North Yorkshire Council

Let’s Talk North Yorkshire

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives

On the 1st of April 2023, the new North Yorkshire Council replaced the eight councils previously delivering public services across the county as part of the biggest restructuring of local government in the county for nearly 50 years. With such a huge change, the council wanted a thorough review of public opinion so they could best serve their constituents in the future and ease the public through such a massive shake up, as well as enabling them to help shape our new authority in partnership with all 8 councils. Thus, the Let’s Talk North Yorkshire initiative was created.

With 600,000 residents in North Yorkshire, Let’s Talk was the largest campaign we have carried out to date and continues to be a unique consultation all about starting a new and ongoing conversation with our residents across the county as it goes through a period of change. Let’s Talk was also the first external campaign which highlighted local government reorganisation to North Yorkshire residents. We brought together multiple teams across the eight councils within communications, technology and localities as well as support from a wide array of public sector partners we were able to maximise reach and ensure that – as much as possible – we had a representative voice taking part.

The Let’s Talk campaign was – and still is – “key to helping draw up a detailed vision for the new authority” (North Yorkshire County Council’s leader, Cllr Carl Les), as well as identifying people’s priorities for spending on services on a local level ranging from social care and education to waste collection, recycling and highways maintenance. The conversation also aimed to get the public’s views on the new council’s priorities over an initial three-year period to tackle wide-ranging issues from social inequality and the cost-of-living crisis to regenerating town centres, climate change as well as their upcoming Transport Plan.

In line with our long-term vision to build on North Yorkshire’s natural assets, strong local economy and resilient communities, we also wanted to carry out a climate-friendly county wide engagement, utilising and adapting digital tools to reach as many of our residents as possible, through a number of campaigns:

  • – Let’s Talk Local
  • – Let’s Talk Devolution
  • – Let’s Talk Money
  • – Let’s Talk Climate Change
  • – Let’s Talk Transport


The goal was simple, to use the findings of the Let’s Talk campaigns to support the vision of the new council in being the most local large council in England. Supported by Commonplace’s technology and insight into using the right style of questions to get the best engagement and the council’s public-led approach, that aim was well within grasp. Due to the scale of this campaign, we had to think innovatively, creatively and collaboratively to ensure we reached as many of our residents as possible to make this new partnership meaningful, expanding the use and scale of our existing means of engagement, such as digital platforms, face to face, surveys and social media.


What are the key achievements?

The initial Let’s Talk North Yorkshire was the biggest ever countywide conversation: it ran for 3 months with a mass marketing campaign including the use of radio, press, digital, as well as face to face events and support from partners across the county. We reached in excess of 1.2 million individuals with our digital ads alone, plus 325,566 through radio ads. There were more than 200 face to face events with over 2,000 conversations held, 58,000 press release readers, and over 6,000 survey responses between September and December.

The Let’s Talk campaign was launched on 26 September 2022 and closed on 23 December 2022, and was hosted on Commonplace, a safe and easy-to-use online tool used by over 250 organisations including neighbouring councils, who we appointed to create an engagement website ( and lead this conversation as our digital engagement platform. It was essential to have support from our partners, such as libraries who ensured paper surveys were available across the county, including the super mobile library which attends even very rural areas, who expressed how grateful they were to be given an opportunity to take part face to face despite the geographical obstacles.

We also developed our relationships with local partners to ensure events could be held in the places where people go to talk, including coffee mornings, markets and leisure centres, and made sure that a number of accessible formats and variety of languages were available. For ease of use and complete transparency, this first took the form of a regularly updated news feed and two public digital surveys: one on council spending, and the other to gather general views on the local area. The aim was to gather as many views from as much of the public as possible on important issues that impact them, providing the chance to shape the future of our new council. It was also supported by a marketing campaign using print, digital, broadcast and social media channels, directing people to the platform. This element of the campaign was successfully promoted at engagement events by representatives and our partners, ensuring people had the opportunity to attend and empowering them to have their say at one of 214 events that took place across North Yorkshire. Accessibility and inclusion were paramount for these (and future) surveys, so it was crucial that the content was light, and the questions were easy to engage with. This way, more people could have a say than ever before.

Overall, 3,784 valid responses to the Let’s Talk Local survey were received. The responses include 897 surveys completed inperson at one of these engagement sessions, via an easy-read alternative format, or via paper survey questionnaire returned using a pre-paid envelope and inputted manually. This was in addition to the verbal responses at face to face events, demonstrating the successful uptake of the campaign and partnership with our campaign leads and our residents. The website itself was another factor in the reach and success of the campaign, with a full communications plan used to spread it as far and wide as possible. This included a huge push on social media across the eight original councils, regular email newsletters which reached over 400,000 alone, paid for advertising in local press, as well as at over 200 local events to reach the community where they actually meet (libraries, high streets, etc) and support from partners across our Local Resilience Networks including the Local Enterprise Partnerships in order to reach as many people as possible. The campaign also targeted organised groups sessions in order to have conversations with seldom heard groups, such as younger people as an often underrepresented group in local engagements. The Let’s talk campaign targeted youth councils, the local university and youth groups to gather their much-needed opinions. This included a stand at Coventry University Scarborough Campus and had 31 conversations as well as getting students to complete the survey on tablets. To make sure language was never a barrier, surveys were also available in paper format in 8 languages and the website was able to be translated live.

