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Sadness and gratitude at final Craven council meeting

Friday, 31 March 2023 17:36

By Thomas Barrett, Local Democracy Reporter

There was a mix of sadness and gratitude last night as councillors on Craven District Council met for the final time at Skipton Town Hall.

The good-natured meeting saw councillors note the achievements of the outgoing authority and also pay tribute to the work of its officers.

Today is the final day of Craven District Council as at midnight it will be abolished after 49 years to make way for North Yorkshire Council. The new unitary authority will assume all responsiblities currently held by CDC and North Yorkshire County Council.

Conservative council leader Richard Foster told the final meeting that his speech was one he “never really wanted to do“.

Cllr Foster said: “We’ve got a lot of things right, a few things wrong, but on the whole we’ve managed to deliver well by the local community. There’s been a lot of work, time, sacrifice and effort to ensure Craven is a good place to live. We want it to remain so. You’ve all put a lot of time and effort in.“

Throughout the evening, councillors praised the refurbishment of Skipton’s town hall as one of the council’s greatest achievements.

Cllr Foster added: “I can list a whole list of projects, we’re sat in one now. It had become an embarrasment to this council. We now have a building and museum to be proud of. We’d have been too ashamed to have this meeting here a few years ago.“

Councillors from across the political divide came forward to praise the way the council has been run.

Green Party councillor for Aire Valley with Lothersdale, Andy Brown, said: “It’s no secret I disagree quite strongly with people on the other side of room but what’s been good about Craven District Council is we’ve all worked hard on trying to focus on whats right for Craven. When we have disagreed we’ve put it behind us and done it in style rather than with aggression and bitterness. A lot of that is down to tone you’ve set Richard. As a person in opposition I’d like to thank you for that work.“

Labour Party councillor for Skipton West, Chris Rose, said later in the meeting: “I’m proud to say I’m a member of the Labour Party. I’m also proud to say Craven District Council has worked as a true democracy.“

Independent councillor for Skipton South, Robert Heseltine, is the longest-serving member of the authority with 43 years’ service.

He said serving the public in Craven has been an “absolute privilege” and that there was “no better career in public life” than being a councillor.

Conservative councillor for Aire Valley-with-Lothersdale, Parick Mulligan, said the achievements of the council over the last decade have been “pretty amazing” in the context of austerity, the covid pandemic and war in Ukraine.

He listed improvements to Aireville Park, helping to save Settle’s swimming pool and the Langcliffe Quarry project as some of the council’s most important accomplishments.

Cllr Mulligan said: “We’re a very small council that punches above its weight. Other councils have floundered in debt. We have not.“

Conservative councillor Gargrave and Malhamdale, Simon Myers, who is also the council’s final chair, expressed his sadness at the end of the council but added he hopes its spirit would continue with the new unitary authority.

“Nobody is sadder than I to see this successful, friendly, responsive council end. It is a credit to every member of this council that we have not wasted our time on party politics, we’ve put our shoulders to the job and got it done. If people don’t recognise the value of that go and sit in other district and borough councils and see what goes on there.

“The commitment to public good as been outstanding and is an example to every council in this county. I hope this spirit of co-operation and dedication to residents will be mirrored by the new council.“

Cllr Myers gave special thanks to the council’s chief executive Paul Shevlin who will retire.

He added: “The council was at a low financial ebb 14 yrs ago and has been turned around during the period of Paul’s leadership. He is a hardworking, dedicated officer. He’s built up a great team. He has huge respect across the board in the world of local government. He’s been an absolute joy to work with.“

The meeting also saw the council present legacy awards to organisations that have done good work in Craven over the years as well as honorary alderman and alderwomen titles to long-serving councillors.

For a full list of the awards see https://www.cravendc.gov.uk/media/11975/public-council-meeting-agenda-and-reports-30-march-2023.pdf

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