Richmondshire District Council

Two charities have merged to offer voluntary sector organisations and communities in Richmondshire and surrounding areas enhanced support, advocacy and networking opportunities.

The merger last week of Rural Action Yorkshire (RAY) and the North Yorkshire & York Forum (NYYF) will provide greater support to voluntary organisations and communities in Richmondshire, and across North, South and West Yorkshire. 

The new organisation, called Community First Yorkshire, will provide a vital link to helping communities and voluntary organisations to enhance the services they provide to local people. Both RAY and NYYF had a strong track record of working to support, connect and represent voluntary, community and rural organisations and social enterprises across Yorkshire since 1937. 

Leah Swain, Chief Executive of Community First Yorkshire and former Chief Officer of RAY, said; “Making the decision to merge is a momentous moment for any charity, but all the more so when we have been a trusted rural champion for the last 80 years. The Trustees and I feel confident that by being part of Community First Yorkshire we can still be a strong rural support organisation for North, South and West Yorkshire – and now we can also offer enhanced services to the wider voluntary and community sector. I am really excited about the potential of Community First Yorkshire and looking forward to working with those inspirational communities, groups and individuals that do so much good for so many people.”

Carrol Rennard, Community First Yorkshire trustee, from Tunstall, Richmond, said; “The merged organisation will provide a more focused and specialised service to local organisations and volunteers. I’m thrilled that the new service will offer local Richmondshire-based volunteers like myself a stronger voice and a more flexible solution to volunteering.”

Corporate Director for Richmondshire District Council, Callum McKeon said: "We hope this merger will improve the group’s ability to meet the needs of people and organisations in most need in Richmondshire - and further empower local areas to become more sustainable."

Rural Community Council for North, South and West Yorkshire

Community First Yorkshire will continue RAY’s previous work as a Rural Community Council for North, South and West Yorkshire.  The organisation works to promote rural communities and to enhance the quality of life for people.  By securing funding, Community First Yorkshire will work on community development projects across North, South and West Yorkshire that enrich communities and the people who live and work in them. Previous projects include ‘Richmondshire Rural Life Event’, ‘Winter Weather Roadshows’ and ‘Village SOS’.  Current projects include ‘Richmondshire Community Buildings network’ and ‘Community Led Planning’.   

Community Support and Volunteering in North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) and NHS North Yorkshire* have awarded a £1.4 million** grant to Community First Yorkshire to deliver support and development work to North Yorkshire’s voluntary sector.

The successful funding application was jointly submitted by North Yorkshire & York Forum (NYYF) and Rural Action Yorkshire (RAY).  NYYF has been the contract holder since 2011. Due to the merger the new contract will be delivered by Community First Yorkshire.

Leah added: “By securing this grant we can build on the good work of the previous service providers in supporting the voluntary and community sector in North Yorkshire. We are ambitious for the sector and are excited to be exploring new ways of providing support for a wide range of different voluntary and community groups. This is a significant financial investment by the County Council and the CCGs who are investing in the health of a sector that they value as a critical partner in delivering their services.”

New services to be offered by Community First Yorkshire

Announcements about new services will be made in the near future.  Keep in touch with Community First Yorkshire by signing up to our news bulletins by emailing   T: 01904 704177 or visit


*NHS North Yorkshire is made up of the Clinical Commissioning Groups: Harrogate & Rural District CCG, Scarborough & Ryedale CCG, Hambleton, Richmondshire & Whitby CCG, Vale of York CCG and Airedale, Wharfedale & Craven CCG

**The total grant available over three years is £1.4 million - £476,000 per annum .

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