Agenda item

Community Networks


Considered – Report of Marie-Ann Jackson, Head of Stronger Communities and Neil Irving, Assistant Director - Policy, Partnerships & Communities on the development of Community Networks as part of the new North Yorkshire Council.


Some of the key points highlighted in the report are as summarised below:


·       North Yorkshire County Council’s submission to government for the establishment of a unitary council put forward a case for a locality based delivery model, including the creation of Community Networks as part of the ‘Local Action’ pillar of the delivery proposal.

·       Work undertaken to date includes a series of workshops to establish some key principles and characteristics and roles for the operation of Community Networks, together with a task and finish group to capture the ambition in the unitary submission and agree a draft vision and high level terms of reference to give communities a stronger voice.

·       Initial conversations have been held with some of the existing networks and partnerships set up across the county to learn best practice and what the challenges are.

·       The target is for circa 25-30 place-based networks across the county with a preference for networks to be centred around principal towns and their rural hinterlands. Initial testing of proposed geographical areas has been undertaken as part of the Let’s Talk Local engagement campaign that is ongoing.

·       The flexibility of the Community Networks will be key, they will evolve at different speeds in different places. There is also not a desire to impose boundaries for the networks as these will change and evolve over time.

·       It is not planned that the community networks will have devolved budgets, but they will be supported to explore funding opportunities to align partner investment in communities. Although financial resources will need to be in place to support the ongoing administration of the networks.

·       The networks will be connected into the Council through the Area Committees, local members, senior level sponsorship, community officers and community anchors to assist in developing priorities and facilitate the work of the networks.

·       A Community Anchor Organisation model will be developed, building on the successful Community Support Organisation (CSO) model adopted in the response to the pandemic, to undertake roles such as helping co-ordinate local VCS/grassroots involvement to provide resilience and supporting with wider community engagement activities.

·       Network meetings are to be attended by a member of North Yorkshire Councill staff from Assistant Director level or above to feed back the priorities or issues raised to the Management Team.

·       Emerging issues flagged as part of the engagement consultation so far include the proposed Network boundaries feeling too big and too town dominated. There is also concern that the networks would duplicate the work of the Parish and Town Councils and are un-democratic.

·       It is proposed to run a small number of pilot areas based around the existing partnerships to bring together some case studies and case studies ahead of Executive consideration. The implementation of the programme will not begin until after vesting day, as it will require the appropriate staff structures and other resources and relationships to be in place.


There followed a discussion, the key points of which are as summarised below:


·       There was a concern that by implementing the Community Networks model, this would undermine the elected parish and town councillors and lead to a duplication of work and the potential for conflict between the various partners.

·       Given the huge geographical area of North Yorkshire, Community Networks could have a key role to identify and fill any gaps in supporting communities where local action is missing.

·       The potential lack of democratic representation and accountability as part of the Network members was flagged as an issue and the influence that those who join them may have as unelected representatives.  

·       A fear was expressed that the Community Networks boundaries are too big and they will become unfocused and not take meaningful action and outcomes if they are not properly set up and supported.

·       It was noted that there is already a chance for local residents to get involved via question time at Parish Council meetings.

·       It is pleasing to see that the Community Anchor Organisations will be utilised as ‘system partners’ to co-ordinate local action and use the knowledge and experience built up during the pandemic response.

·       The lack of devolved funding was raised and the impact this would have on the networks having autonomy and being able to quickly drive improvements. Match funding of the councillors locality budgets was put forward as a suggestion.

·       Numerous members endorsed the approach of a small number of pilots to further develop the concept.

·       It is pleasing to see the recognition that one size doesn’t fit all and that networks in one part of the county will evolve at different speeds to those in other areas.


Resolved – That the report and comments received be noted on the progress made in relation to the development of a framework for the development of Community Networks.

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