A groundswell of public support will help to define the launch of a new authority to serve hundreds of thousands of people who live and work across North Yorkshire.
The largest ever public engagement of its kind in the county has seen thousands of responses received, with people sharing their views on what makes their communities so special, as well as giving their opinions on the key priorities for the new North Yorkshire Council.
The Let’s Talk conversation has incorporated three strands and comes to an end tomorrow (Friday, 23 December). It has been seeking the public’s views on a proposed devolution deal as well as the new council’s financial priorities and how it will best serve and work at a local level with more than 600,000 people who live in England’s largest county.
The latest data has shown that more than 32,000 people have engaged with the consultations, with more than 8,100 surveys completed across all three topics.
The devolution element of Let’s Talk has been particularly successful, with the engagement with the public in York and North Yorkshire out-performing similar consultations in West and South Yorkshire. Alongside this, the number of responses to Let’s Talk Money is the highest ever received for a budget consultation involving North Yorkshire County Council.
Council leader, Cllr Carl Les, said that the consultations had provided an unprecedented opportunity to gather opinions and help to shape the priorities and policies for the new authority, which launches on April 1 next year.
Cllr Les, who will become the leader of the new North Yorkshire Council, added: “The Let’s Talk conversation with the public has given us the chance to go to every corner of North Yorkshire to listen and gather hugely important views and information on what makes the county such a special place to live and work.
“We made a pledge to listen to the public when we embarked on the Let’s Talk campaign, and the amount of people who have engaged with us is testament to the hard work and efforts of all those involved.
“The views and opinions that have now been gathered will be carefully considered to help shape the vision of the new North Yorkshire Council and ensure that it remains the most local authority in the country while serving the largest geographic area nationally.
“I would like to thank every person who has taken part and to let them know that every view that was expressed will be important in helping shape the new council.”
The new authority will be launched when North Yorkshire County Council and the existing seven district and borough authorities merge in the biggest shake-up of local government since 1974.
The restructuring of local government is taking place to pave the way for a devolution deal, which is set to see the Government hand over key decision-making powers and millions of pounds in funding to be overseen by local political leaders.
The Let’s Talk campaign involved a carefully co-ordinated strategy to reach as many communities as possible and involved major collaboration between the county council and North Yorkshire’s district and borough authorities.
More than 200 events were staged across the county, in often remote communities including Hawes, Buckden and Bentham as well as unusual venues, such as a vaccination centre in Knaresborough. Events were staged at leisure centres and on market days to try and engage with the public as much as possible.
The success of the Let’s Talk campaign means that it is now due to be adopted for further public consultations that are being launched in the New Year to seek people’s views on a climate change strategy and a local transport plan that will be incorporated by North Yorkshire Council.
Craven District Council’s communications and partnerships manager, Sharon Hudson, helped co-ordinate the public engagement events across the county.
She said: “We have made every effort to get out to communities across the whole of North Yorkshire, staging scores of events in often extremely remote areas.
“It has been really heartening to hear what people think makes North Yorkshire so special, but there are concerns that need to be addressed and the Let’s Talk campaign will help the new council target the most pressing issues as effectively as possible.”
Questions have focused on people’s opinions on their own communities, asking about their priorities for issues including job opportunities, education provision and facilities for young people as well as access to nature, parks and open spaces. Other issues included creating more affordable housing, public transport, road and pavement repairs along with access to libraries, museums and theatres and shopping facilities.
The public’s views will now be analysed before reports are prepared that will be considered by councillors early in the New Year to help pinpoint the priorities for North Yorkshire Council as well as whether to progress with submissions to the Government for the proposed devolution deal.
The Let’s Talk conversation can be accessed online ahead of tomorrow’s conclusion of the money and localism consultations. The devolution strand came to a close on Friday, 16 December.