New leader pledges to focus on economy
THE new leader of Ryedale District Council has pledged to capitalise on a wave of new multi-billion pound industry to bolster critically low wages which are threatening to undermine rural communities.
The need to boost job opportunities and diversify the economic foundations of the district have been pinpointed as among the most pressing issues by Cllr Linda Cowling.
Efforts are already underway to increase wages in Ryedale which average less than £16,500-a-year - the lowest in the region and below the national average. But Cllr Cowling, of Pickering, said that the need is even more pressing with an affordable housing crisis leaving many residents unable to afford properties in the communities where their families have lived for generations.
The latest data from the National Housing Federation has shown that the average house price in the Ryedale district is £223,080, while the average wage is just £16,442.
Cllr Cowling stressed that while it is vital to preserve traditional industries such as farming and tourism, there is a growing need to diversify the economic base to take advantage of new enterprise in North Yorkshire.
The county is facing a massive transition amid plans for a £1.7bn potash mine along with the arrival of off-shore wind farm industry. The largest off-shore wind farm in the world is due to be built off the Yorkshire coast at Dogger Bank, while the potash mine is proposed for a site on farmland to the south of Whitby in the North York Moors National Park.
Cllr Cowling said: “We need to provide new opportunities for people in Ryedale. Jobs in tourism and farming are traditionally low paid, and this has had an impact on the ability of people to buy homes.
“The economy is obviously not in a good way, but it is an exciting time with the arrival of new industries, such as the potash mine and off-shore wind farms. We will be holding discussions with training providers to ensure we have a workforce with the necessary skills to take advantage of these opportunities.”
The majority of a £439,000 windfall secured under the Government’s New Homes Bonus scheme has been earmarked for boosting job opportunities across Ryedale, which has a population of just under 54,000 living across 575 sq miles.
But Cllr Cowling admitted the authority is facing up to intense challenges amid the Government’s austerity drive. The authority is faced with a seven per cent reduction in its grant from the Government in the new financial year on its current revenue budget of £6.9m.
She said: “It is not ideal that we are having to make significant savings at a time when we need to drive forward the economy. But all local authorities are in the same position. We need to take any opportunities now to make sure we are prepared for the future.”
An economic action plan had been drawn up to build on the engineering sector, which has already become a key part of the local economy and is reporting growth.
A list of priorities was drawn up including promoting the racing and shooting industry and reviving the aspiration for a technology park in the Malton area after a wide-ranging consultation gleaned the views of leading business organisations and the public.
Cllr Cowling was appointed to oversee the authority at a full council meeting earlier this month and has also been named leader of the Conservative Group on Ryedale District Council.
She won election to Ryedale District Council 22 years ago, saying her decision to stand was in reaction to disagreements over several of the authority’s planning decisions in the Pickering area.
The mother-of-two, who co-owns The Tea Shop in Pickering, is “Conservative born and bred” and came to the authority when the party only had “two to three” members on the council.
Today it has the majority.
Her predecessor in both roles as leader, Cllr Keith Knaggs, announced last month that he was stepping down after 17 years at the authority’s helm.
He is continuing as a backbench member, but admitted his long-running tenure had been brought to an end as a result of “clashes of personality rather than major policy differences.”
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Weather for Malton
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 32 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 6 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North