Counter fraud team saves taxpayers £328,275 in York

Counter fraud work by the York Council saved taxpayers over £300,000 in York during the last year.

The figure is revealed in a report which will be considered by a Council committee next week.

The report reveals that it received 345 reports of possible fraudulent activity.

42% of the cases related to fraud in social care. 22% in Council tax/Rates, 18% related to housing fraud and 11 concerned benefit claims.

Officials also investigated the misuse of blue badges for parking. Officials claim that 84% of investigations were successful with two people prosecuted and a further 10 cautioned.

Three false applications for school placements were also halted.

In 2018/19 the team identified over £201,000 of losses to the council, for social care fraud. This was a 19% increase from the previous financial year. Over £137,000 of savings were produced which represents a substantial rise compared to 2017/18 (£38k).

Two people were prosecuted for fraudulently claiming monies, from the York Financial Assistance Scheme, that they did not require.

What’s on in York: Spotlight on Health Archives

Friday June 14th

York Explore Library

10:00 am – 4:00 pm Free

Have you ever wondered what it was like to visit the school dentist in the early 20th century? Or what you could expect from a midwife in the 19th century?

Join us for a drop-in exhibition at York Explore, in partnership with the York Human Rights City, to find out. Uncover what level of healthcare you were (or were not!) entitled to, and what you could expect from the healthcare professionals of the past.

This event is part of the York Festival of Ideas 2019.

Call for compensation after Council confirms that it did not consult on building compound location

In response to a Freedom of Information request the York Council has now confirmed that it did not consult neighbours or local Councillors before issuing a license which allowed a building contractor to occupy the “old allotments” site at the rear of the library car park.

This site has been owned by the Council for over 15 years. The developers of the adjacent bowling Club land (which does have planning permission) had previously said that they did not want to combine the two sites to provide a abetter overall layout.

Work on the site disturbed residents living in South View Terrace and part of Lowfields Drive.

The first that residents knew of the arrangement, was when heavy plant moved onto the site and started to clear it. This prompted complaints about noise, dust and vibrations.

Spoil heap heights reached over 4 metres at one point.

Local fauna and flora on the site were badly affected.

The Council now says that it granted a license to occupy its land on 8th April. There was no consultation undertaken with neighbours.

Residents complained to the Council on 16th May about the problems being caused.

It wasn’t until 28th May that the Council wrote to affected neighbours telling them about the license.

The Council says that working hours on the compound are restricted to 8:00am – 6:00pm, Mon – Fri plus 9:00am – 1:00pm on Saturdays.

The Council says that “The compound licence requires the developer to leave the property in a clean and tidy condition at the end of the licence, including the removal of hardcore”.  

It goes on to say that it expects the compound to be in use for 12 months.

An investigation into whether the developers have the necessary planning permission to use the building compound is still underway.

In our view affected residents have suffered unexpected and unreasonable disruption and should be entitled to compensation.

It is possible that the matter may be referred to the Local Government Ombudsman

Many unfilled job vacancies in York

Latest unemployment figures show only 1.3%  are out of work in York.

This is significantly below the national figure of 2.7%.

There are 676 York job vacancies registered on the governments “find a job” website today. Some have been unfilled for several months now. The number of vacancies exceeds the number of people claiming job seekers allowance (550).

The latest Job Density figures available confirm that there were more jobs available than in other parts of the country

  • York 0.89
  • Yorkshire 0.81
  • Great Britain 0.86

!Density figures represent the ratio of total jobs to population aged 16-65)

Most York jobs these days are in the retail, tourism, education and social care sectors.

The high number of job vacancies is likely to inhibit growth prospects for the York economy

Cost of Ascot Way disabled centre soars by 37%

Council blames the “complexity” of the selected design for the increase.

A Council report published today reveals that the cost of the Centre of Excellence for Disabled Children will increase from the originally budgeted figure of £4.3 million (January 2018) to an estimated £5.9 million.

