A scheme is being launched to ‘mitigate’ the effect of budget cuts as North Yorkshire County Council tries to save £168m.
Having already saved or identified £94m, NYCC is now having to cut services again to find an additional £74 to meet the 34 per cent reduction of its budget by 2020.
Libraries have already been targeted, taking a cut of £2m in 2010 and another £1.6m now, and there are three other priority areas where cuts will be made: community transport, open access youth services, and some services for older and more vulnerable adults.
These changes were introduced at the Harrogate area committee by Marie-Ann Jackson - head of the Stronger Communities scheme with the remit of ‘mitigating’ these cuts in communities.
She said: “It is part of a cultural change, it is not simply about a cost savings programme, but the relationship we have with the communities we serve and moving much more into partnership with the different assets and resources they can bring.
“The directorates have drawn up various savings programmes and part of what we do is to help to mitigate the impact of some of those services on the community.”
Funded through ring-fenced public health grant, Mrs Jackson said her colleagues in public health identified volunteering as having ‘very important wider health benefits’.
There will be a delivery manager for each of the districts whose job it is to liaise between communities and NYCC as cuts are made in each of the four areas identified.
Several concerns were raised by councillors at the meeting.
Knaresborough division Coun Bill Hoult (Lib Dem) said: “It makes sense to do this in small bits. Is there that commitment there to deal with it in small bundles that will come together in the end, because otherwise it just won’t happen.”
Boroughbridge division Coun Robert Windass (Con) said: “With all of the recent cases of child exploitation what steps are going to be put in place when recruiting volunteers?
“We are not so naive to think it isn’t happening in North Yorkshire and I’m sure it is somewhere.”
However, Harrogate Saltergate division Coun Don Mackenzie (Con) said: “I support this programme. The whole thing is financed by a grant, not from the general revenue budget, and currently I consider this a very effective use of public health money.
“If you look at the most recent report we are very lucky in North Yorkshire to have a very vibrant establishment and I believe the use of that money will have a profound effect on the public health of the county.”