The local Council Tory Leadership suffered a defeat this evening when their plan ot sell off land at Willow House was referred back for further consideration.
It is understood that one Conservative councillor absented himself from the meeting without appointing a substitute. (He was apparently elsewhere in West Offices when the meeting was taking place)
The result was that a vote on a “call in” was tied and the Labour chair used his casting vote to stall the development.
There are likely to be repercussions for the Council as the sale of the former elderly persons home site for development was needed to fund new elderly care homes.
The main concern apparently centred around an area of open space next to the home which would have been developed for the first time. Locals say that it is used for informal recreational activity.
There are several other controversial plans in the pipeline which would see similar open spaces developed. In the Acomb ward the development of the old Manor school playing field has been criticised while there is also a major campaign to save threatened open space at Lowfields.
The called in decision will now be referred back to the Executive who will have to decide whether to re-advertise the site for sale and, if so, with what conditions. Further delays to the care programme seem inevitable.
The disagreement within the Tories is the latest in signs of unrest with Council Leader David Carr heavily criticised since unilaterally sacking two executive members and later resisting publication of a report into contractor appointments.
Other projects such as the, Tory backed, shipping container village on Piccadilly and arrangements to sign the final Community Stadium contract are also mired in controversy.
Members of City of York Council’s Executive will consider plans for the next phase of the Older People’s Accommodation Programme on Thursday 24 November, when they receive the results of the consultation at Willow House older persons home and decide if the home should close.
Between Monday 26 September and Friday 4 November residents, relatives, carers and staff at Willow House were invited to take part in a six week consultation on the option to close the home in Spring 2017, as part of plans to modernise accommodation for older people in the city.
If the proposals go ahead, Executive will also be asked to approve that the Willow House site be put up for sale to generate a capital receipt to support the wider Older People’s Accommodation Programme.
The programme seeks to address the needs of York’s fast-growing older population, by providing modern facilities which deliver high quality care and support an improved quality of life. It also aims to make the best use of the city’s existing Extra Care housing, making it more accessible for people with higher care needs by increasing the support available at each location and by replacing the council’s out-dated Older People’s provision, with more modern accommodation.
The consultation on proposals to close Willow House engaged residents, relatives and staff. A number of issues, concerns and queries were raised during the consultation, which have been considered and factored into the Older People’s Accommodation Programme. Everyone affected by the consultation was offered the opportunity to talk on a one-to-one basis about the proposals.
Residents were also able to discuss the options open to them, based on their individual needs, including housing extra care housing or moving to an alternative care home.
The Moving Homes Safely Protocol has also been shared with residents. The protocol was used to support residents and their families through the closure of Oakhaven and Grove House and seeks to minimise any stress for individuals by focusing on the needs of each resident. If Executive approve plans to close Willow House it is advised the protocol is used again so that residents’ moves are carefully planned and managed.
Martin Farran, Director of Adult Social Care, City of York Council, said: “We recognise that this consultation process can be an unsettling and upsetting. Throughout this process we have been working closely with residents, staff and their families, to make sure they have the support and advice they need.
“The focus of the Older People’s Accommodation Programme remains clear: to support independent living at home and equip York with the accommodation and care that it needs for the future. Our residents are of paramount importance and the actions we take now will ensure that they – and future generations – will have the best possible quality of life and ensure that we can meet the needs of York’s ageing population.
“Whatever decision is taken by the Executive, we will continue to support residents, relatives and staff throughout the process.”
Executive will take place on Thursday 24 November at West Offices from 5.30pm and is open to members of the public or is available to watch live online from: www.york.gov.uk/webcasts
To find out more about the report, or to attend, click
Residents, their relatives and staff at one of City of York Council’s Older People’s Homes – Willow House – are being consulted on the option to close the home in early 2017, as part of plans to modernise accommodation for older people in the city.
The Council says that, “the plans seek to address the needs of York’s fast-growing older population, by providing modern facilities which allow high quality care and quality of life. It also aims to make the best use of the city’s existing Extra Care housing, making it more accessible for people with higher care needs by increasing the support available at each venue and by replacing the council’s five out-dated Older People’s Homes, with more modern accommodation”.
