North Yorkshire County Council to increase reliance on volunteers

Volunteers outside Richmond Library.

North Yorkshire County Council, which is facing a 35 per cent cut in its budget, says no stone will be left unturned to find opportunities for volunteers to help continue its services.

Council leader Carl Les issued the pledge after hearing the authority’s pioneering scheme to hand over the running of most of its libraries to community groups had been a success.

The council’s corporate and partnerships scrutiny committee heard while there had been numerous issues while the community-run libraries became established, there had been “no significant fall in business”.

This story continues after the adverts:


Members heard the 60,000 volunteer hours at the libraries the previous year had swelled to 155,000.

Cllr Les said: “With austerity we have lost 35 per cent of our budget, so we can either cut back and retrench or carry on with the service and do it in a different way.”

He stressed certain services, such as gritting roads would remain purely council-staffed.

Numerous services in the county which had been provided by or run by councils, such as tourist information centres and transport, have been run successfully by volunteers for some time.

Cllr Les said: “Every time we look at a service we ask the question is this an opportunity for volunteers.

“We’ve just been talking about educational services, with regard to prisoner release and also with regard to prisoners in young offenders institutions. We want to have a look at that.

“As we continue to look at services – because austerity isn’t over if more money is being promised to the health service, police and armed services local government is the area that’s going to get squeezed – we will keep looking at all the services we deliver and keep asking the question could this be done under a different delivery model?”

The meeting heard while there had been an drop in active library users at 22 of the libraries, the reduction was less than the previous year and the national average of 14 per cent.

Richmond councillor Stuart Parsons said the changeover to community-run libraries had proved “difficult” initially, but many of the issues were being resolved.

The Independent member said there had been concerns about the way the council had communicated with the volunteers.

He said: “I think it’s because they have their council-speak and they expect everybody in the wider world to do that.

“We are actually dealing with normal human beings from the outside world who don’t deal in jargon and want to understand simply how things work.”