Communities Taking Control - North Yorkshire County Council



Communities Taking Control - North Yorkshire County Council
Communities Taking Control:
Lessons from North Yorkshire’s
Active Communities Programme
Edited by the Active Communities Steering Group
Communities taking control:
Lessons from North Yorkshire’s Active Communities
This paper is for those community organisations who spot a gap in
services and want to do something to fill it, who see a public sector
service under threat and want to do something to save it or see a
building that is no longer being used for its original purpose and
want to bring it back into use for the benefit of the local community.
It contains good advice from local people who have lived and
breathed the experience of taking responsibility for local services,
drawing on the support of voluntary sector bodies and from public
sector workers.
Compiled by Ann Hindley and the Active Communities
Steering Group:
Craven Community and Voluntary Services
Harrogate and Ripon Council for Voluntary Service
North Yorkshire and York Forum
Richmond Community and Voluntary Action
Rural Action Yorkshire
1. Introduction: What is Active Communities?
2. Hard work but there can be important benefits
3. Before you start: planning & preparation
Future Support: Stronger Communities
Case Study: Derwent Valley BRIDGE Community Library
Case study: Friends of Stepping Stones, Skipton
4. Negotiating with the local authority
Case study: The i centre, Ingleton
Case study: Ripon Bike Park
5. Working with volunteers
Case study: Great Ayton Discovery Centre
Case study: Discover Filey
6. Being inclusive can reduce social isolation
7. A View From A Development Worker
8. Contacts and further information
Case study: The Trinity Centre, Whitby
What is Active Communities?
Active Communities ran from 2011 to 2014, helping voluntary and community groups who were
looking at taking over and running services that had previously been publicly provided. Many
of the local services that were threatened with closure now continue to exist, and some have
expanded, thanks to the Active Communities programme that was funded by North Yorkshire
County Council.
Through the programme, a number of community groups were formed to save threatened
libraries. There were also groups who wanted to deliver a service as a social enterprise.
Some projects were public buildings taken over by communities and transformed into viable
operations. Another example is a service for older people which was given assistance with
adapting to change.
Future support: Stronger Communities
Active Communities was a three year programme of support that coincided with the start
of ten years of significant cuts in central government funding for local authorities. During
these ten years, the cuts will reduce North Yorkshire County Council’s budget by 34 % and
will impact on almost every service provided by the county council.
Using the lessons learnt through the Active Communities programme, North Yorkshire
County Council is developing a programme of support for local communities that want
to establish a range of local support and services. The aim is to maximise the wellbeing of
local people of all ages and to mitigate against some of the cuts to public services.
This programme of support, to be known as ‘Stronger Communities’, will include access to
the necessary knowledge and skills needed by voluntary and community organisations
and by parish and town councils. Stronger Communities will be backed by experienced and
independent advisors, similar to those involved in the Active Communities programme.
For more information about the Stronger Communities programme, please contact:
[email protected]
Active 1 Communities
It’s hard work but there can be
important benefits!
The Active Communities process has shown that there are benefits to community ownership and
control but this is not an easy process to go through. Those groups who completed the journey
reaped the benefits for their local communities; for example:
aa Many threatened services continued to operate, or even expanded.
aa As volunteers, people got to know each other better, helping to reduce rural and social
aa Independence from statutory services meant that people felt more in control of their
services and the way they are developed.
aa Using local suppliers and employing local people often helped to reduce costs.
Whilst the benefits of community ownership and control have been realised by those involved
following considerable hard work, it is important to acknowledge some of the challenges faced
by groups in taking this control. These include:
aa Needing to get to grips with red tape, accounts, policies and procedures, and learning to
work with statutory bodies and volunteers for the first time.
aa Learning new business skills quickly, such as deciding on what the prices of services
should be.
aa Realisation of the length of time the process can take.
aa Helping users of existing services respond to changes.
Dealing With The Challenges
Groups have been resilient in coping with the challenges and were able to benefit from support
both from within their communities and from organisations in the public and voluntary sectors.
