Beckfield Lane recycling centre users backing petition

Former Coucnil Leader Andrew Waller joins Richard Hill in collecting signatures on the petition

About half a dozen residents were outside the Beckfield Lane recycling centre today collecting signatures on the “Save Beckfield Lane Recycling Centre” petition.

Around 100 signatures were collected in the first hour with many users taking forms away to collect more support.

Volunteers are required to help collect signatures at the centre on Sunday. Ring Andrew on 337757 or Reuban on 781589 if you can help or if you would like a poster or car sticker to display.

£3 million extra to be borrowed as stadium and swimming costs spiral.

Stadium benefits. Click to enlarge

The Council is set to borrow an additional £3 million to pay for the refurbishment of the Waterworld swimming and fitness centre at Monks Cross.

In addition Council officials are now asking Councillors to agree to release £4 million of taxpayer’s money for the Community Stadium project. Previously this £4 million had been earmarked as a loan, with the new facility expected to generate income which would see the debt paid off early in its life. The business case figures, published by the Council yesterday, now show only a surplus of £83,000 a year on the stadium – insufficient to meet the debt repayment costs.

Subject to planning permission being granted, the developers of the nearby John Lewis and M&S stores will contribute £14.85 million to public works and the stadium.

Including the value of the existing stadium (£4 million), the taxpayer’s investment now looks to be heading for a figure of over £10 million. This is far higher than was planned by the Liberal Democrat led Council when it started the process over 3 years ago.

However this might be offset by the sale of Bootham Crescent on which the Council now intends to take out a charge to secure its interests. However 2 preferential charges already exist on the ground. Bootham Crescent has recently been valued at only £800,000 as a site for new housing.

Swimming facilities do require regular updates and Waterworld is now 14 years old. However the scale of the public investment required will comes as a surprise to many and what is still a relatively new building. The Council claims that it may recover some of the investment when it appoints a new company to manage the facility (the existing managers are said to be making a loss on the operation).

Profit and loss business plan. Click to enlarge

£2 million is to be spent on a new athletics stadium at the University (replacing the Huntington Stadium track). This is £500,000 more than originally budgeted, partly because it now includes a 500 seater stand and extensive clubroom facilities.

Apart from the costs, the business case for the community stadium being presented to the Council’s “cabinet” next week has changed little over the last 3 years. One change is a promise to invest in a “training pitch and reserve team venue” for the Rugby Club. The costs are budgeted at £750,000and one of the options being considered is to upgrade the facilities at the Acorn Club at Thanet Road.

The stadium opening date is now put at early 2015.

The Council badly need to get experienced business and project management on the case or – as seems to be happening with the new council HQ where fitting out costs look to be going out of control – this project could become a major burden on taxpayers.

Overall though the Community Stadium should be a major benefit to the City.

Community hub hopes.

York Council Tax rise confirmed

Labour have gone ahead with their threat to increase Council Tax rates by 2.9%. A further rise of over 2% is forecast for April 2013. They turned down the offer of a £1.8 million subsidy from the government to freeze tax levels

We know that many residents still don’t fully appreciate what is going to hit them over the next few weeks and months. Our guess is that anger will grow as the following sequence of events take place:

• February: Acomb Council branch office closes

• March: Higher Council Tax bill arrives. Many find that they will have to pay over £30 a year more.

• April: Car parking charges up 18% for residents. ResPark charges up. Issue of refuse collection sacks in terraced areas stops. Beckfield Lane recycling centre closes. Number 4 ftr bus services axed. Disabled people attending specialised work placements told that they may be transferred to the private sector. Unemployment increases as organisations like Future Prospects are forced to reduce their activities.

• May: Potholes in roads and footpaths are still unfilled following winter damage. Only a handful of roads are put on resurfacing list. Elderly seeking Council help with home care are told that the bar has been raised. Council will now only act if their needs are judged to be “substantial”. Around 200 elderly people lose existing home care service. However the Council finds money to provide “free” WiFi in City Centre.

• June: Complaints about stray dogs and footpath fouling increase following a reduction in dog warden numbers. Residents expecting more CCTV, security improvements, car parking lay-bys etc, told that Ward Committee funding averages less than £10,000 per ward. 20% of litter and “poop scoop” bins removed.

