Fracking becomes election issue as North Yorkshire goes to polls

THE GREENS are hoping anger over fracking will help deliver the party its first ever North Yorkshire county councillor this week.

Protests were held outside Northallerton's county hall last year as the authority considered a fracking application

The party is fielding more than 40 candidates across the county and has particularly high hopes that David Malone could win in the Falsgrave and Stepney division on the edge of Scarborough.

North Yorkshire has become the national battleground over fracking after the county council’s decision last year to give permission for the controversial mining method to be used at Kirby Misperton, in Ryedale.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Other companies have also expressed an interest in exploring the rock formations under North Yorkshire for gas.

Andrew Cooper, the Greens’ regional organiser for Yorkshire and a Green councillor on Kirklees Council, said: “The party’s in good shape, people are up for it and people want to stand.

“Obviously there’s the fracking issue in North Yorkshire and the fact that the Conservative council backed the frackers and not the communities, that has been a big thing for us and a lot of our candidates have been part of those anti-fracking movements.”

Coun Cooper suggested the fracking issue has drawn new groups of people into active politics.

He said: “A lot of the people, whether they are Green Party members or not, who have been involved in the anti-fracking protests have been people you wouldn’t expect a lot of the time, probably never been involved in protests or political campainging ever and now they are rebelling, if you like, against the party they have traditionally supported.”

This week could also see the Greens secure their first Craven Council seat as a by-election for the Aire Valley with Lothersdale ward pitches their Andy Brown against Conservative Gemma Harling.

Coun Cooper said: “[Fracking] has certainly been the key that has opened the door. But there is a lot of resentment about the cuts and things that have happened.”

“We are getting positive vibes from all over the place. We are certainly getting a better hearing than we have had before.”

Coun Carl Les, who has led the Conservative group and the county council for the last two years, suggested fracking concerns were focused on particular areas rather than across the county.

He said: “Planning is a legal process, Government policy is that fracking can be allowed, the role of the county council in developing its minerals and waste plan is to make sure that we put as many safeguards into place as possible.

“That plan is now out to consultation and I would urge people to get in touch and make their views known.”

In common with councils across Yorkshire, the county has seen a dramatic squeeze on its funding from the Government.

The pressure on funding has seen the authority question the Conservative government’s approach, most recently over social care funding.

Coun Les said: “By the end of 2020 we will have taken 35 per cent out of our spending power and we have made considerable savings, I think we have been very successful at making savings, and by and large we have managed to protect the frontline services we have to deliver on behalf of our residents.

“We now are into the final phase and we need to find another £40m and I’m confdent that the savings plan we put to full council a few months ago and will inform the new council will be able to achieve that.”

Questions have been raised over whether North Yorkshire should continue to have both a county and district councils.

Coun Les said it was important “no stone is left unturned” in finding savings but said it was vital re-organisation was not “imposed” on residents.

LABOUR is promising action to improve elderly care in the county elections.

The authority was last year among those appealing to the Government to provide extra money to help meet the rising cost of social care.

Labour group leader Coun Eric Broadbent said: “North Yorkshire has got the largest population of elderly people in the UK so it is a very important issue. There’s also a lot of loneliness with us being a rural area and so we would like to find ways of using community hubs help these people.”

He said extra Labour councillors would improve scrutiny of the Conservative-dominated council.