A host of opportunities ranging from new jobs, combating climate change and introducing more affordable housing are among key priorities for a council that will launch in the spring to cover the whole of North Yorkshire.
The new North Yorkshire Council, which represents the biggest overhaul of local democracy in nearly 50 years, will provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help tackle some of the biggest challenges facing communities across the county.
Among major issues outlined in a draft Council Plan for the new authority are a need to attract new businesses while developing traditional sectors such as farming and tourism, and ensuring there are the best career opportunities available for young people so they continue to live in North Yorkshire.
Council leader, Cllr Carl Les, who will assume the leadership of the new authority from 1 April, said: “This plan sets out our vision, ambitions and priorities for North Yorkshire and the approach we are taking to achieve them. We are committed to delivering high-performing and value-for-money services.
“We will encourage more involvement from local people and partners by championing local action and creating opportunities for local communities to come together to identify solutions and develop their own priorities.”
One of the biggest themes for the new council will be how it will serve communities to deliver services ranging from education and highways to waste collection and disposal, planning and economic development.
Residents will be given simpler and easier access to services which will be overseen by a single organisation, instead of the current structure of the county council and seven district and borough authorities. There will also be a single website and phone number for communities to access support and services.
A main office is due to be retained in each area to provide public access to locally-based staff. A network of local access points in towns and villages is also set to be established.
The new council will be launched following the merger of the county council and the seven district and borough authorities to pave the way for a long-awaited devolution deal, with the Government due to hand decision-making powers and millions of pounds in funding to local political leaders.
However, Cllr Les acknowledged the immense financial pressures which the new council will face, with a shortfall of more than £30 million predicted for its first financial year alone.
The scale of the new council’s operations will see it have an overall spend of about £1.4 billion, including £343 million on schools, and work will be undertaken on a major strategy to balance the authority’s books.
Improving public transport and increasing active travel such as walking and cycling will help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions which lead to climate change, along with increasing recycling rates and reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. The new council aims to be carbon neutral by 2030.
The affordable homes crisis in North Yorkshire will be alleviated through major house-building projects to help to ensure that families and young people have the opportunity to buy their own homes.
Existing sectors such as farming and tourism will be supported, while skills are due to be developed for emerging industries including cyber, bioeconomy and low-carbon jobs.
The draft plan includes details for safeguarding both vulnerable adults and children and ensuring the best possible opportunities for almost 83,000 children who attend schools and nurseries, including more than 11,000 pupils with special educational needs or disabilities.