The results of the initial campaign were used to inform the launch of the new council, highlighting areas lacking in awareness or had a lower sentiment for the new council, meaning messages could be adapted from these learnings. It also gave us insight on messaging and genuine concerns of our residents, such as how to contact the new council. As a direct result of the campaign, we have been able to develop a more strategic approach to working with seldom heard groups linking into the persona work and exploring a multi-agency approach with Local Resilience partners, as well as developing a one-council approach to consultation and engagement to make sure that we have a joined-up approach to activity across the county.


How Innovative is your initiative?

Due to the scale of the campaign, the geographical reach, and the technological challenges in the more rural parts of the county, we had to find a way to use engagement tools innovatively to maximise reach. The Commonplace website had conversion rates of up to 34% with us hitting the council’s target to reach 5,000 residents 5 weeks earlier than intended. In the end, over 6,800 contributions were received. It’s a fantastic example of Commonplace being used in a blended way, with over 800 of these being received in survey mode (either filled out on paper or on tablets) at over 200 community events across the county. This data was then fed back directly into the Commonplace dashboard, so all data was immediately collated and ready to be analysed and fed into the Local Government Restructure programme. As a result of these campaigns, we have also built a close working relationship with Commonplace and now sit on their technical working group, as well as working in partnership with them to develop the communications dashboards which could support other councils throughout the country. On top of this, we managed to carry out this campaign in an environmentally friendly way (addressing a common concern from our residents) by applying a digital first approach: we heard from over 5,000 people (7,000 if you included the devolution consultation timed to coincide) that we would not have been able to reach in person. Not only would that have been unlikely if attempted through in-person methods only, but the environmental impact would also have been huge. Also, instead of asking residents to come to a location where the council were planning to be, the Council went to them. This helped to further our ambition and reputation for remaining hyperlocal whilst also minimising our carbon footprint as residents didn’t need to make an extra special journey to engage with them. As part of the ongoing consultation, the council also utilised locally based officers to reach local residents, as opposed to sticking to one small group for delivery across North Yorkshire as a county. The campaign data yielded can also be used to develop a locality evidence base for use in future strategy development. It will also feed-in intelligence to relevant service areas, for example, Local Transport and Safer Communities. Furthermore, it is being used to develop communication styles and mediums to address misconceptions / misunderstandings and support our goal to provide a representative voice across our consultation and engagement activity for services and Members. We will continue to have conversations with our communities via future Let’s Talk campaigns, and future campaigns data will be broken down by ACC to ensure relevance to our communities. The success of the Let’s Talk campaign will ensure these conversations will continue on with the public for years to come so the council can achieve its goal of being the most local large council in the country. Follow up consultations have already taken place with Let’s Talk 2.0, focusing on issues of climate change and local transport as well as up and coming consultations on Food.


What are the key learning points?

From the Let’s Talk data, we were able to understand not only how our residents felt about the upcoming change and what they would like to see prioritised and improved, but also their views on their current local arrangements. By developing this partnership, we were able feed the public’s views back into the local government reorganisation programme to address either as a Day 1 Must Have, or a key element for the upcoming transformation programme, for instance, improved public transport in our more rural areas.

Let’s Talk North Yorkshire has given us a much broader and more detailed understanding of how residents feel about their local areas and their current and future priorities. This engagement is just the first part of a much longer conversation between the new council and the public yet has already yielded incredibly interesting results that show how much the locals wanted to engage with their local authorities.

– 73% of all responses indicated residents were Happy or Satisfied in their local areas and only 3% Unhappy.

– When asked what people like about their local area, Friendly and Safe and Clean and Tidy ranked top at 68% and 48% respectively

– 65% of responses indicated that residents agreed with the proposed community networks in their area, which informed the decisions taken for the new council.

– Value for money, health and wellbeing, cost of living, and climate change were in the top 5 of both Local and Money survey responses to their New council priorities

It also identified common issues facing many areas and groups of people, such as lack of public transport; traffic levels; parking; difficulties in accessing GPs and NHS dentists; lack of affordable and appropriate housing; and concerns about environment. As the largest council geographically in England, it is key that we have a strong partnership with our residents, creating a community voice across our working practices and that we continue to listen at a local level through mediums this campaign has proved successful. This was a principle we insisted on putting in place even before the completion of the Local Government Restructure. The information provided via Let’s Talk can now be used to inform the new council’s decisions, policies and services moving forward.

Let’s Talk Local was used to inform how best to move initiatives such as community partnerships forward by giving us a thorough grasp of where residents felt connected to. This meant we could adapt our suggestions based on feedback. The feedback from the survey also highlighted that residents and groups didn’t understand the community partnerships which again was feedback into the way forward. Data from Local was also provided across services in the new council via a staff webinar where we had over 100 people attend and requests from 20 services. This has meant that these areas have access to Local data to inform transformation within their areas.

The lessons learned within the council’s communications function has been huge. We have a better understanding of the channels which work meaning our campaigns can be more focused when trialling new opportunities. These include how to work with younger audiences and seldom heard groups, and we are developing specific strategies to engage with these groups based on campaign feedback. We are also in the infancy of developing a one council approach which will ensure a more joined up approach across the council and means that services utilise existing data rather than asking the same questions again, moving the story on for residents, and demonstrating how we are listening. The next step after this would be to explore whether we can develop an approach across the county with all public sector partners.

Many of the issues raised could and cannot be addressed by just us alone: it is essential for continued collaboration with our residents as well as local partners to tackle problems and deliver solutions. We must and will continue the conversation with our residents and commit to listening and doing everything we can to advocate for North Yorkshire – for current and future generations of residents.