Two city centre homes (Oliver House & Grove House) have already been sold by the Council. Willow House, located within a stones throw of the City Walls is likely to command a substantial price when marketed.
There will, however, be concerns that specialist properties specifically designed for older people – and with good access to a full range of amenities – are being lost.
In Acomb, the Council faces a major backlash over its plans to build on the Lowfields school sports fields. Residents had expected that site to be allocated for older people as it is also located very close to the amenities which exist on Front Street
A Council media release goes on to say,
“Each of the council’s Older People’s Homes was assessed against a number of criteria to determine which homes should be consulted on for closure first. Two Older People’s Homes – Grove House and Oakhaven – closed earlier this year as part of the programme and this week, Executive is being asked to approve plans for the sale of Grove House to generate additional capital to support the programme.
The criteria covered:
Whether there were any serious physical problems with the building which could impact on the quality of care provided to residents
Whether the site had potential alternative uses which will support the wider Older People’s Accommodation Programme
Whether there were any residents living at the home who had already been moved from another CYC older person’s home which had been closed
The size of the home, with smaller homes struggling to provide a cost-efficient service to residents.
None of the Older People’s Homes were found to have serious physical problems with the buildings, so the decision was based on the other three criteria. Willow House was chosen as the next home to be consulted on re closure because:
Willow House is one of the smaller homes with 23 permanent residents
Only a very small number of residents have moved home previously as part of the programme
Should Willow House close, the location of the site means that it would be likely to generate a significant capital receipt if sold, helping to fund the wider Older People’s Accommodation Programme and so benefit more older people in the city.
Michael Melvin, Assistant Director, Adult Social Care, City of York Council, said: “We recognise that this consultation process can be an unsettling and upsetting one and we will be working closely with the residents, staff and their families, to make sure they have the support and advice they need. Residents and staff at Willow House are rightly proud of their home, however, it is vital that we keep the aims of the wider Older People’s Accommodation Programme in sight.
“The programme looks to ensure that we are able to help older people to remain independent in their own home as long as possible, providing them with a wide choice of accommodation to meet their needs. Our residents are of paramount importance and the actions we take now will ensure that they – and future generations – will have the best possible quality of life and ensure that we can meet the needs of York’s ageing population. This consultation is another step closer to achieving the goal of modernising accommodation for older people in York.”
Residents, their relatives and staff have already been informed of the proposals and will be consulted on their views and any preferences they have about where they would like to move to should the home be closed, over the next six weeks.
The results of the consultations will be presented to the Executive on Thursday 24 November. Willow House also hosts day drop-in services for people with leaning disabilities in a self contained space. These service users will be consulted separately on proposed changes at Willow House”.
A Council statement reads, “as part of our drive to improve the quality and choice of care for older people in the city, we are consulting with residents of Woolnough House on its future.
Residents, their relatives and staff at one of City of York Council’s older people’s homes – Woolnough House – are being consulted on the option to close the home in late 2017, as part of plans to modernise accommodation for older people in the city.
The plans seek to address the needs of York’s fast-growing older population, by providing modern facilities which allow high quality care and quality of life. It also aims to make the best use of the city’s existing extra care housing, making it more accessible for people with higher care needs by increasing the support available at each venue and by replacing the council’s four out-dated older people’s homes, with more modern accommodation”.
The news comes as work nears completion on 25 new extra care apartments and two bungalows at Glen Lodge in Heworth.
Each of the council’s older people’s homes was assessed against a number of criteria to determine which homes should be consulted on for closure first.
Three older people’s homes – Grove House, Oakhaven and Willow House – closed in the past 17 months as part of the programme. (more…)
Date: Wed 9 Dec Time: 7.00pm – 9.00pm Cost: £14 discounts are available
Enjoy seeing Fairfax House after dark in all its festive glory, and hear about the merrymaking, decorations, feasting and activities that surrounded this festival in the eighteenth century. The tour is led by Director Hannah Phillip.
