COMMUNITIES should be encouraged to take a Big Society approach to saving local amenities, but North Yorkshire County Council can’t afford to get involved, councillors have said.

The authority has commissioned a report that looks at how community groups, charities and social enterprises can work together to run public services that might otherwise be lost and what role the county council should play in offering support and advice to fledgling groups.

Members of the council’s executive welcomed the report and its findings, but argued that the county council should not take on the burden of financing community projects and should simply signpost groups to other organisations that can help with funding.

The Big Society is Prime Minister David Cameron’s driving political vision for the Coalition Government and North Yorkshire has already seen several examples of communities that have worked together to save shops, Post Officesand bus services, as well as a large campaign to save a number of libraries across the county.

The report, written by County Councillor Liz Casling, noted that the key ingredients for a successful community project were strong local leadership, a diverse skill set among the group, a strong plan for financing the project and plenty of volunteers to keep the organisation going.

One of the recommendations laid out by Coun Casling and her team was that the county council should work with the voluntary sector to provide information to new groups about existing community enterprises, mentoring schemes and other support groups, as well as setting up a small grants fund to help out with initial start up costs.

However, Councillor Chris Metcalfe said: “Once again the recommendations of this report seem to focus back into the county council and what we should be doing but our role should be signposting communities to other places where they can get support and funding.

“It should not be the county council that is doing all of this - our role is to facilitate and enable people to do what they want to do, not do it for them.

“We need to get our heads around the idea that a top down approach is not always the way forward and that somethings will have to work from the bottom up.

“It should not be about the county council making money available, it’s about the county council pointing people towards the organisations that can free up money.”

Coun John Watson added: “We must encourage a situation where a community says to itself, ‘we have a problem, what can we do about it’ - not ‘we have a problem, what can the county council do about it?’ “It’s not practical for the county council to get involved at the moment given the financial situation we have.”

The report author, Liz Casling, spoke at the meeting and advised councillors that the fund mentioned in the report would not be used to directly support community groups, but would be used to set up information pages and resources for groups to find organisations that would be suited to helping them.

She also noted that some county councillors struggled when asked by residents for help and advice about setting up a community group and that the resource would help them as much as members of the public.