A number of questions were put to the speakers during the Conference which were not able to be addressed due to time constraints. Answers to these questions have been provided below:
Q. The minority ethnic population of North Yorkshire is steadily increasing and it can still be regarded as fairly sparse in the way it is distributed. It is deeply disappointing to find virtually no reference to this significant demographic trend in the report. There is in fact a lot of evidence and data available already, and minorities make significant contributions to key economic sectors such as agriculture, health and social care. Was the countywide Equality and Diversity group, convened by Community First Yorkshire, systematically consulted on this important issue?
A. All commissioners would agree that the minority ethnic population is an important dimension of North Yorkshire’s life, and one that is growing numerically. The vision for being an open, welcoming, inclusive county community is central to the vision of Rural North Yorkshire: the way forward.
The countywide Equality and Diversity group will be focussing specifically at the coming meetings on the messages and priorities to feed into the Rural Commission Report Action Plan.
During Covid-19 the North Yorkshire Equality & Diversity Partnership has had a particular emphasis on safeguarding, inclusion and loneliness. It is an open group for VCSE and public sector colleagues to engage in. The observations of those attending the Partnership have been used by Community First Yorkshire and partners to feed into a number of planning groups and Boards, influencing policies and contributing to reports. This has included meetings with colleagues from the Rural Commission. Rural equality and inclusion issues have not been overlooked. Action planning in response to the Report will continue to tackle all aspects of equality and inclusion, and as a member of the Task Group, Community First Yorkshire will be providing a route for the voice of the Equality and Inclusion Partnership to be heard.
The next meeting of the Equality and Inclusion Partnership is 12 January 2022 and anyone interested in attending, who does not currently attend, can contact firstname.lastname@example.org It will also be promoted in their weekly newsletter here.
Q. Do you believe devolution is essential both down from Central Government to North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), and also down from NYCC to local areas / communities?
A. Devolution will be essential for the unitary authority to be as effective as possible and for the vision within Rural North Yorkshire: the way forward to become a reality. Commissioners could see that this will involve having effective local leadership and representation, with appropriate responsibilities devolved to local areas. The Commission did not explore how this might be structured and organised, but were encouraged by clear signs that people within the county and district councils were already addressing this question, for example through the proposals for local government reorganisation.
Q. Do you think it would be different across the county if all the districts had built houses in line with needs such as the 450/year in Selby area?
A. The Commission dealt with the reality of each situation as it is now, and made suggestions and recommendations to take things forward from where they are.
Q. The report makes education recommendations primarily around schools and post-16 with reference to young people. Was any work carried out with residents around access for a wider adult demographic and what did that say? This is particularly vital for engaging with new skills and new opportunities
A. North Yorkshire is well placed to develop a stronger green economy, which would be of immense benefit in helping the whole country meet ambitious carbon net zero targets. That this will demand skills, and give the opportunity for many people to gain skills, is clear. The commission saw that there could be real advantages in working closely with the further and higher education institutions both within the region and especially in the more urban centres, which surround North Yorkshire.
Q. The York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has been awarded Community Renewal Fund funding for an Energy Package to support decarbonisation pathways. This includes a Local Area Energy Plan to support investment decisions such as grid capacity, due to complete June 2022. How can this information feed into the Rural Task Force activity?
A. The Commission was in close and regular communication with the LEP, receiving many vital insights and much encouragement from it. The content of a Local Area Energy Plan will be wholly consistent with the recommendations of the Commission. This is something the advisory panel will be able to assess in its response to the LEP’s plans.
Q. What plans are there for delivering community led outcomes e.g. installation of recommendations from Rural Community Energy Fund feasibility studies?
A. There are no plans yet which come directly from the work of the Commission; it was not the commissioners’ job to develop plans. We were very clear, however, that building strong community at every level – local, regional and national - is vital for the development and flourishing of North Yorkshire. At the local level, brilliant examples of people coming together through the pandemic have reminded us, if we needed reminding, of the huge potential for serving the common good that exists within local communities. It was also clear to commissioners that, in order to harness this, a clear vision for the region, which can unite people, and competent local leadership will be essential.
Local government reorganisation
Q. Will there be LOCAL decision making?
A. There will be greater transparency with powerful new area constituency committees. They will oversee their local areas, championing their cause, strengthening relationships with their MPs and making important decisions locally on vital matters such as planning and licensing, holding the new council to account.
Local priorities will be decided by around 25 community networks, initially based around market town areas but how many and where they cover will be decided in consultation with local communities. These networks will see communities work with business and public sector agencies to have a louder voice and get things done in their local area. Made up of community and business groups, town and parish councils and representatives from other local groups and public services, including local councillors, community networks will act as local agents for economic and social change.
Every network will be supported by a Local Area Coordinator. The Coordinator will support local people to work with public service providers to develop their own action plans and to set their own priorities for delivery and social action. These could include, for example, a cultural programme for the town, engagement activities for young people, activities to bring people together locally and to reduce isolation or improvements to the look and feel of the high streets.
Each Community Network would be assigned one of the most senior managers from within the new council. This will make sure there are strong connections back into the council and with partners and ensure senior managers understand local issues. The new council will support and promote community-led schemes such as community transport and community housing as an important part of local service delivery.
Area Committees will have a role in championing Community Network action plans and holding the council and its partners to account for the delivery of local priorities.
Q. How do you envisage the new Council plugging into the work of our National Parks and supporting delivery of Park Management Plans?
A. Considering the immeasurable value of our local natural assets, we understand the need to continue to work closely with the National Parks, including in their role as planning authorities, which will be protected. We recognise that membership arrangements would change, but this will be balanced appropriately so that the role of the National Parks is safeguarded within future arrangements. A clearer and simpler partnership will also enable us to better support and sustain the communities contained within the parks.