Date: Sat 19, Sun 20 Dec Time: 5.00pm Cost: Adult £8.50, child £6.00, Family £17.50 including a warm drink and mince pies.
Storytelling with Jenna Drury, Mud Pie Arts
As Christmas approaches and the nights draw in, join us for some enchanting winter tales and traditional storytelling. Meet Molly our scullery maid as she takes you through the house, sharing festive stories from Scandinavia and reading classic tales from Dickens and Wind in the Willows. She may even tell tales about secrets in the house! To keep out the winter chill, huddle round as we also enjoy hot chocolate, mulled wine and mince pies – the perfect Christmas treat for all the family. Suitable for age 4yrs and above.
It was to be a good Spring mainly due to the efforts of volunteers across the community.
Volunteer efforts also helped to conserve key environmental sites like local woodland.
Crime levels rose with anti social behaviour once again the biggest source of complaint in sub urban areas.
Work progressed on a £4 million cycle/pedestrian footbridge linking the railway station to Bootham. Its opening later in the year was to highlight the fact that the City still had a long way to go before it had a comprehensive, and safe, cycle route network.
Another bridge over the Ouse attracted comment. Corrosion on Lendal Bridge served to emphasis the on going cost of maintaining the transport infrastructure in the City
By far the worst aspect of the transport system was the condition of roads and paths. Potholes became more pronounced in many streets. The maintenance budget was to be increased later in the year but by then frost had already taken its toll
There was little change in the recycling rate in York. There was no lack of enthusiasm from residents who regularly filled recycling banks to the point where some overflowed.
Some simple tasks seemed to confuse the York Council. A request for the goals posts on a local park to be repainted has been outstanding now for 2 years.
Another area of poor performance earlier in the year was the removal of graffiti. Following sustained criticism from residents, the Council was to completely change its graffiti removal service later in the year. Early results have been encouraging although there have been no recent prosecutions for graffiti (criminal damage).
A self seeded tree in Balfour Street had grown to the point where it was engulfing the adjacent railings and damaging the public footpath. This represented a safety hazard. It would be two years after the problem was first reported before the tree was felled. The felling provided space for two replacement trees to be planted.
The Council granted planning permission for the (privately owned) Acomb Bowling Club to be demolished and replaced with housing. The owners were required to make a Section 106 contribution towards replacement facilities but this money found its way into a club located in the Holgate area.
Meanwhile, without any consultation with residents, Council officials agreed that land earmarked for a library extension could be used as a site compound and spoil heap. This caused considerable annoyance to some neighbours.
The Council published details of the number of Council homes that were affected by “standing water” . The number had changed little over the years.
On a happier note, the highly successful, Knights Rugby community team organised community events during the Easter holidays.
With the local elections on the horizon the Council revealed the number of issues that had been recorded by Councillors during the previous 4 years. Mostly those who raised the most issues were the Councillors who got re-elected in May.
There was big choice of candidates in the local elections.
The election manifestos were more significant for what they didn’t say rather than what was proposed. The slow progress on the Community Stadium was air brushed from history, as was the escalating costs of repairing the Guildhall.
In the end, the results showed major gains for the, now 21 strong, LibDem Group who subsequently formed a partnership with the Greens to run the Council.
The Tories fell to their second worst election result ever while Labour made only modest gains.
A few weeks later the LibDems topped the poll in the Euro elections in the City beating off a challenge from the BREXIT party. It was to be a different picture though later in the year when views polarised during an unexpected General Election campaign.
The Council was criticised for the large number of commercial properties which it owned and which had been left empty. These included former elderly persons homes like Oakhaven & Willow House together with offices like those on Castlegate. The properties were costing taxpayers several hundreds of thousands of pounds each year in lost rent income and maintenance costs.
The Police and Crime Commissioner was criticised for an over reliance on income from speed camera vans. The 6 vans concentrated on trunk roads apparently because that was where the greatest number of offenders could be caught and fined. Critics said that accident and average speed trends on monitored roads should be published. This would allow the the success of the initiative to be judged
It wasn’t just the central Post Office that was under threat. The Woodthorpe sub Post Office closed suddenly.
