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Major consultation process starts ahead of changes to North Yorkshire councils

Councils across North Yorkshire are looking to speak to thousands of residents ahead of the launch of a new council for the whole county next Spring.

Officials say the biggest ever conversation with the public in North Yorkshire will help shape a watershed moment in local democracy and pinpoint the future priorities for vital services for hundreds of thousands of people in the county.

The largest programme of consultation events ever undertaken by councils in North Yorkshire will be launched this month.

The aim of North Yorkshire’s biggest ever engagement programme is to collate thousands of views from the county’s residents and businesses to help provide the bedrock for decision-making and policies for when a new council is launched in the spring of next year.

North Yorkshire County Council is merging with North Yorkshire’s seven district and borough authorities as part of the biggest restructuring of local government in the county for nearly 50 years.

County Council leader Cllr Carl Les says the Let’s Talk campaign is key to helping draw up a detailed vision for the new authority, as well as identifying people’s priorities for spending on services on a local level ranging from social care and education to waste collection, recycling and highways maintenance.

Cllr Les, who will assume the leadership of the new North Yorkshire Council when it launches on 1st April 2023, said: “The new council will be the largest geographically in the country as it will cover England’s largest county, but it is being built with local at the heart of everything it will do.

“There will be local staff providing local services, based on local priorities and decision-making taking into account the views of the public.

“Having one new council will save millions of pounds by streamlining services and preventing duplication, creating the most efficient and cost-effective way of delivering them that we can.

“This money will help support services to ensure they are stronger and fit for the future and will fund decision-making on the most local level possible.

“It is vital we engage with the public to help shape exactly how the new council will operate, and this biggest ever conversation in North Yorkshire will be the way in which we can glean people’s views.

“I would urge everyone who lives and works in North Yorkshire to take time to put forward their opinions, and we will listen carefully to those views.”

The Let’s Talk campaign will launch on Monday 19th September and will run until Friday 23rd December.

The first topic will be focused on the new council’s commitment to serving communities on a local level. Teams of staff and volunteers from all eight councils which will merge will travel across North Yorkshire to gather the public’s views on how the new authority can best serve people on a grassroots level.

Questions will focus on people’s opinions on their own communities, asking what are 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 set to be part of the conversation include public transport, road and pavement repairs and traffic congestion along with access to libraries, museums and theatres and shopping facilities.

The conversation will also aim to get the public’s views on the new council’s priorities over an initial three-year period to tackle wide-ranging issues from social inequality and the cost of living crisis to regenerating town centres, improving rural transport and tackling climate change.

Other issues which the public will be asked to consider for the new council’s initial priorities include tackling climate change, creating more housing to counter the affordable homes crisis and improving connectivity for mobile phone and internet coverage.

Additional subjects that will be covered in the ongoing Let’s Talk conversation include money and how the new council’s budget will be spent.

A potential conversation about a proposed devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire, details of which were unveiled on 1st August, could be launched in the autumn. However, this is dependent on the approval of councillors.

The Let’s Talk conversation will be aimed at engaging with residents, businesses and community groups as well as town and parish councils and council staff.

The Let’s Talk conversation will be available online which you can get to on the Lets Talk North Yorkshire webpage and the site will be regularly updated to provide details of public events taking place across North Yorkshire.

Council staff and volunteers who will speak to residents around North Yorkshire in the Let’s Talk conversation have highlighted the hugely valuable chance to understand the priorities of local communities. Among those is Fiona Protheroe, who's a climate emergency officer at Craven District Council. She grew up in Skipton, left the area when she was 18, but returned 12 years ago to raise her family in the town.

Naturally, she expects climate change is likely to come up in the Let’s Talk conversations.

“It affects so many aspects of people’s lives and there are so many actions you can take,” she said. “It’s an issue that does need everyone working together and the new authority gives us a chance to do that. I think that’s really exciting. It’s a massive challenge, but the more of us working on it the better we can do.”

She added that Let’s Talk is an important opportunity for council staff to get out and listen to people as they share their priorities, which will help the new North Yorkshire Council to design the services that people want and need.

“It is a period of big change in the county, with one authority, so it’s important that people can input their views about what matters to them in their local area. We want to keep things local as we move forward. We will be one area, but we want to work locally, so this is a chance for people to talk about their area, what matters to them, what they might like to see in future – their priorities.

“Not everybody is on social media or interested in social media, so it’s important to get out to people and talk to them in places that they go to, so they have a chance to get involved and no-one misses out. A big thing about the Let’s Talk campaign is that we want to reach people who wouldn’t normally comment. It will be great if they give us a chance to listen to what they think.”

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