Here are some ways in which these challenges were addressed:
aa Local Support and Development Organisations were acknowledged as vital (the
next page gives information on LSDOs): they provided tailored help with volunteer
recruitment, training, business planning, identifying and managing risks and with policy
aa Recognising that involving the people who are going to be either using the service or
who are going to be affected by it was fundamental.
aa Groups found different ways of organising the work for example: one developed their
Board of Trustees as one team which aimed to reach consensus about issues, while
another split the work between three teams, each one addressing steering and coordination, volunteer management or systems and procedures, with key committee
members heading each team.
Active 2 Communities
aa Other groups looked for local people with the skills they needed, such as bookkeepers
and accountants.
aa Community Library groups found that the support received from County Council library
staff was vital to the smooth running of their services.
Local Support and Development Organisations
All of the Local Support and Development Organisations (LSDOs) in North Yorkshire
are able to deliver support to new and existing groups who are looking to change,
extend or start delivery of a service or to take over a building. The North Yorkshire
LSDOs offered this advice:
“Getting the policies, procedures, job descriptions and other basic
documentation in place is key; in cases where these were not seen
by the trustees as important, development workers were able to
persuade them of the need. In one case, the development worker
was valued as keeping project workers sane throughout this whole
One group succeeded in securing a number of grants for their project; they stressed
that they would not have developed the confidence and skills to have achieved this
without the help of a development worker.
Another statutory body who were looking at setting up a social enterprise, valued
the support of the LSDO in helping them to focus on getting more volunteers
involved, with the aim of providing higher level of support to their project.
Contact details of those LSDOs located in and serving North Yorkshire are at the end
of this paper.
Active 3 Communities
Case Study: Derwent Valley BRIDGE
Community Library
Derwent Valley BRIDGE Community Library in West Ayton covers
eight parishes. Having faced closure, Derwent Valley BRIDGE
opened as a community library in May 2012 and became a
Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) in June 2013, with
are 11 Trustees. Prior to the setting up of the CIO, four of the
original steering group had taken on the lease, which is in the
process of being transferred to the CIO ( April 2014).
It costs approximately £8,500 per annum to run the BRIDGE.
Income is generated by the provision of library services, grants
and sponsorship. Trustees have set themselves a fundraising
target of £1,500 which was exceeded in the first year.
Since opening, the trustees have also established the Friends
of Derwent Valley BRIDGE, sent out a quarterly newsletter to
Friends and volunteers, held literary talks in the library and
recruited fifty volunteers. There have been 101 new library
members in 2014 and they have exceeded the target on their
Summer Reading Challenge. They are also trying to encourage the library premises to
be used by other groups on a Thursday when the library service is closed.
As a consequence, the volunteers are all
meeting new people and the volunteering
itself has become a social activity where
new friends have been made. A number
of volunteers are widows and it’s given
them a new reason for being. A number
of volunteers have got skills that can be
used in different ways.
The users are grateful for the library still
being open. The key benefit is that social
and rural isolation can be addressed. The
subsidy for the local buses has just been cut, which is going to mean a loss of bus
services. There are increasing numbers of young people using the library. There are
opportunities for greater social contact that does not cost anything.
The trustees had to be direct and refused to sign the lease until North Yorkshire County
Council (NYCC) agreed to pay some capital for repairs. The committee felt that the
county council could not afford to fail with this library. NYCC expected the committee
to produce a business plan in a very short time and there was little understanding of
the need for corporate decision making within the organisation.
Contact details: Suzanne Carr, 3 Pickering Road, West Ayton, Scarborough, YO13 9JE.
Tel: 01723 863052
Active 4 Communities
Before You Start: Planning And
Many groups in the Active Communities programme have offered advice about the level and
type of planning and preparation they needed just to get their project started, including:
aa Be positive but be realistic about what you want from the project and what you can give.
aa Be clear there is a demand for the service, by talking to your customers.
aa Have a good plan of where the project should be in twelve months’ time, with some
specific milestones in place to help gauge progress.
aa Identify and manage any risks with help from your local Local Support and Development
Organisation. Consider all options for a legal structure early in the process to ensure
getting the right one.
aa Keep policies and procedures as simple as possible and review after a year, as the needs
of the organisation may change.
aa Early on, look at finances, income and expenditure and cash flow and ensure the figures
all add up - this includes setting an annual budget and preparing financial projections.
aa If you are bidding for funding, allow plenty of time rather than leaving things to the
Case Study: Friends of Stepping Stones,
Skipton Stepping Stones 2 is a horticultural
centre based in Skipton providing learning
and support for adults with disabilities. It
is currently run by North Yorkshire County
Council on land leased from Craven District
Council. The site is situated between the
towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal,
Aireville Park and an allotment site. It
would be an ideal location for developing
potential social enterprise initiatives, such
as a community café, plant and produce
shop, delivery of horticultural and craft
training courses, grounds maintenance contracting services and health eating and
lifestyle activities.
