Volunteers take over tourism services

TOURISM services in a leading North Yorkshire destination are being handed over to volunteers from today as a council battles Government funding cuts.

Hambleton Council is passing the running of Thirsk’s tourist information centre to a non-profit company, to counter a dramatic reduction in funding from Westminster.

The new organisation, called Thirsk Tourist Information, has recruited more than 20 volunteers who are confident they will be able to provide the same level of service.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But the town’s tourist information centre is relocating to a new location in a renovated toilet block, about half the size of the previous base in the Market Square which closed on Monday.

The new premises, also on the Market Square, has been given a £45,000 overhaul that has been funded by the council, and is due to open a week on Monday . Thirsk Tourist Information is being overseen by two directors, Peter Rush and Jo Caramello.

Mr Rush said: “It is a watershed in tourism services for Thirsk, but we are confident that we will be able to support what is a vital part of Hambleton’s economy.”

More than 50,000 customers used the town’s tourist information centre in the last 12 months, and up to 140 businesses, including tourist attractions such as the World of James Herriot as well as bed and breakfasts, hotel and restaurants, are represented.

Tourist centres in Easingwold, Northallerton, Bedale and Great Ayton are already run by volunteers.

Thirsk has been the last location to be transferred to volunteers as it attracts the greatest number of tourists. An initial scheme to move the service to the World of James Herriot was abandoned after it failed to receive the public’s backing.

The district council is having to cut its annual £9.6m revenue budget by up to £3m over the next four years.