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Council constitution, structure and objectives

We are responsible for providing a wide range of public services to around 600,000 people living in around 256,600 households in North Yorkshire.

The county covers an area of over 800,000 hectares and is predominantly rural. Broken down by population: 21 per cent of people live in the two major towns (Harrogate and Scarborough) while 32 per cent of people live in areas defined as 'sparse' (between 130 and 1,036 people per square mile) and 24 per cent live in 'super sparse' areas (fewer than 129 people per square mile).

The county has a well-diversified economy. The importance of the financial and business services sector has grown and the service sector such as tourism jobs makes up the majority of employment. Manufacturing retains its importance, particularly the food and drink sector. High levels of self-employment and employment in small businesses are vital to the rural areas of the county as are the strong tourism and agriculture sectors.

What is North Yorkshire County Council?

We are made up of an elected assembly of 72 councillors. The council is responsible for providing a wide range of public services to the people of the county.

As a democratically elected body and community leader, we act as a champion and spokesperson for North Yorkshire and its people. We aim to listen to our communities and take action on their behalf to make North Yorkshire an even better place to live for everyone. Our councillors, elected by the people of North Yorkshire, are active in their local communities responding to the needs of the public and addressing important local issues.

We represent and promote the interests of North Yorkshire when dealing with regional, national and international affairs.

Our responsibilities are determined by Parliament with county council elections held every four years.

What is the senior management structure of the council?

The chief executive is Richard Flinton. The senior managers are:

  • Pete Dwyer, corporate director of children and young people's service
  • Richard Webb, corporate director of health and adult services
  • David Bowe, corporate director of business and environmental services
  • Gary Fielding, corporate director of strategic resources
  • Mary Weastell, assistant chief executive - customer services
  • Barry Khan, assistant chief executive - legal and democratic services
  • Justine Brooksbank, assistant chief executive - business support

Constitution and structure of the council

We are a 'top-tier' council. This means that it provides important local services across the whole county. We work with 'second-tier' district councils who provide different but complementary services in different parts of the county. In this two-tier system, we as a county council are responsible for local services such as education, social care services, and roads, whilst district councils run other services, such as waste collection, local planning, and council housing. An executive of seven councillors meets on a fortnightly basis to make decisions to implement the council's policies and budgets. Five overview and scrutiny committees examine the executive's decisions while the full council of 72 councillors ratifies executive's decisions.

pdf icon Major issues to be discussed are published in the executive's forward plan [545kb] which describes the decisions to be made, who is responsible for making them and when.

By law, the executive is not allowed to make some decisions. So, in addition to the executive we have regulatory committees to make decisions on issues such as planning and highways.

The decision-making structure is designed to make the council's processes more transparent. The council's constitution sets out how the council operates, how decisions are made and the rules and procedures which are followed to make sure that these are efficient, transparent and accountable to local people.

We have a commitment to open government and freedom of information. Public discussions about our policies and the services we provide is an important part of effective local democracy. We therefore give as much information as we can to local people and the press.

You have a right to see decision making in action and the background information to council decisions. The great majority of meetings are open to the public throughout, but the committee may resolve to meet in private when discussing personal details about individuals or commercial information about contracts.

North Yorkshire's history

The area covered by North Yorkshire has a rich history and heritage. Neolithic monuments include the Thornborough Henges, described as the "Stonehenge of the North". Evidence of the Roman era varies from the remains of the northern capital at Aldborough, to the extensive routes of Roman roads. The Medieval age has left perhaps the most impressive legacy across North Yorkshire with a large number of abbeys and castles, including the world heritage site Fountains Abbey.

The Modern age saw the advent of industrialisation in the area now known as the North Riding of Yorkshire, which then became a county council in 1889. This was abolished in 1974 and the new county of North Yorkshire was formed, which included York until the formation of the City of York Council in 1996.

Where are we now?

We share our vision with other partners in the North Yorkshire. It is:

'We want North Yorkshire to be an even better place for everyone to live, work or visit.'

To achieve this vision we need to work with partner agencies and also play our part as an individual organisation. Our values and objectives make clearer the kinds of things we need to focus on.

Our values and objectives

In order to achieve this vision we need to embrace the following values and objectives:


  • Customer focus - promoting individual, family and community self-service and resilience, with additional support for the most vulnerable;
  • Care and respect - treating people as individuals and with courtesy, seeking to understand how others see things, valuing their contribution;
  • Honesty - being clear about what we are able to deliver and that we must live within our means;
  • One team - one council working with partners and communities;
  • Valuing our staff - our key asset to work and deliver for individuals, families and communities;
  • Effective local democracy - strengthening community leadership;
  • Innovative and can-do attitude - understanding what needs to be done, taking responsibility to see things through and deliver what has been agreed, identifying ways to improve services and performance;
  • Ensuring effective and efficient service delivery - both services we provide directly and those we commission from organisations in the private, voluntary and community sectors; and
  • Cost effective - improving efficiency, measuring our performance and reporting how we are doing, using this information to become better at what we do.


The council plan identifies four key ambitions for 2021:

  1. Every child and young person has the best possible start in life;
  2. Every adult has a longer, healthier and independent life;
  3. North Yorkshire is a place with a strong economy and a commitment to sustainable growth that enables our citizens to fulfil their ambitions and aspirations; and
  4. We are a modern council which puts our customers at the heart of what we do.

In order to achieve our vision and objectives we will need to fundamentally change our way of working and ensure that we have honest and open discussions with communities so that there is a shared understanding of what realistically can and cannot be provided directly or funded by the council. We will also need to carry out effective media and communication campaigns to ensure that the council is seen as relevant by local people and is demonstrating how working differently can deliver key outcomes.

More detail can be found on our council plan page.