NYC : Accessibility of the Scarborough and Whitby Area Committee

Whitby : Council

We now have a North Yorkshire Council (NYC). It has 6 area committees supposedly for discussion of more local issues. In fact, the “Scarborough and Whitby Area Committee” has existed since 2018, meeting approximately every 3 months. NYCC seemingly aimed these committees to align with electoral boundaries (not that there’s any legal precedence for that). The main difference now that we have NYC is that it will now have a planning “subcommittee” which will decide over planning permissions in this area. Cllr David Chance is exec Cllr for Corporate Services, and he has kindly responded to some questions we raised about the arrangement.

If a Whitby resident wanted to raise an issue they should, in principle, be able to go to one of these committees and ask about whatever topic they wish. If we look back at all meetings since the constituency area committee’s inception (actually, what is listed on the NYC website) we find that there were 9 remote meetings (during Covid), 11 meetings held in Scarborough (various locations), and just 1 meeting in Whitby (Sept 2018). On a purely attendance basis it is not even remotely accessible for the people of Whitby. Apparently, prior to that last Whitby meeting (Sept 2018), the committee used to meet alternately in Whitby and Scarborough. Cllr Chance remarked that the lack of Whitby meetings in the last 4+ years was due to “legal requirement to outsource the booking of venues, daft though a legal requirement under procurement legislation, was the problem, coupled with the sale of Sneaton Castle, our Whitby venue of choice”.

If we then look at live streaming (or ability to connect remotely via Teams / Zoom etc), there has been no such provision, so Whitby residents could not even dial in. Cllr Chance replied “we are currently carrying out a review of facilities and the technology required. The Technology already exists at Scarborough Town Hall to do this, and the fact that the last meeting was not broadcast caused me some annoyance on the day”.

If you submit a question to the clerk of these meetings you will be advised that if you do not attend then your question may not be asked (at the discretion of the chair)! Cllr Chance states “Questions to Committees of the Council are quite frequently read on behalf of persons submitting them, as portfolio holder I would not be happy with a blanket ban”.

Cllr Chance further added a statement that the media have only partially reported, here it is in full.

We are committed to ensuring that the new North Yorkshire Council has local communities at its heart, despite serving such a vast area across the county.

The online streaming of council meetings has been an important way of making sure that access is available as widely as possible to both councillors and members of the public. Meetings of full council and the executive will be routinely streamed online, and we will continue to record and broadcast planning and licensing meetings that were previously overseen by district and borough councils.

We will consider broadcasting or recording other meetings when there is a strong public interest or where there are facilities in place that enable it to be readily done”.

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