Agenda item

To Receive a Statement from the Leader of the Council and to Receive Questions and Give Answers on that Statement


Councillor Duncan, the Leader of the Council, presented the following statement:


“Our district faces a number of significant economic challenges: low wages, high house prices and poor connectivity. We must step up our action against these issues by attracting investment, securing jobs and ensuring our district stays affordable for future generations. Four months into this council, we’re already making progress:

Economic development

Under the leadership of our new programme director, we are assembling a dedicated economic development team of five (its four new posts) officers who will work to support business, attract tourists, shape our arts offer and boost our market towns. This extra resource will hopefully pay almost immediate dividends, with projects expected to come forward very shortly.


We have secured a seat on the Board of the Local Enterprise Partnership for the first time. The challenge is, as always, to identify key schemes and prepare ‘shovel ready’ bids for consideration. We’ve already successfully received funding in recent years, but we can do better by being more ambitious.


Dualling the A64 is the key infrastructure priority for Ryedale. The Government unveiled last month a £22m upgrade including safety improvements at Crambeck and Rillington. But there is still no decision yet on the dualling between Hopgrove and Barton Hill. Tom Paul, CEO of Kingspan, is the new chair of the A64 Growth Partnership and we’re working closely together to make the strongest possible case along with councillors, businessmen and representatives of our tourist industry.


Our Local Plan is now sealed, and we are lucky as an authority to have a plan stretching to 2027. Work begins now on reviewing our Plan to ensure it remains fit for purpose into the future. Ryedale District Council is also expanding its own housing stock, with the former Railway Tavern in Norton to be transformed into seven self-contained flats. We need to decide if this is a project we wish to emulate elsewhere, and exactly what this council’s role in housing supply should be in the future.

Our staff

The council is working to set the highest standard as an employer in its own right. We are seeking to ‘grow our own’, with our HR manager developing policies and procedures aimed at attracting and retaining talent, recruiting a cohort of graduate trainees and providing a new package of benefits to our employees.

There is still more to do, and I welcome the input from all members as we work to ensure Ryedale is a great place to live, visit and do business.”


The Leader then added the following:


However there are a few small additions that I would like to make and they're actually thank yous to some people - Members of this Council. The first is Cllr Paul Andrews for meeting with me to discuss the Milton Rooms and giving me an insight into the work that is going on there. He intended to ask me a question on the Milton Rooms and gave me advance notice of it, even though it isn't part of my statement and I said that I would give him a commitment that there will be a report on the Milton Rooms coming to the next meeting of Policy & Resources Committee. That will be there and I can give you that assurance. I hope that's sufficient and again, doing that outside of my intended statement seeing as you asked me so nicely for that.


The second is actually for Cllr Thackray for inviting to the beautiful village of Brawby - gave me an excellent welcome and thank you to him for that. We discussed lots of different items in the spirit of trying to listen to everybody around this Council Chamber.


And finally I would like to say thank you to the Deputy Leader of this Council, Cllr Arnold, who maybe doesn't quite get as much recognition as I think he deserves. We're several months into this Council and I'd like to say thank you to him for the support that he's given me so far as Deputy Leader of this Council.


The following questions were received on the Leader’s Statement:


1.     From Councillor J Andrews


Are you confident in the accuracy of the word "stays" in the first paragraph of your statement?


The Leader replied:


That is the word that I intended to put there but I understand the point that you're trying to make in that for many people in this district being able to live here is difficult. Getting onto the property ladder is difficult. In certain areas of this district I would say that it's more or less impossible for someone in this district to find somewhere to live. I'm talking about some of the more rural areas where there hasn't been, I think, significant house building taking place. There are limited options for people to be able to find a home. I take on board your point and I hope I've been able to address that in my answer.


Councillor J Andrews then asked the following supplementary question:


So are you saying in that answer that the normal meaning of the word stays, you believe that housing is not affordable in this area?


The Leader then replied:


If you look at the average wage in this district and you look at the average cost of a house, that ratio is one of the highest in the country and that presents a significant issue which we need to address.


2    From Councillor Burr


I was reading the paragraph on economic development and I was thinking about our market towns and as you will be aware that some residents are suffering real hardship in Ryedale and our Food Banks in our towns are under extreme pressure to help these residents. Would the Leader agree that it's a very sad state of affairs that we find ourselves in Ryedale? My question to the Leader is would it be possible that this Council building could have a deposit bin for say tins etc etc because there a lot of people who pass through this building, there are a lot of vulnerable residents out there and this Council and Members etc could contribute quite easily to our Food Banks. So would he agree with me that we should do this?


