THE NEWLY re-elected leader of North Yorkshire County Council has said the council will continue to work to protect frontline services a priority in the face of continued austerity.

Councillor Carl Les was elected leader at an annual meeting of the council at County Hall in Northallerton this week. He said the elections and “the new faces it has brought into our midst” would provide renewed impetus for progress.

“Our priority will always be to protect the frontline services that benefit all residents of North Yorkshire as much as we can,” he said,

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“But in these uncertain times when we will continue to face austerity for many years to come, it is inevitable that the nature of services and the way they are delivered will continue to change.

“The county council is in a strong financial position to face the challenges ahead and as a newly elected council we will face these challenges and our priorities with renewed vigour."

He said they would continue to help the county’s economy to grow through the work of the local enterprise partnership and the continuing expansion of high-speed fibre broadband to more remote rural areas. Cllr Les said the council was close to a £21m procurement contract for phase three of Superfast North Yorkshire, set up to address “market failure”.

He said the council will continue to promote east-west connectivity and the upgrading of key rail and road routes such as the A59, as well as relief congestion of Harrogate. He said the A64, despite being a responsibility of Highways England was still a major priority for the council.

North Yorkshire County Council also has a new chair.

Cllr Helen Swiers, took up her new role on Wednesday, May 17 and says she will continue the work of recent county council chairs in supporting and championing North Yorkshire’s many volunteers.

Cllr Swiers, who has been a county councillor since 2001, previously represented the Esk Valley division and now represents the Filey division following the county council elections.

Prior to becoming a councillor, Cllr Swiers was the first woman to be country chair of the National Farmers’ Union. For ten years she was a governor of Askham Bryan College and is now on the board of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.

She comes from a farming family and married a farmer, Christopher, who died 26 years ago. She has a daughter, Elizabeth, and a son, John, who runs the family farm at Bickley, near Scarborough.