Richmond Town Council is set to take over the management of the Friary Gardens as North Yorkshire councillors look to hand over powers and responsibilities to local communities.
North Yorkshire Council gave town and parish councils the chance to submit bids for a pilot scheme that could see them taking on the management of specific services in their area on behalf of the countywide authority.
The scheme has been developed following a submission to the Government ahead of the largest overhaul of local government in nearly 50 years in the county which saw the creation of North Yorkshire Council in April.
The council has pledged to place local communities at its heart while covering England’s largest county, and the pilot scheme, which has been dubbed double devolution, is a key platform to achieving this aim.
A dozen expressions of interest were submitted by town and parish councils, and North Yorkshire Council’s executive will meet on Tuesday next week (October 17) to discuss which of the bids should be progressed. Services which could be taken on by town and parish councils include managing parks, markets and public conveniences.
North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for corporate services, Cllr David Chance, said: “We have made a commitment that local communities across North Yorkshire will be at the heart of all that we do as a council, making sure that we represent the views of the public.
“Town and parish councils are integral to our county’s vibrant communities, alongside community groups, and we recognise their understanding of the needs, opportunities and strengths within their communities.
“That’s why we are looking at this pilot scheme, working initially with selected town and parish councils, enabling us to progress cautiously, learning from the experience and developing best practice.
“These proposed pilots are just the start of the process, and the hope is that more will be introduced throughout North Yorkshire in the future.”
Bids for double devolution had to meet specific criteria that included a solid business case and delivery plan as well as being cost neutral to North Yorkshire Council.
Five of the expressions of interest are being recommended to move forward to a full business case.
– Malton Town Council’s bid to manage Malton Market Place’s public toilet facilities, including cleaning and maintenance.
– A bid to manage the markets in Northallerton and Thirsk, as a collaborative venture between the two town councils.
– Richmond Town Council’s bid to manage the Friary Gardens.
– Filey Town Council’s submission to manage public benches in the seaside town.
– Knaresborough Town Council’s application to manage the town’s markets, storage facility and associated assets such as road closure signs.
Successful instances of towns and villages already taking on the management of local assets include the transfer of 31 libraries to community groups in 2015.
The commitment to this approach was cemented in October last year when the former North Yorkshire County Council’s executive agreed to grant leases for a further 10 years to support the continued operation and development of community-run libraries.
Under the community model, the library service continues to provide the infrastructure, including books and public computers, as well as paid staff support to ensure consistency across the county.