Q. Are we going to further cut the different partnerships we are in? There are still too many.
A. The new council will allow the creation of stronger, simpler and more effective partnerships.
Q. In the last round of LGR, in 1996, the needs of the Third Sector were only addressed as an afterthought late in the day as a result of which many voluntary organisations had to make staff redundant and couldn't plan their future. Will the county commit to involving the Third Sector fully as a partner in the planning and financial processes now and at every stage from now on?
A. The LGR implementation team (made up of senior officers from both county and district councils) is committed to working with all partners including Third Sector organisations throughout the transition. The business case for the unitary council sets out the commitment to strengthened and invigorated partnerships across the public, private and voluntary sectors committed to improving outcomes for everyone. Regular updates on the transition are being circulated to partners, including via Community First Yorkshire. Relationships with Third Sector organisations feature in a number of workstreams, based on the services that the organisations deliver. All contracts will transfer (novate) automatically to the unitary council. The grant making policy of the unitary council will need to be determined by the councillors elected in May 2022, but the Localities workstream is planning to establish a comprehensive baseline in 2022 of all the existing eight councils’ regular and ongoing grant funding relationships with Third Sector organisations, so that none are lost or forgotten during the transition.
Q. Would be able to assess how good a place a community is based on different indicators by using this tool? Can we use it to look into a particular areas such as mental health?
A. There are 14 questions and people can provide their views on each topic, scoring it from 1-7. How the different topics/themes interact with one another can also be seen e.g. someone saying they feel isolated because they can’t move around (no transport links).
Each theme of the place standard tool has an evidence base sitting behind it – some more in-depth than others.
The supporting questions are flexible and more appropriate questions can be added in order to focus on a specific aspect and give a really detailed response.
The tool focusses on health and wellbeing and how different aspects of the place might impact on people’s wellbeing- so the medical and social model of mental health and wellbeing need to complement each other. For example, someone may have been diagnosed with a mental health condition but there may also be triggers that make the condition worse (feeling isolated) e.g. being unable to drive due to medication, no activities nearby to join so they are reliant on public transport which may not be adequate for their needs. It is better when running the events to have key partner agencies involved i.e. health, housing, planning, community groups, transport etc.
You can find more information on the tool at Place Standard and a short film about the tool at How good is your place? The Place Standard tool - YouTube
Q. Is there any particular wording used when explaining findings?
A. We have tended to use the words people use as it explains it better than we can.
To capture what people are saying a table can be used for each theme with the following columns:
- Positive comments
- Negative Comments
- Constructive Comments.
Once you have interpreted the results, you must close the feedback loop with the groups you are working with and check that your interpretation of what they were saying is right.
Q. It sounds as though it could be used as a form of community engagement or consultation not only to highlight the good, but also the gaps / improvements to be made.
A. This is how the tool has been used as part of developing a local improvement plan, showing the great assets of the area, identifying the gaps and working in partnership with the community/ partners to invest in the improvements for the area.
Q. How quickly can this be set this up for a group that might be looking to engage with their community?
A. Communities have used the tool with just the headline questions as a starting point to get a really quick gut reaction to their place.
Getting local people to lead the walkabouts is a really positive way to impact mental health and confidence. If professionals are serious about true community empowerment then giving communities leading roles then collaboration will be much better and local people will support change in a much more positive manner.
Ryedale DC managed to pull this together in about 6 weeks, which was due to a specific issue in the area. They already had great dialogue with some partners who shared the same issues so they were happy to come on board to help deliver the project/engagements. They also had a community team (six officers) who helped with the organising of the event.
Q. Have you found it easy to use with young people or adults with Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND)? Is there an Easy Read version of the tool or is it already set up that way?
A. Place Standard Scotland are about to go out to tender for an easy access/easy to read and use version. They have been working with the Glasgow Disability Alliance, dementia academics and specialist educators to help develop the project brief. The successful tender will be appointed at the end of January 2022. This offers an opportunity for you and your colleagues to be added to the list of stakeholders, if that is something you might be interested in. Further down the line it also offers the opportunity to help test this version of the tool. Colleagues in Holland are also working on a more accessible version of the Dutch version of the place standard tool (De Lef Plekmeter), so they are learning lessons and sharing experience with them.
Q. What learning can you share about creating opportunities in places for jobs, training, Voluntary Community Social Enterprise (VSE) sector/business start-up, in particular attracting resources and other enablers?
A. In Scotland there has been some success in impacting funding bids. Sustrans use the place standard to structure applications for funding to deliver segregated cycling routes. There have been discussions with the Big Lotto to explore using a place standard tool assessment as part of, or even instead of, a number of forms which would really help deprived communities.
Local Authorities in Scotland have been using the place standard tool since its launch in 2015 as a key part of the participatory budgeting process and use the results to monitor and evaluate spend across their towns and cities.
Q. Regarding the Ryedale example: Were there differences in responses by age group? How do we ensure the voice of older people is represented and manage any differences.
A. More people over 50 responded/ attended the event. Fewer young people attended the event or responded. Engagement was attempted with the local schools but the head teacher did not think it was the right time to participate. Engagement was also attempted with the local youth club but they didn’t have the capacity to run an event.
If the event was run again there would be an attempt to target certain age groups to ensure an equitable response for all. The event was followed up by engaging people in the town centre and getting them to use the Place standard App, which helped.
As part of the debrief after the event partners spoke about the need to run separate events with key groups/ages. These could also be focussed on specific topics.