Rights of way funding row intensifies with council accused of being ‘niggardly’

Walkers in the Yorkshire Dales.

A row over funding footpath maintenance in North Yorkshire’s national parks has intensified as the country’s third largest council was accused of being “at least niggardly, if not disgraceful” for refusing to contribute towards its statutory responsibility.

While most of the ten elected North Yorkshire Council members made no comment, the local authority came under heavy fire at a meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority for declining to resume giving money to the designated landscape in the face of the park receiving less government grant this year than in 2010.

The council has refused to make a £45,000 contribution towards the annual £500,000 rights of way maintenance bill in the national park and members agreed, as a result, there would be £45,000 less work carried out on footpaths in North Yorkshire this year.

The meeting was told Westmorland and Furness Council had agreed to contribute to rights of way maintenance, so the full programme of maintenance would continue in that part of the park.

The meeting at the park authority’s Wensleydale base heard its chief executive, David Butterworth, warn if it received many complaints about deteriorating paths the body could be forced to follow its North York Moors counterpart in considering handing back responsibility for the rights of way to North Yorkshire Council.

Mr Butterworth said the park authority had calculated the statutory minimum on rights of way maintenance North Yorkshire Council would need to spend if it was transferred back would be £250,000.

He then signalled a determination to broker a deal with the local authority, saying rights of way remained among the park authority’s top priorities.

Park authority development management member champion Jim Munday said given the importance of tourism to the economy of North Yorkshire and research underlining that tourists visited the area to walk it was “at least niggardly, if not disgraceful, that North Yorkshire is not paying their statutory contribution”.

Phil Dew, a member of Westmorland and Furness Council, highlighted how North Yorkshire councillors had approved a £1,500 rise in their basic allowances this year and the requested £45,000 contribution would be “absolute peanuts” to the country’s third largest local authority by population.

He added: “An authority can find money for whatever it wants to spend it on. You just have to look in the budget to see where its priorities are.”

In response, Simon Myers, a member of North Yorkshire Council’s executive, said he would not debate “how North Yorkshire Council decides to conduct itself” with people not elected to the authority or pretend to understand the financial pressures that other councils were facing.

He then dismissed claims funds raised through the second homes council tax premium would be ploughed into the authority’s general coffers, saying it would be spent on houses and housing-related matters.

Mr Myers said, as North Yorkshire’s housing boss, when it came to allocating the money he would pay particular regard to four areas identified by the Leeds Building Society, including Scarborough, Whitby and the two national parks, as facing the most pressure for affordable housing.

Warning against parochialism, he added: “We are on county and we stand or fail together.”

Yvonne Peacock, a member of the ruling Tory group on the local authority then accused some park authority members of trying to “get at North Yorkshire Council”. She said: “It’s just a shame we had such a day today of knock, knock, knock North Yorkshire Council.”

She said North Yorkshire Council had a lot of statutory duties, but as Upper Dales councillor she had not heard any complaints about the rights of way while the highways authority had to deal with potholes across thousands of miles of roads.

1 Comment

  1. Preventative Maintenance is far more cost effective than Comprehensive Repair, NYC (that’s me the Tax Payer) should pay their dues and move on to more meaningful priorities,no doubt the cost of rebranding the Council will far exceed the £45k Contribution to Footpath Maintenance which will produce Tourism Revenue for the Dales Communities, who will notice a fancy Logo and a Marketing Strap Line certainly not the Hiker stuck in a Bog on a Dales Footpath!

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