THE chief executive of Craven District Council has spoken of how it has been an 'honour and privilege' to serve the district's communities as he prepares to bow out after 15 years.

Paul Shevlin, who has worked almost 50 years in local government, came to Craven in December, 2008 from Oswestry Borough Council where he had been its chief executive for eight years.

Mr Shevlin, 68, who was faced with a council in financial disarray, said he had to make 'tough and unpopular' political decisions to restore stability.

“This year marks my 49th year in local government and now feels like the right time to bow out," he said.

"What attracted me most to Craven was the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales and a major challenge. The council had some financial problems, and it was the challenge of trying to help in resolving those problems which was the deciding factor of taking the job. On joining, I was repeatedly told that I won’t be here long. There were a lot of personal challenges too, but over time, everything fell into place.”

Over the 15 years, during which he has not taken a single day off sick, Mr Shevlin says there are many achievements that have given him immense pride.

They include the multi-million pound refurbishment of Skipton Town Hall, the re-vamp of Aireville Park, and the opening of Langcliffe Quarry Enterprise Centre. Other projects during his time at the helm include the refurbishment of Aireview House homeless hostel; the Engine Shed Lane and Ings Lane highway improvement scheme, and the move of the council offices from Granville Street to Belle Vue Square.

He said: “It’s been an honour and a privilege to be the council’s chief executive and serve Craven communities for the past 15 years, plus work with such dedicated colleagues. I am also grateful to have worked with fantastic, elected members, in particular the leader of the council, Cllr Richard Foster and Chairman, Cllr Simon Myers.

“I’m immensely proud of the council’s achievements for the people of the district, despite wider economic challenges, budget constraints and a Covid pandemic. I’m particularly proud of the way we all worked together and alongside our communities through the unprecedented challenges of the Covid pandemic.

"It’s been humbling and impressive to witness how my colleagues rose to the challenge, demonstrating incredible strength, compassion and determination to serve the people of Craven when they needed it the most.”

Mr Shevlin leaves the council on Friday, March 31 - the last day of the authority before it, the six other district and borough councils and the county council in North Yorkshire, are replaced by the new, single North Yorkshire Council on April 1.

Council leader, Cllr Richard Foster, said: “We have been lucky to have Paul in Craven. Whilst not often front and centre he has been the driving force behind the council as we have moved from a council that was in financial trouble to one with balanced books that has been delivering major projects and investing in Craven, whilst continuing to deliver services.

“He quickly understood that Craven didn't need wholesale change and that he needed to enable myself, members, staff and our excellent communities. This was most evident during the pandemic as he guided the area through an ever-changing picture with the minimum of fuss.

“I hope he enjoys his retirement and looks back on his career in Craven as fondly as I do.”

Council chairman, Cllr Simon Myers, added: “I want to take this opportunity to thank Paul for leading the council through the past 15 years am. I’m proud to say we have achieved so much and we the Council and the people of Craven owe him a great debt.

"At the heart of everything he has done has been the welfare of Craven and its residents. His leadership and tireless commitment has helped positively transform the council and a lot of key projects have reached fruition. "As a leader he has always acted with integrity and transparency and has commanded respect from his staff, councillors, partners and the public. On a personal note I have always enjoyed working with him. I will miss him. It will be sad to see him go and I wish him all the very best for the future.”

Mr Shevlin added: “I have really been struck by a phrase I came across recently: ‘If you’re not making someone else’s life better, then you’re wasting your time. Your life will become better by making other lives better’. “I try to live by the mantra of always helping others. It has been an immense source of pride to serve the wonderful people of Craven over the past 15 years. I am hopeful that the new North Yorkshire Council will continue Craven District Council’s legacy and do what’s best for the people of the rural district.

“I don’t know what is next for me; I don’t even have a retirement plan, but one thing’s for sure - I won’t be putting my feet up just yet! Over and out.”