‘Volunteering isn’t free’ - Council blasted for reliance on volunteers

North Yorkshire County Council’s plans to rely on volunteers to reduce the impact of council cuts has been questioned.

County Councillors raised concerns after it emerged that local authorities would need to recruit more volunteers.

Representatives from both the library services and North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue told the Harrogate Area Committee that they would look to recruit volunteers, leading Coun David Simister (UKIP, Bilton) to say: “So after a day stacking books in the library volunteers can head to the fire station for a voluntary shift. I just don’t know where all these people are coming from.”

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Karen Weaver, chief executive of the Harrogate and Ripon Centre for Voluntary Service called for a report on the County Council’s prevention programme and the relationship between the voluntary sector and the council.

However Coun Don Mackenzie (Con, Saltergate) proposed a motion not to provide this report which was approved by the committee.

Mrs Weaver said: “We are keen to find out how services will be progressed and how things will work alongside existing volunteers.

She added: “Volunteering isn’t free, it needs investment, people need to be trained and found a role which is suitable in order to get quality for both the volunteer and the organisation.”

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“It has been difficult to get information on what is going on and how things will work. There is no slowing down of people coming forward, but more will be needed.”

Plans to cut library services across the county were announced last year, and NYCC warned that if volunteers don’t come forward, services would face closure.

Residents opposing plans to turn Knaresborough into a ‘hybrid library’ relying on volunteers to work alongside one member of staff handed a petition to the committee.

Julie Blaisdale, assistant director of library services said: “One of the things we are looking at is how we get people who signed the petition to get involved in securing the future of the library.”

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Coun Bill Hoult (Lib Dem, Knaresborough) said he was concerned that the county council’s consultation process had been a ruse to recruit potential volunteers.

He said: “I know people felt that a decision was already made and that this consultation was asking Knaresborough people to fill that gap.

“I have assured people this is a full consultation, but now I am a little bit worried that they were right.”