Councillor Carl Les, Leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said: “North Yorkshire’s council of the year and children’s services commendations and our win for partnership work is recognition of the dedication and creativity of our staff and the way we work with our partners.

“We are proud of both staff and partners and their commitment to finding innovative ways to support our most vulnerable residents across our large rural hinterland, towns and coast and to move the county forward despite the very tough financial challenges we continue to face.”

Other authorities shortlisted for Council of the Year were Newcastle City Council, Newham London Borough Council, South Norfolk Council and South Tyneside Council.

North Yorkshire was also shortlisted as Entrepreneurial Council of the Year (for our commercial approach); and Community Involvement .

“We knew we were up against stiff competition,” added Cllr Les, “but we also know that we lead the field in many areas of our service delivery.”

According to MP Edward Timpson, Minister for State, North Yorkshire is a “leading light in the design of services for vulnerable children”   and its commendation in children’s services reflects its highly effective practice through its new prevention service and other nationally recognized initiatives.

The County Council’s multi-agency screening team, which won the LGC partnership award, brings together staff from the council’s children’s social care and prevention services, the police and health colleagues from Harrogate and District Foundation Trust.

The team screens every case received within 24 hours of contact being made, reviewing the dangers and strengths within a family. The agencies share information and make decisions to ensure families receive the right service at the right time through necessary and proportionate interventions.

Judges praised the team for its effectiveness in reducing acute admissions to children’s social care.  Child protection plans have reduced to 279, the lowest for five years and numbers of looked after children have falled to 411, the lowest for six years and in contrast to national trends.

Chief Constable Dave Jones from North Yorkshire Police said: ““I’m delighted that the partnership work that is happening in North Yorkshire has been recognised through this prestigious award.  I believe the best way to safeguard vulnerable people is for agencies to work together, and that is what we are doing in North Yorkshire. The flow of information between the police and children’s services has vastly improved through this initiative, which has resulted in more children being protected and supported in the right way.”

“These awards confirm yet again that we are ahead of the curve compared to many other local authorities.” said Cllr Les.  “We are dealing with challenges head-on with ambitious and effective solutions on behalf of our residents through nationally recognised good practice,”