• Summer: Reduced spending, on crime prevention, results in more burglaries and vandalism. Enforcement of alcohol sales to minors scaled back. More anti social behaviour evident. Voluntary bodies and charities struggle with reduced grants. Some flounder. Litter on streets increases following a reduction in street sweeping. New refuse collection rounds bring chaos. Collection is on different days each fortnight. Cuts to parks and open spaces budget means York fails in “Britain in Bloom” contest. Fly tipping up since Beckfield Lane centre closed.

• Autumn: Number of cyclists involved in accidents increases. The Council faces increased insurance claims from pedestrians who have fallen on uneven footpaths. Enforcement of under age sales of fireworks is scaled back. It is a noisy October. Gulleys haven’t been cleaned for at least 6 months. Heavy rain brings flooding to several streets.

• Winter: The number of streets gritted is reduced. Salt bins, left out all year, are found to have been vandalised. Those remaining are filled only 3 times before the budget runs out. Salvation Army forced to reduce services for “rough sleepers” as grant runs out. Street environment budget also used up. No money available to deal with damage to verges, graffiti and dumping.

• Spring 2013: Charities, sports clubs, scouts and charities told that they will lose their discretionary rate relief. Parish Councils told that provision to avoid “double taxation” is being discontinued. Green bin garden waste collection stopped. Residents told to compost waste in garden. Privatisation of waste collection announced.

York’s debt per head is at an all time high. Opposition Councillors point out that it is now the equivalent of the external debt of Fiji (and twice that of Greenland).

64% back Council Tax Freeze

64% of residents, responding to a Liberal Democrat Focus survey, have backed a proposal to freeze Council Tax levels in the City for a further year.

The survey was carried out in the Dringhouses and Woodthorpe Ward together with parts of Westfield, Acomb and Micklegate.

The option is being considered on Thursday and is expected to get the backing of both Liberal Democrat and Conservative Councillors.

The option is available as the Coalition government has offered a £1.8 million subsidy to the city if it keeps tax levels down.

Labour are proposing a 2.9% increase with a minimum 2% more to come the following year. This option drew the support of only 14% of respondents.

A third option – to hold a referendum to see whether residents would support an increase of over 3.5% – won the support of 22% of respondents.

Resident’s budget anger grows. “Keep Our Sacks” petition launched

Another petition has been launched by residents as Labours programme of public service cuts comes under greater scrutiny.

Residents in the South Bank neighbourhood – in common with those living in many other terraced areas – present their refuse in plastic sacks. Long back lanes and lack of storage space means that wheeled bins are impractical.

The plastic sacks are provide free of charge by the Council.

Now that is set to change, with residents being told by the Council to buy their own in future.

Resident’s spokesman Ashley Mason has pointed out that it would be discriminatory to provide free wheeled bins for most of the population while requiring those living in terraced properties to pay for their own.

Copies of the petition form are being circulated in the South Bank area. The petition collection may be extended to those affected in other areas such as parts of the Westfield and Holgate wards.

Meanwhile the petition to save the Beckfield Lane recycling centre has attracted 100 signatures in the first 48 hours since it was circulated.

In a separate development, parents in the Heworth area are considering restarting their campaign to save the future of Burnholme College following reports that it is set to close in the wake of Labours budget cuts.
The College was saved in 2009 when the then Liberal Democrat led Council provided essential financial support for the popular school.

2009 demonstration of support for Burnholme College

Petition to save the Beckfield Lane recycling centre launched

Reuban Mayne outside the Beckfield Lane recycling centre

A petition is circulating in Acomb calling on the Council to reprieve the Beckfield Lane recycling centre. The Centre is due to close after Easter as part of the Labour Council’s cuts programme.

An alternative Salvage and Re-use centre, which was to have been provided at Harewood Whin, has also been axed.

Funding to continue the Beckfield Lane facility would be found by halting the “free” roll out of WiFi access in the City centre.

The petition has been organised by local Acomb resident Reuban Mayne who can be contacted on York 781589

The petition should be available to sign “on line” shortly.

LIB DEMS WOULD REVERSE VOLUNTARY SECTOR CUTS

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Social Inclusion Cllr Nigel Ayre has revealed that the Liberal Democrats will submit plans to reverse the cuts to voluntary sector organisations planned by the City of York Council’s Labour Cabinet to the Budget Council meeting on Thursday 23rd February.

