“Puzzling” member champions initiative postponed by Richmondshire District Council

Richmondshire's councillors. Photo: Stuart Minting.

A drive to improve Richmondshire District Council’s understanding of the communities it serves and transform elected members roles has been postponed after it was agreed the initiative needed fine tuning.

Richmondshire District Council’s leader Councillor Angie Dale said she remained committed to pursuing a radically different approach at the authority, with cross-party working and inclusivity, despite questions being raised over proposals to introduce at least 17 ‘member champions’ to take a lead role in the authority’s work.

The move was put on the back burner as the authority’s corporate board was due to hand most of its 24 elected representatives an unpaid role to champion specific issues.

The committee had been due to ratify councillors as champions for finance and asset management; green issues; housing; business and tourism; managing car use; public toilets; litter and dogs; community support and engagement; planning; fitness and health; dementia; the vulnerable and older people; rurality and sparsity; children and poverty; tradition and heritage; homelessness and the military.

It had been proposed the champions would feedback on discussions they had with officers, residents, businesses and the council’s partners on a quarterly basis and that they would be “expected to provide factual comment rather than opinion”.

Opposition leader Councillor Yvonne Peacock told the corporate board while there was “no question that there is a place in the council for member champions”, further work was needed for it to operate smoothly.

She said: “For example, it’s been said the member champions will have no opinion. Councillors have opinions.”

Councillor Jimmy Wilson-Petch added he had found the proposal “very puzzling” and had wondered how it was going to work.

Councillors agreed to launch a scrutiny investigation and return to the council appointing spokespeople.

Cllr Dale said: “We are open to a different way of working, but we want to take it through that scrutiny process to see the best way forward.”

In the meantime, it was agreed five councillors would act as spokespeople for the authority.