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Let's Talk offers a great opportunity to listen to residents priorities

Council staff and volunteers who will speak to residents around North Yorkshire in the Let’s Talk conversation have highlighted the hugely valuable chance to understand the priorities of local communities.

Liz Meade has lived and worked in the Harrogate area for more than 20 years. Since 2014, she has been the Harrogate area delivery manager for North Yorkshire County Council’s stronger communities team, who work alongside communities supporting them to deliver local projects and activities. Before that, she was a children’s centre manager, so has been closely involved in her local area for a long time.

Her children have grown up in the town and are now at university. They love Harrogate, so a key issue for the family is developing opportunities for young people to make their careers in the area.

“I am invested in the area and it is important to me,” she says. “I live and work in the same patch and I work in the community, so I do get involved in things and have an interest in making sure people are connected into things that can help them.

“It is really important that we have the opportunity to listen and understand what is important to people where they live. We can’t make assumptions.

“I think what people say to us will vary a lot in different places. We will ensure we are in different venues so we can hear voices from a whole range of people, including people we wouldn’t normally hear from, to discover what is important to them.

“The Let’s Talk conversation is an opportunity for them to say what they value most about where they live – and we don’t know that until we listen.

“We are having these conversations where people live and where they identify with, so hopefully the new council can build on what is important in those local areas. We know it won’t be the same everywhere.”

Fiona Protheroe is a climate emergency officer at Craven District Council. She grew up in Skipton and went to school there, leaving the area when she was 18, but returning 12 years ago to raise her family in the town.

Naturally, she expects climate change is likely to come up in the Let’s Talk conversations.

“It affects so many aspects of people’s lives and there are so many actions you can take,” she said. “It’s an issue that does need everyone working together and the new authority gives us a chance to do that. I think that’s really exciting. It’s a massive challenge, but the more of us working on it the better we can do.”

She added that Let’s Talk is an important opportunity for council staff to get out and listen to people as they share their priorities, which will help the new North Yorkshire Council to design the services that people want and need.

“It is a period of big change in the county, with one authority, so it’s important that people can input their views about what matters to them in their local area. We want to keep things local as we move forward. We will be one area, but we want to work locally, so this is a chance for people to talk about their area, what matters to them, what they might like to see in future – their priorities.

“Not everybody is on social media or interested in social media, so it’s important to get out to people and talk to them in places that they go to, so they have a chance to get involved and no-one misses out. A big thing about the Let’s Talk campaign is that we want to reach people who wouldn’t normally comment. It will be great if they give us a chance to listen to what they think.”

Tom Jenkinson has worked in North Yorkshire for more than 20 years, with spells in Harrogate, Northallerton and Craven before he took up his current role as Selby area delivery manager for the stronger communities team. Among other things, he loves North Yorkshire for the fabulous walking in the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors.

He has been part of the stronger communities team since it was created in response to the Government’s austerity measures earlier this century.

“The drive behind stronger communities was to give communities and the voluntary sector more opportunities to get involved and to give them support,” he said. “The recent big thing has been the response to Covid-19 and one of the really positive angles to that has been how closely we have worked with district councils. We have established strong bonds and a clear understanding, which highlights how much stronger we are going to be when we are all one council.

“Although the new council is going to be a bigger organisation, which I know makes some people anxious, we have worked so closely with localities through Covid-19, and that will be our approach moving forward, while still giving us that size and collective bargaining power to do things more effectively.

“We recognise that local residents know their area, they know what they need, and we want to be able to meet those needs as well as we can, although there will be challenges and it is not necessarily going to be easy.

“Let’s Talk is a brilliant opportunity for people to raise our awareness of the things that really matter to them and how they think we need to communicate with them. We want to listen, and we need people to keep talking to us in a constructive way. Our residents are as much a part of the solutions as we are.”

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Posted on 4th October 2022

by Let’s Talk Team