Towns and parishes set to be invited to bid to join pilot scheme

This story was published 1 November 2022

Town and parish councils are set to be invited to submit bids for a pilot scheme that could see them taking on the management of some services in their area on behalf of the new North Yorkshire Council.

A group of volunteers stood outside Scalby library

This follows a commitment in North Yorkshire County Council’s successful proposal to the Government for local government reorganisation to provide opportunities for town and parish councils and community groups that want to manage services and assets on behalf of the new unitary authority.

At its meeting on Tuesday, 8 November, the executive will be recommended to agree to invite town and parish councils to submit expressions of interest to take part in a small-scale pilot. Subject to the executive’s decision, councils would have until 31 March, 2023, to submit their plans.

Towns and parishes would be able to choose which services or assets they would like to manage, rather than being invited to choose from a limited list. However, proposals would have to benefit communities, not incur extra costs and be based on a strong business case. Following evaluation, up to six submissions would be developed further in conjunction with the new North Yorkshire Council, which comes into operation in April.

Executive member for localities, Cllr Greg White, said: “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 small-scale pilot scheme, working initially with a handful or town and parish councils, enabling us to progress cautiously, learning from the experience and developing best practice.

“This would build on the experience we already have within North Yorkshire at county, borough and district level of successfully transferring assets to community groups or to town and parish councils with results that greatly benefit their communities.”

Successful instances of towns and villages 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 earlier in October when the 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.

Community libraries account for almost 40 per cent of active library users and deliver on average 50 per cent of the book lending and supported digital access via public computers.

Libraries manager, Chrys Mellor, said: “Residents should be proud of their communities and library service for retaining such a high-class service which is delivered at a local level.”

Meanwhile, in Richmondshire, 44 of the district’s 69 play parks are under community ownership following a programme of asset transfers over a number of years or as a result of planning conditions. The other 25 remain in council ownership. 

The asset transfer programme is ongoing, with one play park recently transferred to a parish council and a further transfer pending.

It is proposed that the pilot would be restricted to town and parish councils, with the invitation subsequently extended to community groups as well as town and parish councils.