THE introduction of a strategy and policies to manage thousands of volunteers helping to maintain council services should not “frighten away” potential recruits, a meeting has heard.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive was told while the authority had attracted 6,300 volunteers to ensure key and popular services are maintained in the face of dwindling Government funding, it had become evident the council’s inconsistent approach towards unpaid helpers needed to end.

The authority’s leading members heard setting out clear policies on operational issues such as expenses and training was essential to ensure volunteers were correctly valued and fairly supported.

Neil Irving, the council’s assistant director of policy, partnerships and communities, said volunteers and officers who coordinate the volunteers had helped shape the strategy, which will ensure “the management and support of volunteers is optimised for the benefit of both the authority and the volunteers”.

He told the meeting the strategy and policies being launched should also be used as a blueprint for partner organisations which contribute to the council’s service delivery, for example the 1,700 volunteers in community and hybrid libraries and 3,300 school governors.

Mr Irving said while developing the strategy the council received “lots of positive messages from our volunteers and lots of good practice they saw, but they also recognised some inconsistencies with reinventing the wheel across the council”.

He added: “What also came out very clearly was that many of our volunteers are interested in doing more than just the individual opportunity what they signed up for, so the fact that up until today we have been seen as individual services has not helped that process.”

Councillor Derek Bastiman asked whether the introduction of a strategy and policies by the council had caused a drop-off in volunteers because there were concerns it could “frighten people off”.

Mr Irving replied: “What we have actually seen through the project and better marketing a definite increase in the number of people inquiring about volunteering with the council. For example, the improved information on our website produced a very dramatic increase, which we are very pleased about.

“I hope having a strategy and clearer policies won’t put people off. I think inevitably there might be some people if circumstances change slightly, but we are not going to the lowest common denominator, we are trying to set out some principles and where there are costs and support involved, push them as close to we can as those we offer staff, recognising it is not an employment situation.”