A new neighbourhood plan covering the area around the Minster was published. It generally received a positive response.
By late May it had become clear that something was seriously amiss with street public service standards. Hedges and trees were obstructing paths. Weeds scared key entrances to the City. It would later become clear that the weed killing programme had simply not taken place on many roads. There would be some improvements towards the end of the year but several issues were never fully resolved.
It became clear that the new York Community Stadium would not be completed by the final, final deadline on June. A later Autumn opening date was also to pass with key Rugby matches having to be rescheduled to the Bootham Crescent ground.
There were also ongoing concerns about the viability of some of the facilities to be provided as part of the stadium deal. It seemed that the Council were now underwriting more of the risk on the commercial side of the development
Meanwhile, the cost of providing new football pitches for a Bishopthorpe based football team was revealed to be nearly £1.5 million
The cost included a high specification clubhouse.
Most of the funding was to come from taxpayers.
What annoyed some residents were claims by officials that the facility was a replacement for the playing fields being built on at Lowfields. It was pointed out that the new site (near the York College) was some 3 miles from Lowfields and lacked a direct public transport link.
The York Councils decision to spend over £2 million adding
further properties to its investment portfolio has produced a backlash.
Critics have pointed to the ongoing delays in bring empty properties into use. Six months ago, a Freedom of information (FOI) request revealed a long list of under-used Council buildings. These included Oakhaven, Ashbank, Willow House, the Guildhall and, of course, 29 Castlegate.
The latter is one of the prime properties in the City centre and was valued at £575,000 in 2016. Since then there have been further increases in property prices in the City.
A further FOI tried to discover what progress has been made in selling the property following a decision by the York Civic Trust to pull out of a purchase deal 12 months ago. The FOI has been rejected (see right) on the grounds that there are ongoing commercial discussions taking place. It fails to reveal who is talking to whom about the empty property. No attempt has been made to let the property for temporary use in the busy Christmas period (it includes a frontage onto the Coppergate shopping centre).
At last week’s Executive meeting, Councillors were challenged
over their stewardship of the Council’s property estate.
They responded by claiming that the portfolio was “worth £335m
and produced an income of £5.8m a year”.
This claim has prompted a further FOI request. A local resident now wants to see a list of all Council owned commercial properties, their value and the net income that each produces.
This is the kind of information that should be routinely provided for the Councils “scrutiny” committee. A six monthly review of investment returns is the least that taxpayers would expect to be published for public review.
Sadly, this no longer happens at the York Council.
The delays in disposing of empty property is now a major issue for the authority. It some cases there may be good reasons for the delays but, if so, then there must be more transparency about the process*.
If the Council cannot effectively manage its estate, then there are companies in the City who would be delighted to help.
*The Council has agreed to receive a staffing report on a 6-monthly basis. The reports will cover FTE numbers, Equality Data, Absence and Well Being, Starters and Leavers, reasons for leaving (i.e. retirement, redundancy, dismissal, settlement agreement) and Agency staff numbers.
19% of Council Tax income will go on servicing interest and
Under current plans, the debts of the York Council are set to increase from £293 million to £384 million by 2023.
The high repayment requirement means that less will be available to spend on basic public services in the City.
That represents a burden of £539 for every York resident.
Although the figures are within the legal limit placed on Council
borrowing, several of the projects being funded have risks which could increase
The figures are included in a report
to a meeting taking place next week.
Separately, the Council is being recommended to find £2.85
million to fund the purchase of an unnamed City Centre property. This is being
described as a “Strategic Commercial Property Acquisition”.
While it is true to say that, in the long term, investments
in City Centre land and buildings by the Council has in the past proved to be of
positive value for taxpayers, the Councils recent
record on asset management has left much to be desired.
The Willow House former elderly persons home building has been empty for several years while the high profile property at 29 Castlegate is in a similar position.
The Councils executive Councillors stubbornly refuse to consider, in public, asset management issues of this sort.