A group of local individuals made up of service users, their carers, centre staff and local
voluntary organisations have come together with the aim of setting up a user-led
development organisation. They are exploring the potential for developing one
Active 5 Communities
or more social enterprises at the site and identifying other opportunities to generate
long term sustainable funding streams to enable this highly-valued project to survive
in the current climate of decreasing local authority funding. There is an unknown
number of adults with mild learning disabilities who do not use social care services and
there are set to be more who are no longer eligible for traditional support because of
raising the Fair Access to Care criteria from moderate to substantial.
Training has been given to Friends of Stepping Stones members around what a social
enterprise is and what sort of issues need to be considered when setting one up.
They have had support from Craven Community for Voluntary Service with: setting
themselves up as a formally constituted group, business planning, promoting the
existence of Stepping Stones to the wider community, visiting other local social
enterprises and liaising with commissioners.
Contact details: Hadyn Davies, Stepping Stones, Aireville Park Nurseries, Aireville Park,
Skipton, BD23 1RT
Tel: 01609 534047
Active 6 Communities
Negotiating With The Local
Most of the people running projects supported by Active Communities needed to be involved
in negotiations with either the county council or a district council and often found the process
frustrating. Of course, for the public sector, the experience of transferring assets and services to
community based organisations is a new one too. The groups involved in running the projects
offered this advice:
aa Read the draft Service Level Agreement you receive from the Local Authority carefully
and be prepared to negotiate, be cautious, read the small print and, where appropriate,
take independent legal advice.
aa The process needs patience. It can take time to get answers and commitment. It became
clear that local authorities, while setting the timetable, do not always complete actions
on time and groups often had to push to secure necessary documents.
aa Keeping in touch with council officials can be difficult if you work in a job without
constant access to a computer: make sure the officials know how and when to contact
aa Be tenacious and hang on for the answer you want.
A View From The County Council
Within this framework of community ownership and control, officers and councillors at
North Yorkshire County Council have had to learn new ways of working, just as many
community organisations have. Here are three key messages from county council officers.
Those projects where people got most frustrated at the
early stages have been the most imaginative and have
brought in most volunteers, many of whom were not
previously involved in voluntary work.
The services need to be sustainable in the future. With libraries, for
example, people need to think creatively about what else the building
might be used for; they could be used and developed for a whole range
of services and there are a number of examples of where imagination has
been applied successfully.
Groups need to be clear about who is ‘authorised’ to speak on
their behalf to prevent contradictory messages being passed to
those they are negotiating with
It was acknowledged that this is also a message for the statutory
Active 7 Communities
Case Study: The i centre – Ingleton
The i centre has opened in a closed Middle School in Ingleton which was
scheduled for demolition. Following local protest and a piece of market research,
the building has been leased to Ingleton Middle Community Interest Company to
develop as a community enterprise centre, providing affordable space for rent to
small businesses, health, education and community groups.
These organisations may be health services, charities or local businesses. A bakery
and printing company have opened on the premises along with a gym, shared
office space being used by a web designer and an architect, a Pilates studio with
space under offer to a children’s nursery and a company selling gifts.
The lease was signed with the county council in 2013 and the building opened for
business in summer of that year as tenants moved into the outside buildings. The
gym opened in the old school hall in August of the same year and they opened
for commercial customers in September. There are currently three directors and
a number of associates. The board is looking for other people with skills and
experience to join them. In addition to Active Communities support, a grant has
been received from Big Lottery Village SOS, other funding from Ingleton Parish
Council and Craven District Council all of which has helped to pay legal and
surveying fees and early costs. The project is now starting to break even.