Organisations which would see their funding restored under the Liberal Democrat plans include YREN, York Citizens Advice Bureau, York CVS, Older Citizens Advocacy, Relate, SNAPPY (a charity that provides social and recreational opportunities for children and young people with special needs) and the Salvation Army.

Cllr Ayre believes Labour’s voluntary sector cuts, which the cabinet openly admit could lead to an increase in inequality in York, should not be targeted at those organisations which work with the least well-off.

Councillor Ayre said “Many of these organisations work with the most vulnerable people in York. These voluntary sector groups have been targeted for cuts larger than those in, for example, the Arts sector. Labour’s cuts in the voluntary sector will hurt the very people they claim their budget will protect. Labour’s ‘fair’ budget is a sham, but we are pledging to restore funding to many of the voluntary sector groups in order to make sure the worst off really don’t lose out.”

“The Council has a responsibility to promote fairness and inclusion. Local Liberal Democrats will not avoid that responsibility. We are committing to funding these projects that Labour are planning to cut because we think that these voluntary sector organisations need help with their admirable work. Labour’s choices suggest they don’t care about this important work.”

Cllr Ayre slammed Labour’s hypocrisy over this year’s budget, saying “Labour have kept the extra money they put into the budget last year for additional taxpayer-funded union officials, but can’t find enough funding to support, for example, the Salvation Army’s work with the homeless. Labour might talk about fairness, but their actions tell a different story.”

Where Labour’s budget cuts will bite in York: 5. Schools and Children

click to enlarge

Although schools now receive their own funding direct from the government, the Council is trying to pass on additional costs to the joint schools fund.

One example is a £195,000 bill for Broadband that schools will have to pick up in future.
This means that the will be less money to support small schools like the Burnholme College which nearly closed 2 years ago before the, then LibDem controlled, Council provided a financial lifeline.

Children travelling to faith schools will lose their right to free transport next year.

The Youth Service – the people who provide activities for teenagers – is also set to get another cut as are Children’s Centres while York’s remaining Children’s Home will be privatised.

Children’s Social Workers will receive less training while there will be lower grants to voluntary organisations working in the education and children’s services areas.

LABOUR’S HIDDEN CUTS WILL HIT MOST VULNERABLE

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Councillors have reacted angrily as it has been revealed that the Labour budget will target 20% cuts at voluntary sector organisations that work with some of York’s most vulnerable residents. The revelations became apparent as Lib Dem spokesperson for Social Inclusion Cllr Ayre looked deeper at cuts labelled “review of grant funding to voluntary sector organisations to improve the efficiency of administration.”

Cllr Ayre said, “In reality this is the worst kind of cut. To describe the proposals as an efficiency saving is intentionally misleading. The council administers two funds to the voluntary sector totalling £340k and Labour’s plan is to cut this funding by £81,000. This cut is nearer 25% than the 8% Labour have claimed in the newspapers.”

“The list of people who will be affected by this are a list of some of the most vulnerable in our society including the Family Mediation Service, Older Citizens Advocacy, Relate, Snappy, the Welfare Benefits Unit, York Citizens Advice Bureau, York CVS, York Credit Union and YREN. To target these with some of the most severe cuts shows Labour’s claims to be placing fairness and inclusion at the heart of their budget are a sham.”

Further investigation of this budget saving has revealed that none of the affected groups have yet been informed of the proposals and may be unaware that they face drastic cuts and possibly even complete loss of funding all together.

Cllr Ayre said “Labour have hidden this budget from the public for as long as possible and now we can see why. They are trying to hide savage cuts with misleading reports in the hope the short timescale will prevent scrutiny. Cutting more than £80,000 of funding to the voluntary sector is not a matter of efficiency. Labour are choosing to remove funding from groups that work with the most vulnerable people in our city.”

Cllr Ayre has been contacting affected groups to alert them to the proposals.

More good News: Police Council Tax frozen

The North Yorkshire Police Authority has followed the lead given by the Fire Authority in freezing its Council Tax level for a further year.

It has decided to take advantage of the governments offer to provide grant support to offset what otherwise could have been a 2.5% hike.

The move leaves the City of York Council as the only major authority in the region likely to implement a 2.9% Council Tax increase.