Helping communities to support themselves, maintaining the county’s vital roads network and working ever more closely with partners to promote the economic growth of the county are among the ambitions set out in the Council Plan 2016-2020 just published by North Yorkshire County Council.
The county council’s Stronger Communities teams will support the development of community-run services, focusing on libraries, community transport, services for children, young people and families and services that improve the health and wellbeing of older people, vulnerable adults and carers.
This will build on the success of the previous year, during which 80 organisations received investment totalling about £500,000 for grass roots projects ranging from youth clubs to community shops and cafés, community transport and work to tackle loneliness and isolation and help people to live independently.
In his introduction to the Council Plan, County Councillor Carl Les, Leader of the Council, said: “Our Stronger Communities team is working with communities to support those who can and want to run services rather than the council. We are also working with communities, families and individuals to help older and vulnerable people live independently and well for longer.”
The council expects to spend £37m on highway maintenance in 2016/17. It will continue to lobby Government for additional funding and will seek other alternative maintenance funding. In 2015/16, more than 90 per cent of the spending on roads was planned rather than reactive, which meant more repairs could be made with the limited funds.
To promote economic growth, the council will develop strong partnerships with district and borough councils and will work with partners to co-ordinate the planning and funding of the infrastructure needed to unlock development sites. It will also continue to work towards a devolution deal for the benefit of all residents in North Yorkshire.
Cllr Les said: “Discussions and negotiations with Government are under way, and we are continuing to work with partner authorities to prepare and progress a deal for devolution.”
The county council’s ambitions are set against the need to save about £170m between 2011 and 2020 as a result of reduced Government funding. So far, it has delivered savings of more than £116m ahead of schedule. Most of these have been achieved through changes in the back office, although the scale of the challenge is such that some services have inevitably been affected.
Cllr Les said: “We are in a significantly better place than many councils, because of our strong financial planning and because we have reserves that we can use to help us approach the budget in a realistic and sensible way.”
Other priorities for the coming 12 months include working with Transport for the North on implementing the county council’s 30-year Strategic Transport Prospectus to improve transport connections to help the county contribute to and benefit from the Northern Powerhouse, and especially east to west road and rail links.
The council will also continue its extra care housing development programme to help people continue to live independently in their own homes. It will work with health service partners to integrate further health and social care services and to improve public health by developing a programme that tackles issues relevant to the county, such as obesity, loneliness and winter warmth.
It will continue its innovative work towards ensuring that children and young people attend schools that are good or outstanding; that they live safely and happily with their natural or extended family, and where that is not possible grow up in stable and secure arrangements and are well supported to leave the care system; and that they lead healthy lives, no matter where they live. In 2015, the council was recognised with two national awards for its work with young people and became a Partner in Practice for the Department for Education, which means it will support and work alongside other councils to share best practice and develop more sustainable high performance across the country.
Cllr Les said: “We are proud of the way elected Members, management and our staff have embraced change and taken a creative, problem-solving approach to service delivery, but continuing austerity does severely reduce our room for manoeuvre to protect the front line.”
The Council Plan 2016-2020 can be downloaded at www.northyorks.gov.uk/councilplan.