The Leader replied:


I think that the idea of a deposit bin inside this building is an interesting one, which I think we could and should look at. I've learnt quite a lot about Food Banks particularly in the Ryedale area from my colleague Cllr Mackenzie who, I don't know exactly what his title is, but is very involved with Food Banks in the Ryedale area and I've learnt a lot from him. The idea that you've put forward should be explored.


Councillor Burr then made the following comment:


Thank you and I think that everybody will welcome that and I think that we will be able to help an awful lot of people in Ryedale.


3       From Councillor P Andrews


Just to come to Cllr Duncan's comments on the Milton Rooms. Could he just confirm that the report that will be brought to the next meeting of Policy & Resources Committee will deal specifically with the application for funds for the refurbishment of the toilets and foyer areas please?


The Leader replied:


All I've been told by our officers is that a report will be there as requested and as promised at a previous meeting of this Council. The point that you have raised, is the funding for the toilets and also the Events Manager position that you'd mentioned previously, that will I presume be referenced in the report that will come to Policy & Resources Committee.


Councillor P Andrews then asked the following supplementary question:


Could I ask Cllr Duncan to make very sure that this does actually happen please?


The Leader then replied:


The simple answer Cllr Andrews is Yes.


4. From Councillor Wass


For myself and other new Members, it's to do with the A64 Growth Partnership in terms of transparency and accountability, could you just enlighten us please who Tom Paul is? Obviously his position is mentioned there but in terms of how his position has come about, if he's elected and if he's remunerated for that position.


The Leader replied:


Tom Paul is a successful businessman the CX of Kingspan down the A64. He was elected to that position by the A64 Growth Partnership. How it's membership has come about I don't know but I was invited to it, I chaired the first meeting, I don't know who decided that but the general consensus was that the A64 project, whether you agree with it or not should be driven by businesses who will be most affected by it. That was the view of the A64 Growth Partnership. The membership of that includes representatives from the County Council, representatives from this Council, representatives from the tourist sector and of course business as well. I think the host organisation for that is North Yorkshire County Council and the LEP who seem to do most of the secretarial and preparation work for those meetings. If you require further information I can ask of how it's come about but that's the information that I know at this present time.


Councillor Wass then asked the following supplementary question:


Just about the remuneration as well please.


The Leader then replied:


I forgot to reference that. My understanding is that no member of the A64 Growth Partnership is remunerated. That has never been to me and I imagine that it would have been when we had that discussion at the time but that's my understanding.


5. From Councillor Raine


I just wondered if I'm allowed to ask regarding the A64 why there's nothing in your statement mentioning the climate change or mentioning obviously Highfield Road what's happening there. And I just wondered if I'm allowed to ask why there's nothing in your statement?


The Leader replied:


The statement seeks to make the most important points as I see it at the moment and give an update to Council about where things stand. As I've stated in there, I'm not too confident that we are going to receive the funding this time to dual the A64 as this Council resolved that we would like to fight for. Your particular point about Highfield Road  - it's not in there. I can get you more information on that if you'd like and the other point that you made - climate change - we had that here. I'm not sure that I'm in a position to answer that but the view of this Council quite strongly was that we backed the dualling of the A64 and that's what as Leader I'm trying to fight to do on behalf of this Council.


Councillor Raine then made the following comment:


It's basically because to me we've discussed before as we all know that climate change is extremely important but there's nothing mentioned on this statement and also how important, and I do know that it's North Yorkshire County Council, but I would like to have read a little bit that you're concerned, that there is an update and what's happening at Highfield Road.


6. From Councillor Clark


I think if you look at the Growth Partnership there is an answer to Cllr Raine's question there and the answer is in the word growth, because unless we reduce our usage, climate change is finished. It won't be an emergency, it'll be a disaster that we can't stop. I find it strange that he was Chair of this organisation but he didn't know how it came about and he doesn't know who set it up and we don't know how he got on there but presumably he got on there by some system and it seems surprising that whoever got on there didn't have the time to explain to him what it was about and why he was chairing it but he's no longer chairing it. So on that basis can he please explain to me how - oh I'll ignore the business men - the most successful group of entrepreneurs in this country - I hope you would agree with me - are women, so it should be business people, not business men. But that aside, could you please explain how growth is going to fit in with climate change and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions etc in terms of this partnership that he is part of, even if he doesn't know much about it.


