Taxi firms miss out on £48,000 contract

Taxi bus concept

No tenders have been received to run a taxi bus service on the Dodsworth Avenue/Bell Farm//Straylands Grove/ Monks Cross loop.
Instead full size buses continue to serve the 13/13A route between 7:30am and 6:30pm on a half hourly frequency at a cost to taxpayers of £48,000 a year.
The average half hourly number of passengers using the service is just 3.
It was the low number of users that prompted the Council at the beginning of the year to seek interest from taxi operators to run the loop. As well as the £41,000 income guarantee, the operator would have kept any fare income.
With many taxis now available with 7 seats – some specially designed to accommodate people with disabilities – it was thought that the contract would have been very attractive. One of the difficulties for taxi companies is the unpredictable nature of their income which can be influenced by everything from the weather to traffic conditions and sporting events.
Most taxi owners also continue – with different drivers – to run vehicles in the evening thus maximising the income from the “asset”. So any guaranteed day time contract use is a bonus.

Toyota Prius Plus

Renault taxi bus

There are 4 other bus services being subsidised by the Council where the number of passengers per hour is less than 10. These are being run using full sized buses with obvious fuel efficiency penalties. Conversion to taxi bus routes would not only aid the environment but should reduce costs for taxpayers.
No doubt the lack of interest from existing taxi operators in this kind of opportunity will rekindle the calls for deregulation of the number of taxis licences available in the City.
Hopefully taxi owners will now be looking at new low emission vehicles like the Toyota Prius Plus (Alpha) 7 seater hybrid which offer low emission levels and improved fuel economy. Use on services like the 13 would be in everyones interest.

Empty Council houses scandal

The length of time that Council houses stand empty before being re-occupied has spiralled since Labour took control of the Council in May. Now homes can lie empty for over 30 days compared to around 21 days when the Liberal Democrats were in power.
The failure not only means that people in need of a new home have to wait longer, but also that rent income is being lost.

Meanwhile rent arrears on Council properties hit a record low by the end of the last financial year (March 2011).

Bus use in York falling

Use of buses in York during the first 6 months of the financial year fell by 5%. It means the number of passenger journeys on ordinary “stage carriage” bus services could fall to below 10 million for the first year since 2002 (when Labour were last in control of the Council).
The slump is partially offset by an increase in Park and Ride passenger numbers which are forecast to top 3 million during the year.
The Council is rapidly losing the confidence of the bus industry in the wake of sustained unconstructive media criticism by some Councillors. Hostility to the ftr – which remains popular with users – and failure to embrace new technology opportunities, such as the debit card payment option, means that York no longer is top of the investment priorities of the bus companies.

click to enlarge

Houses in multiple occupation

The Council will decide on 1st November whether planning permission will be required to convert properties into Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) containing 3 to 6 – non family – residents. Planning permission is already required for larger shared households. The process involves making an “Article 4 direction” and this has been the subject of public consultation over the last 12 months.
There are about 2000 HMOs in the City and about 20% of these are already registered with the Council.
The issue was first raised by residents who lived near the 2 Universities in the City and who felt that properties which were being let as “rooms” sometimes detracted from the local environment. Mention was made of the summer period – when the properties were usually empty – when gardens could become overgrown nd buildings neglected.
There were also reports of lifestyle conflicts with age groups, in a street, varying wildly.
At the time there was cross party agreement on the Council that local planning committees should be able to consider setting a ceiling on the number o f properties, in a particular street or neighbourhood, which could be let as HMOs. As with all planning applications there would continue to be a presumption in favour of approval and any refusal could result in an appeal through an independent process.
What was more controversial was the possible introduction of a licensing system for such properties.
The Liberal Democrats favoured what is known as an “accreditation” scheme. Labour on the other hand, in October 2010, proposed that the Council immediately introduce a “selective licensing” scheme.
Landlords and/or properties can be “accredited”. It has similarities to a code of practise in that it relies on the voluntary compliance by private landlords with good standards in the condition and management of their properties and their relationship with their tenants. By acknowledging good landlords they enjoy a clear market advantage as tenants should rent from accredited landlords as they provide quality accommodation
Last year Labour proposed that the Council seek immediate powers to introduce “selective licensing”. Although at that time the plan – ironically proposed by Cllr Alexander who is now the Leader of the Council – was defeated, the introduction of “selective licensing” is one of the choices available to the Council on 1st November. Licensing would be expensive; costing around £500 per property per year, which would probably be passed on to tenants, some of whom are already paying £90 a week for a room.
It could also stigmatise a community as one of the tests for the introduction of such a scheme are high crime levels (which really don’t apply anywhere in York).
So we’ll see shortly whether Labour – now in charge at the Guildhall – do a policy U turn!

Speed camera locations

North Yorkshire Police have announced where their mobile speed cameras will be between 26 October – 1 November 2011
North Yorkshire Police will be carrying out mobile safety camera enforcement on the following roads between Wednesday 26 October and Tuesday 1 November 2011.

A1237 Monks Cross, York

York Road, Haxby, York

New Lane, Huntington, York

A64 eastbound carriageway Bowbridge Farm Tadcaster

A64 westbound carriageway, Bowbridge Farm, Tadcaster

Broadway, Fulford, York

Murton Way, Murton, York

Fordlands Road, Fulford, York

Northfield Farm, Cobcroft Lane, Cridling Stubbs

A19 Selby Road, Whitley

Millfield Lane, Chappel Haddlesley

Westcroft Lane, Hambleton

Northallerton Road, Brompton,

Station Road, Thirsk,

B6271, Great Langton,

A61, Carlton Road, Carlton Miniott

A6108, North Stainley

Silver Street, Barton

Leeming Lane, Catterick Village

A6108, Darlington Road, Richmond

A66, Gilling West

A684, Aysgarth

A6108, Middleham

Gatherley Road, Brompton

B1427 Queen Margarets Road, Scarborough

B1249 at Staxton Wold near Staxton, Scarborough

A64 Seamer by-pass, Scarborough

A165 Reighton by-pass between Sands Road and Hunmanby Road

B1249 Foxholes to county boundary

A64 Seamer by-pass Scarborough

B1249 Staxton Wold, Staxton, Scarborough

B1249 Foxholes to county boundary

A1039 Filey Road at Flixton

A165 Reighton by-pass

A64 Seamer Road, Scarborough

The mobile safety cameras will be in operation at the above sites at various times during the dates stated. Cameras will not be in use on the above routes all day, every day.