Demolition works have started at Windsor House

This comes after the Council, In April 2018, had agreed to increase the proportion of the costs which would be funded by borrowing

£1.1 million of the increased costs will come from a Health service grant with the rest being transferred from the education budget.

It appears that some features  of the building are being “value engineered” out of the design.

The centre is being built on the site of the Windsor House elderly persons home. The neighbouring Lincoln Court independent living building is also being modernised and extended at the same time.

While both projects have been welcomed, concerns have been expressed about traffic congestion and parking issues in the area.

The impact of the developments on open space and sports facilities in the neighbourhood have also been criticised.

Details of the new budget allocations are being kept secret by the Council. It is unclear what promised features in the building may now be omitted.

The meeting to consider the budget increase is taking place on 18th June.

Really disappointing that potholes take so long to repair

Some potholes in York, reported weeks ago, have still not been filled. This is the time of year when the Council normally catches up on the pothole backlog which can develop during periods of icy weather.

The York Council doesn’t provide “real time” updates on the number of highway defect reports it receives and the progress made in addressing them, but there is a suspicion that some are written off without any action being taken.

Fortunately the LibDems, who lead the new administration at West Offices, promised in their election manifesto “to reconstruct all roads in York”.

Even allowing for hyperbole, that is a very expensive looking promise. Perhaps Council officials had better get on with drawing up a work programme?

Herman Walk potholes on access road
Corlett Court potholes (marked but not repaired)
Morrell Court has n uneven road

York’s green spaces; going, going…

It is sad to see so many green spaces in the City being gradually eroded.

The reality of planning decisions, taken by the Council over the last few years, are rapidly becoming clearer. The trend is particularly evident in west York where former school playing field have proved to be vulnerable.

It started with the development of the playing field at the former Our Lady’s school site on Windsor Garth. The “Hob Stone” estate took up the whole of the site with no open space retained.

Next was the controversial decision to build on the Lowfields playing field. The decision was made worse when over £400,000, intended to fund alternative sports pitches, was earmarked for a site near Bishopthorpe, which is some 3 miles from Lowfields.

Concrete now dominates the Lowfields school playing field

The Hob Moor playing field has been torn up and is now part of a building site
The Acomb Bowling club and adjacent Council owned land on Front Street is now also a building site

There are alternative brownfield (previously developed) sites in the City. Strangely the local MP over the weekend announced her opposition to building 2500 homes on the land to the rear of the station while planners have omitted the Strensall army camp from Local Development Plans.

There seems to be little reason why a development at the latter could not be restricted to the “built footprint” of the former army buildings. This would still leave large amounts of new public open space. That option is under consideration as part of the latest consultation on the Local Plan

But for west York the outlook remains bleak. The Council is still dilly dallying on proposals to replace the Multi User Games Area on Kingsway West. The existing one is no longer usable as it is no part of a buildng compound.

…and the newly elected Council, despite lofty talk of having a new “stray” in the City, has noticeably failed to put any flesh on the bones of the idea. Prompt action is needed to secure more public open space on the periphery of the City.

Currently there is little sign of any urgency, or even engagement, by the occupants of West Offices.

Latest planning applications for the Westfield Ward

Below are the latest planning applications received by the York Council for the Westfield ward.

Full details can be found by clicking the application reference 

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Lincoln Court Ascot Way York YO24 4RA

Proposal      Conditions 4,7,8,16,17,19,20 & 21 of 19/00083/FULM

Reference   AOD/19/00165

NB. Refers to Condition 4 – Boundary Treatments. Proposed Site Plan Condition 7 – Slight amendments to car parking arrangements. Proposed Site Plan Condition 8 – Electric Car Charging Points. Proposed Site Plan Condition 16 & 17 – Bats & Contamination.

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Representations can be made in favour of, or in objection to, any application via the Planning on line web site.  http://planningaccess.york.gov.uk/online-applications/

NB. The Council now no longer routinely consults neighbours by letter when an application is received