Use Ryedale's Nest Egg to Benefit Whole Community : 8 June 2005

The way the vote split in the Sports Centre Debate raises the question as to whether there is a Town and Country divide in Ryedale. It would seem that, with some notable exceptions, the members from the larger market towns (mainly LibDems) voted in favour, while members from the rural wards (mainly Conservatives) voted against.

Anyone who has lived in Ryedale for more than a few years will be aware of the impression of people in rural areas that too much of Ryedale’s capital funds is spent in Malton and Norton, and very little on the rest of the district. So, when many of the country parishes were asked if they supported or opposed the proposed dry sports centre, the answer was predictable, and it was easy for certain local politicians to take advantage of this, as they have done in the past, for their own short term political purposes.

In fact, I do sympathise with the view of people in the rural wards. Why shouldn’t a large share of the Council’s huge nest-egg be spent in the country areas? Clearly the rural areas should benefit just as much as the towns.

It was partly for this reason that, in July last year, my group made a proposal to the Policy and Resources Committee that 5,000 should be spent on engaging an independent civil engineer to advise Ryedale in regard to potential future flooding and how to deal with it. We did so in the belief that potential future flooding was perhaps the most important concern for people living in farms and villages. The hiring of the engineer would have stopped Ryedale being dependent on the Environment Agency for advice of this kind, and could have led to money being spent on flood prevention schemes in the Country areas – instead of just in Malton and Norton.

Regrettably the three larger political groups on the Council all united to vote this proposal out. So, what is the result? The people of Malton and Norton continue to press for the sports centre, and the rural areas continue to oppose it.

If local politics at Ryedale carry on like this, in ten years time the Council will still have 8.4 million pounds in the bank, and nothing to show for it – that is, if Ryedale still exists then and has not bequeathed this splendid dowry to a successor authority, which, in all probability, would spend the money outside the present Ryedale area, so that no-one in Ryedale gets the benefit of any of it – exactly as happened when York took over what used to be Southern Ryedale in 1996.

Capital money spent on capital projects is not wasted. The value of the project remains after it has been built. Money spent on a new road intersection is not lost, but the value remains in the land; money spent on a new industrial estate is not lost, but the value remains in the units and serviced areas; money spent on affordable and social housing is not wasted, as the value remains in the houses, and in the same way, money spent on a sports centre is not wasted – it is an investment in the future for our children and their children.

On the other hand, money that sits in the bank has no useful purpose other than to earn interest. Money only becomes useful when it is used, and while Ryedale has this money, it should be put to good use for the benefit of all Ryedale people.

So, perhaps, if Ryedale were to start spending some of its money on capital schemes in the rural wards, there might be less opposition to worthwhile projects in Malton and Norton. Some vision is needed here.

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