More on UNISON funding of Labour manifesto in York

UNISON donation to cvoer Labour costs

The investigation, revealed on this web site a couple of days ago, apparently revolves around the above letter which confirms a donation – in kind – of £4724 from UNISON to the York Labour Party..
Labour candidates at the election apparently declared on their expenses returns having received only a total of £2385 leaving £2338 unaccounted for.
It appears that Labour candidates in the following wards chose not to issue the manifesto to electors:
Haxby, Heworth, Heslington, Heworth Without, Huntington & Strensall.
Electors are given some reassurance that donations of this sort will be transparent.
The instructions to Councillors says:
“The Standards Board for England does not draw a distinction between direct financial assistance (payments of money directly to a Councillor for election or other expenses) and indirect assistance (such as payment for election posters or leaflets). You should register any person or organisation who has made a financial contribution (whether direct or indirect) to your election campaign or who assists you with the costs of carrying out your duties”.
The register of interests declared by Councillors can be viewed on the Councils web site.
Councillors are also required at the beginning of each meeting to indicate whether they have interests of this sort to declare. These are recorded in the minutes of the meetings (and again can be seen on the Councils web site).
More to follow on this as it becomes available.

Delays and high costs dog homes for the elderly plan.

The Council could borrow an extra £13 million, 29 elderly residents could be forced to move twice in the next 3 years as their homes are pulled down while a start on building work on the Lowfields “care village” seems likely to delayed until 2013, as Labour struggle to deal with an increasing overspend on care services.
The ambitious plan to replace the City’s elderly person’s homes with 3 new “super homes” has run into trouble following a lengthy consultation exercise. Only 935 responses were received from York residents. Most (rightly) supported the modernisation plan, but many claimed that they wanted the homes to be paid for, and run by, the Council. No details of the implications for such a model for other parts of the care budget were explained to those surveyed. Ironically, as a result, the debt adverse, Labour Council could see £13 million added to its borrowing burden.
The proposed timetable would involve the closure of the Fordlands and Oliver House elderly person’s homes in April 2012. Windsor House would close in January 2014.
The replacement Lowfields care village is expected to have the capacity to provide for 90 residents in the two new homes proposed for that site while the new Fordlands and Haxby Hall homes would have 55 each (including respite).
It now seems that the Lowfields village will go ahead but not for over 12 months with an opening in January 2014 a possibility. As well as the two homes, the site would accommodate a “social hub” and independent living bungalows. The consultation feedback also suggested that the bungalows and apartments should offer a mixture of tenure; for sale, shared ownership or to rent. Officials have claimed that it would be possible to have a combination of apartments and bungalows totalling 50 or more on the Lowfield site along with the addition of affordable housing.
It is possible that the cost of building the “social hub” could be covered by selling some of the apartments and bungalows
The new arrangements could save around £3 million a year. The money is desperately needed to cater for the steep increase in the numbers of elderly people requiring Council support.
The Council is currently forecasting an overspend this year of £1.3 million on Adult Social Services and a further £0.7 million on Children’s Services. The number of children in the Councils care (most are in foster homes) had increased to 250 by last month (100 up on 2007 levels). Each is costing taxpayers around £20,000 a year in care costs.

Planned Lowfields Care Village

Bonfire night

November 5th will shortly be with us and retailers will be stepping up the sale of fireworks.
Nuisances caused by fireworks have reduced over the last few years as a crackdown on illegally imported fireworks has taken effect. Now noise is generally restricted to the time immediately around 5th November.
You also have to be 18 to buy fireworks these days.
Traders have been sent a guidance leaflet on all aspects of the law relating to firework sales with their registration certificate – businesses must register with the council if they wish to sell fireworks. Council officials visit retailers to check storage conditions, check for the sale of ‘banned’ fireworks i.e. those not complying with noise limit requirements and those which are ‘unsafe’. Verbal advice is given on preventing underage sales, and checks made to ensure the correct notices are displayed.
Businesses are provided with a sticker to display showing that they are registered for the supply of fireworks. This helps consumers identify legitimate retailers of fireworks.
The Council will once again undertake a test purchase operation in ‘firework season’ to check retailers compliance with the law. Similar operations in recent years have revealed no breeches since 2007.
Locally on Thanet Road we understand that the Acorn Rugby Club will be organising their firework display again this year.

Acorn fireworks display

Peter Rhodes

I was sorry to learn of the death of Peter Rhodes. Perhaps most famous as a Football League referee, Peter spent his retirement years as a resident of Woodthorpe.
Very much a larger than life character his forthright views weren’t always popular. He managed to maintain a sense of humour even when age began to take it’s toll. His generosity was legendary.
About 20 years ago he bought the Acomb (Quaker) wood the development of part of which proved later to be controversial.
But he will be remembered by most as a warm hearted character of the type that are few and far between these days.
A funeral service will be held at St Edward the Confessor Church in Dringhouses on Tuesday, November 1, at 1.45pm, followed by cremation at York Crematorium at 3pm.