FOUR rural parishes have been recruited to run a network of community hubs in village halls in North Yorkshire.

The scheme, pioneered by York-based Rural Action Yorkshire (RAY) and North Yorkshire County Council, aims to provide vital support to the elderly and vulnerable.

Six hubs have been designated, four covering the Ryedale villages of Cold Kirby, Husthwaite, Weaverthorpe and Brompton-by-Sawdon.

Coun Clare Wood, the member for the Sheriff Hutton and Hovingham division and the county council’s health and adult services, said: “A lot has been said about The Big Society – this is a practical example of how it can work in reality, and benefit people in a practical and meaningful way.”

The county council has allocated almost £50,000 to RAY, which has its headquarters at Askham Bryan, near York, to set up the hubs which are to be launched in the next few weeks.

The centres, said Coun Wood, will offer preventative social care, as well as activities such as luncheon clubs, gardening clubs, film groups, cafés and good neighbour schemes.

Leah Swain, chief officer of RAY, said: “In recent years, we have seen big changes in the management of community buildings. There are some really forward-thinking people out there who have been able to come up with great ideas which will make a big difference to people in rural areas.”

One of the leaders of the Cold Kirby hub, Becky McMurray, said: “We are a small isolated community and having spent a lot of money renovating our village hall, we believe it can be used much more to the advantage of our residents.”

She added that the Cold Kirby hub also covers the villages of Scawton and Old Byland.

The village hall had been renovated through a string of local fundraising events and grants after becoming run-down.

“We are already seeing an increase in the hall with such events as film nights and fashion shows.

“It is proving a big boost to the quality of life for our residents of all ages,” she said.