Contact details: Rosemary Hartley Chair of Ingleton Middle CIC
Web: [email protected]
Active 8 Communities
Case Study: Ripon Bike Park
A group of parents wanted to develop a new bike park in Ripon following the
sudden closure of the Harrogate Borough Council bike park.
The parents arranged a meeting and were given a pack about organising a group
and writing a constitution. They were also put in touch with Harrogate and
Ripon CVS, who helped them to write a constitution and prepare a number of
applications for funding.
Since then, by a variety of means, they have raised £181,000. This has included
a successful application to the Armed Forces Covenant Fund and another for an
Inspired Facilities grant. This also involved them in arguing the case with Sport
England for their project to be prioritised over another in the town.
During this time, the group had met with Harrogate Borough Council who agreed
to work with them and helped them to put the work out to tender. The group
set up a panel, including children, for the contractors to present their plans. The
four designs were placed on their website and were taken to a number of youth
events where young people and children were encouraged to vote on the design.
The chosen company will provide support throughout the development process.
Harrogate Borough Council will maintain the park and the group will continue to
organise events there. A provisional date has been set for starting the work in May
As a result of this project Frances Fraser and Clare Thorpe received the Community
Volunteer of the Year Award 2013 for Harrogate and District. This reflected the
massive local support they received for this project, which was hugely popular with
children and adults alike.
Contact details: Frances Fraser and Clare Thorpe - [email protected]
Active 9 Communities
Working With Volunteers
Volunteers are key to community projects and working with them can be inspiring. The Active
Communities programme groups interviewed gave the following advice for working with
aa Training in recruiting, using, supporting and training volunteers is vital to the success of
the work. Recruitment needs to be constant and you should never refuse any help. All
skills are valued.
aa Large numbers of volunteers need organising properly. Great Ayton Discovery Centre
has a system of day groups. Each volunteer belongs to a day group which is coordinated
by a committee member who is responsible for ensuring that the rota for each of their
assigned days is covered.
aa Some people are skilled in initiating projects and some are good at running them; the
initiating group will need to be prepared to hand over to those with the ‘doing’ skills.
aa Volunteers need to find the work rewarding and to enjoy it. Some organisations reward
them with regular social events, where they can meet each other. They also need to be
valued by being given responsibility.
It should be noted that some groups fear that their success in taking on the delivery of services
may encourage further transfer of responsibility to community groups, at a time where then are
too few volunteers with too little training to do this properly.
Case Study: Great Ayton Discovery Centre
The Discovery Centre opened in June 2012 and has now developed
a database of a hundred volunteers, sixty to seventy of whom staff
the library rota while the rest help with jobs such as maintenance
and sales of arts and crafts. The centre is more than a library, being
also a community centre, and is unique in that 75% of its running
costs are being funded by an increase in the precept levied by the
parish council. The shortfall is made up by book sales, arts and crafts
sales, fundraising and retention of library income. There is always
one paid support person present in the library, either a county
council member of staff in the mornings or the admin manager in
the afternoon, employed by the Discovery Centre committee. The
full costs of all staff are paid by Great Ayton Discovery Centre. Space is rented out in the library
to local artists for display of arts and crafts for sale and a small commission is taken from sales.
This has a secondary role of supporting local enterprise. There have been events held in the
library, such as poetry evenings and musical events, and an Operations Group has just been
formed from a brainstorming meeting of about thirty volunteers to discuss improvements to
the service and layout of the library. The committee also has plans to expand into an adjacent
property with a view to housing the Tourist Information Centre.
Contact details: Karen Appleyard: [email protected] Tel: 01642 723268
Facebook: GreatAytonDiscoveryCentre
Active 10 Communities
Case Study: Discover Filey
Discover Filey was set up in 2011 by several
groups coming together with the aim of
reconnecting the community to Filey’s heritage
and environment. These groups included
Filey Brigg Ornithological Group and Bird
Observatory, Filey Bay Initiative, Filey Sailing
Club, Filey Museum and Filey Brigg Research
Group. European funding was obtained for
educational equipment and a website.
A programme of events in 2012 provided
opportunities for visitors and schools to find
out more about Filey and its surrounds, and
served more than 1,000 children. In the same
year, the group became both a company
limited by guarantee and joined Locality as a
development trust.