The Leader replied:


I think it's worth reminding members of this Council that the Liberal Group including Cllr Clark, led by Cllr Clark is opposed to the dualling of the A64, voted against the motion that we brought to the last Full Council proposing that we should fight as best as we can to dual the A64. He wants to put on hold and stunt the growth of this district in terms of its economy and I think that's a great shame. We put forward that so that I could go to external meetings and state the importance that we feel as a Council that the A64 will have on the economic fortunes of this district. There are a whole host of issues with the A64 not just in terms of the economy, safety issues, potentially environmental issues which you have raised but they have all got to be taken as part of a big picture. That is that the A64 is probably the most important piece of infrastucture that we could fight for as a Council and I will say again that the Conservative Group are not ashamed to fight for this as strongly as we possibly can. As for the A64 Growth Partnership, I was asked to chair the first meeting given that it hadn't met in a while. It is as I say set up through the LEP and NYCC provide officer support to that Growth Partnership.


Councillor Clark then asked the following supplementary question:


I wonder if he is going to answer my question, which I asked in my main question and Cllr Raine asked, how do you reconcile growth with our climate change policy which involves reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. If he can answer that one and tell us how it is done that is world breaking, shattering. The leading scientist in this country that retired last week made the point that you couldn't have growth and reduction in greenhouse gas impact unless you were very careful and worked purely in areas reducing greenhouse gases. So on that basis how does he justify growth and how is he going to reconcile growth with our climate change policy ie reduction in greenhouse gases?


The Leader then replied:


This district I think has got to develop sustainably but I'll go back to the broader point. At the last Full Council meeting this Council spent a significant amount of time weighing up the various benefits, positives, negatives of fighting to dual the A64 and the judgement of this Council, including some people who have asked questions about the environmental impacts - they voted in favour of this Council fighting to dual the A64. That is the position that this Council has and that is the position that I will represent externally, at meetings and I will do my utmost to deliver. That's the answer to Cllr Clark's question.


7. From Councillor Goodrick


Would the Leader agree with me please that the A64 is of paramount importance to growth and economic development? Would he also agree with me that the evolution of the electric car, hydrogen cars, self-charging vehicles might reduce the impact of fossil fuels used in cars on the A64? Now we're a long way from all vehicles being electric or self-charging or hydrogen or whatever. We're also quite a long way from getting the A64 dualled, so I'm hoping by the time we get there the impact will be reduced. Does the Council Leader agree with this statement?


The Leader replied:


I will completely agree with what you have just said. It is worth pointing out that this Council has directly supported the infrastructure required for electric vehicles. We have received grant funding to install electric charging points in our car parks. They are not going to solve all of the environmental questions that we face but we are doing, I think, our bit to ensure that we develop as sustainably as possible. Environmental considerations are important but there are a whole host of very important considerations that we also need to make. I've referenced some of those  already and as I say, the view of this Council very strongly was that they wanted to see the A64 dualled as soon as possible.


8. From Councillor Potter


Reference the Housing section where it says our Local Plan is now sealed and we're lucky as an authority to have a plan stretching to 2027. I'd personally like to thank the Planning Committee and of course the officers for this stroke of luck and does the Leader believe that the Planning Committee have made their own luck or our own luck should I say?


The Leader replied:


I'm struggling to understand the question that you've put forward Cllr Potter but I will reiterate what I've said in my statement, hopefully in a bid to clarify, that many authorities around the country do not have a Local Plan. Some are still fighting very bitterly to have one. we do have one, I think that's an achievement for this Council and we do have to pay credit to the Members that have been involved with that. The officers that have been involved with it too and that's, I think my answer to your question Cllr Potter.


Councillor Potter then asked the following supplementary question:


Just to point out that I don't believe there's any luck involved in having a Plan, it just takes good organisation and get the job done.


The Leader then replied:


I'm happy to concur with Cllr Potter's point there. There has had to be compromise, deliberation, sometimes tense, some people not happy with the Local Plan that we have got. Some people feel that it is not what they would look for in a Local Plan but the point I'm trying to make is that at least we've got a Local Plan and obviously very soon we will start the review of the Local Plan.

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