The current focus of the group is to build
a visitor centre in Filey’s Country Park and
to improve the park. Local groups and
local authorities recognise the potential for
improvement of this area. Designs have been
drawn for an environmentally-friendly centre
where people can learn about the landscape, seashore, birds and wildlife and the
heritage of the people who lived and worked in and who developed the area. The group
is involved in the process of taking over a piece of land currently owned by Scarborough
Council and occupied by a disused toilet block. They have the support of both Filey Town
Council and of Scarborough Council and are carrying out continuous consultation with
local people.
With support from Rural Action Yorkshire and from Locality, the group applied for a
range of funds and have been successful with LEADER and Section106 money. They have
managed to recruit a number of people to the board with local knowledge and who
have been involved with other local projects. Tapping into local and regional networks
has also brought contacts with valuable people with useful skills and knowledge.
Contact details: Discover Filey, Room 23, The Evron Centre, John Street, Filey.
Tel: 01723 518045
Email: [email protected]
Active 11 Communities
Being Inclusive Can Reduce Social
All of the projects supported by Active Communities have tried to be inclusive. They have worked
with people who are known to experience social isolation, and have provided opportunities for
social contact and inclusion. Working inclusively is an important approach that needs to be taken
into account as these new ways of working develop:
aa Volunteering is a way of countering social isolation and many of the projects have
emphasised the importance of the relationships that have developed between the
people who volunteer and the people they serve.
aa The Ripon Bike Park has provided an excellent example of the way in which young people
can be involved throughout a project. The group worked specifically to involve some
young people known for their anti-social behaviour and gained their support with fundraising. This takes skill and commitment and has paid off in terms of the respect the
project has earned from local authorities and from funders.
aa Cuts to bus subsidies will mean the loss of some local bus services. This means that the
support and continuation of key facilities, such as local libraries, are even more important.
For example, libraries might develop to become hubs for increasing and maintaining
social contact in some communities.
aa Other projects were able to address the needs of specific groups:
The Trinity Centre in Whitby works with older people
The Stepping Stones Centre in Skipton supports people with learning disabilities
and their parents
The case studies presented in this paper demonstrate the value of working to reduce social
isolation and breaking barriers in a number of different ways.
Active 12 Communities
Case Study: The Trinity Centre, Whitby
The Trinity Centre is based in the United Reformed Church on Flowergate in Whitby and has
been running a very traditional day centre service for older people from Whitby and the
surrounding villages. It has been funded by a block grant from Adult Services of North Yorkshire
County Council but that block grant is now being phased out. This means that the Trinity Centre,
if it is to keep going, will have to charge the users directly for the services they offer. These
services include providing a traditional meal, games and activities and transport to and from the
The service is run by a group of trustees. The day to day running however, has been overseen
by a centre and bus committee with some representation from the trustees; the trustees only
met twice a year previously. Since the change in the funding provision, and the arrival of Gill as
the coordinator of the Trinity Centre, there have been developments towards a new concept of
provision of services for old age such as the provision of an IT cafe and other services.
Contact details: Gill Crampton Smith, Trinity Centre, Flowergate, Whitby.
Tel: 01947 601548
Active 13 Communities
A View From A Development Worker
Development workers delivering Active Communities Support from Craven CVS,
Harrogate and Ripon CVS, Richmondshire Voluntary Action, Rural Action Yorkshire
and Seachange have provided a great deal of support to the groups that feature in
this report. They offered the following observations:
aa Projects need realistic timescales and an appropriate lead in time to prepare
for change and develop new ways of working.
aa It is important to build on what is there already and not reinvent the wheel.
aa Developing community resilience is especially important in the current
economic and political climate so that communities may make the best use
of the resource and skills available to them.
aa Groups need to understand the importance of planning, while they are busy
aa Pricing of services is a new skill for many groups, where they have not been
used to selling services.
aa Developing a business plan with support from development workers early
in the process gives a helpful focus to the groups in their discussions.
aa A risk assessment and a funding strategy also help to secure a diverse range
of funding sources.
aa Local authorities need to understand community development. Equally,
some public officials would benefit from greater understanding, perhaps via
briefings, of the value and process of community development.
aa Evaluation, reporting and monitoring procedures need to be in place at the
start of a project, so that information can be collected throughout.
aa Succession planning ensuring that new people are continually brought into
the work is important to ensure sustainability of the community group.
aa Consideration needs to be given in the future to alternative forms of legal
structure, such as cooperatives and Charitable Incorporated Organisations.
aa Active Communities enabled support for groups that was both flexible
and accessible. It also enabled a useful sharing of learning between
development workers, particularly in relation to the queries received about
charity status for these new kinds of community organisations.
aa Groups need to be aware of the distinctive approach of certain parts of the
public sector bodies, such as Estates and Legal Services.
Active 14 Communities
Final summary
The Active Communities programme has been invaluable in providing
support to both newly formed and established groups in facing
the challenges posed to them as services need to be delivered in a
different way. Groups acknowledged that their chances of succeeding
would have been reduced without the knowledge and expertise of
development workers. Credit should be given both to the Local Support
and Development Organisations and North Yorkshire County Council in
recognising the potential of community groups to rise to these challenges
and in providing the resources to ensure success.
The case studies in this report are a pattern for the future as greater cuts in
public expenditure are predicted and more communities will be given the
opportunity to shape the delivery of services.
Active 15 Communities
Contacts and further information
Contact details for support and development organisations in
North Yorkshire
Craven Volunteer Centre
26 Otley Street, Skipton BD23 1EW Manager: Dee
Pollitt tel: 01756 701 648
email: [email protected]
Richmondshire Voluntary & Community Action
6 Flints Terrace, Richmond DL10 7AH Chief Officer: Judith
Bromfield tel: 01748 822 537
email: [email protected]
Craven Community & Voluntary Services
28A New Market Street, Skipton
Chief Officer: Milton Pearson
tel: 01756 795838
email: [email protected]
Coast and Vale Community Action HQ (Scarborough)
The Street, 12 Lower Clark Street, Scarborough YO12 7PW
Chief Officer: Mel Bonney-Kane
tel: 01723 362 205
email: [email protected]
Easingwold Community Care Association
Police House, Church Hill Easingwold, York YO61 3JX
Manager: Robert Webb tel: 01347 822 875
email: [email protected]
CAVCA Ryedale
Stanley Harrison House, Norton Road, Norton, Malton YO17
tel: 01653 600 120
Northallerton & District Voluntary Service Association
Community House, 10 South Parade Northallerton
DL7 8SE. Manager: Hazel Kirby tel: 01609 780 458
email: [email protected]
CAVCA Whitby
Church House, Flowergate, Whitby YO21 3BA
tel: 01947 605 256
Stokesley & District Community Care
Town Close, North Road Stokesley TS9 5DH
Manager: Phil Henderson tel: 01642 710 085
email: [email protected]
North Yorkshire & York Forum
BBP House, Keld Close, Barker Business Park, Memlmerby,
Ripon HG4 5NB Chief Executive: Jon Carling
tel: 01765 640 552
email: [email protected]
Thirsk, Sowerby & District Community Care
14a Market Place, Thirsk Y07 1LB Manager: Ellen
Cross tel: 01845 523 115
email: [email protected]
Harrogate & Ripon Council for Voluntary
Service (Harrogate office)
Community House, 46-50 East Parade Harrogate
HG1 5RR Director: Karen Weaver tel: 01423 504 074
email: [email protected]
Harrogate & Ripon Council for Voluntary
Service (Ripon office)
Community House, Sharow View Allhallowgate,
Ripon HG4 1LE tel: 01765 645905
email: [email protected]
Selby District Association for Voluntary Service
Community House, Portholme Road Selby YO8 4QQ
Chief Officer: Linda Slough tel: 01757 291 111
email: [email protected]
Rural Action Yorkshire
Unit A, Tower House, Askham Fields Lane, Askham Bryan, York
YO23 3FS Chief Officer: Leah Swain
tel: 0845 313 0270
email: [email protected]
Support is also available under the Government’s
Community Rights programme and more information can
be found on: or by contacting Locality: • 0845 458 8336 • [email protected]
Active 16 Communities