Council service satisfaction levels down as £1.4 million now allocated to pay for Tour De France start,

Public satisfaction with the way that the Labour Council is performing is dropping according to the authorities own figures.

Around 4000 residents responded to a Council survey. The percentage satisfied with the way that the Council runs things dropped from 63% to 54% in just 12 months.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge


The results need to be viewed with caution given the volatility of public opinion – and the likely sample bias on a post back survey – but other polls tell a similar story.

The Council could have taken the opportunity to test public opinion on a range of controversial issues such as:

• The proposed cuts to the number of roads being gritted this winter and the planned removal of self help salt bins.

• It’s plans to expand the size of the City by 25% over the next 15 years

• Changes to bus services and its refusal to publish reliability figures

• The bungled changes to refuse collection arrangements.

• Secret “behind closed doors” decision making.

• The introduction of wide area 20 mph speed limits

• The Lendal Bridge and Coppergate traffic restrictions.

Without these figures the Council may find it difficult to understand why its reputation is suffering.

Meanwhile Labour are now admitting that York taxpayers face an enormous £1.4 million bill for hosting the second day start of the Tour De France.

That is over and above the money being taken from existing budgets such as highways resurfacing.

Put in context, the annual repayment costs on the money borrowed to fund this one day event will be over £100,000 or enough to sustain existing winter maintenance (de-icing) standards for the next 20 years.

It is probably not surprising that residents weren’t given the opportunity to comment, in the Council’s survey, on this priority.

Oliver House – the parking issue

Thanks to those residents from the Bishophill are who contacted us to say that some people are apparently exploiting the Oliver House situation to get free car parking.

The property is located in the middle of a ResPark area with residents paying around £100 a year (depending on car size) for parking permits.

Cars parked at Oliver House

Cars parked at Oliver House

Apparently some drivers are monopolising the car parking spaces which were provided for the use of staff and residents at the elderly persons home.

The 8 spaces could bring in around £1000 a year from car parking charges.

On Sunday only one of the parked vehicles was displaying ResPark pass suggesting that the Council is loosing out on potential income.

It’s about time that the Council explained what is going to happen with this building and when.

Oliver House – £30,000 taxpayers bill for property empty for 18 months

It has become clear why the Council’s leadership were so reluctant to answer questions about the future of the former elderly person’s home at Oliver House in Bishophill at the last council meeting.

Oliver House York

A Freedom of Information response has revealed that the building is costing taxpayers nearly £2000 a month to keep empty.

The building has been unused since April 2012.

The only “occupants” are a firm called “ad hoc property management” who – in return for access – offer a “free” security service.

No rent or other income has been received for the property.

Discussions with the York CVS, which might have led to the building being sold to them, started in May 2012. They stalled several months ago.

The value of the prime site has been put at over £1 million with offers having apparently already been made, to the Council, by housing developers.

The Council has spent £30,000 over the last 18 months paying rates and on maintaining the empty property.

There are currently over 4500 people on the waiting list for social accommodation in the City. Many of these require single person accommodation

NB. The Guildhall has also now been empty for 8 months and is costing Council taxpayers around £160,000 a year in maintenance, rates and other costs.

York Council footpath investment down by 40%

New figures reveal that investment, in keeping York’s footpaths in a safe condition, has fallen by 41% over he last 5 years

Expenditure on repairs peaked at £1.8 million in 2009 when the Council was under Liberal Democrat Leadership.

Neglected roads and paths in Kingsway West reported on Saturday

Neglected roads and paths in Kingsway West reported on Saturday

This year only £1 million will be spent. The detailed figures – revealed in response to a Freedom of Information request – are:

• 2009/10 – £1,794k

• 2010/11 – £1,784k

• 2011/12 – £1,667k

• 2012/13 – £1,160k

• 2013/14 – £1,050k

The Council received 48 claims for compensation last year from people who had fallen on badly maintained footpaths. £6,750 was paid out in compensation

The number of complaints about pavements doubled in 2012/13 to 554 from a level of 258 two years earlier.

The Council admits that 5% of its footpaths require resurfacing.

Each year the Council resurfaces less than 1% of the total mileage of footpaths in the City.

The most complained about footpaths are Front Street in Acomb and Coney Street.

NB. The Council are currently spending £500,000 relaying flags in Kings Square. despite the area being in a generally good condition

Blow for Sports Village hopes. Community Stadium to be delayed?

The Council has announced that it will no longer be funding an athletics track at the Sports Village on Hull Road.

The facility was to have opened this year.

The proposal to establish a sports village – which also includes swimming pools, 3G football pitches, a fitness suite, a outdoor cycling circuit and spa facilities – was agreed over 3 years ago and most of the facilities are now in use.

Athletics stadium Sept 2013

However, the provision of a new £2 million athletics stadium was to be the final jewel in the crown.

The intention had been to maximise the use of shared facilities such as the refreshment area, physiotherapy, spa and changing rooms.

Now the Council has decided to refurbish the University of York running track on Heslington Lane which is nearly 2 miles away from the Sports Village. The Heslington/Fulford area already suffers from traffic and parking issues

The implications for the running costs of both facilities remain unclear as does the financial commitment of the Council to the whole Community Stadium project.

A spokesperson for the Labour run council has claimed that the new site will be “cheaper”.

However, the athletes are claiming that the Council has agreed to subsidise the York Athletic Club for “5 years”.

Who has agreed such a subsidy, with what restrictions and for how much remains a mystery?

Behind closed doors logo

This major change in policy was taken at another behind closed doors meeting, so taxpayers are being kept in the dark

Moving the athletics track from the Huntington Stadium was an essential precursor to work on the new stadium starting.

It now seems that athletes will leave Huntington in late 2014 prior to occupying the refurbished University track in 2015.

Completion of the Community Stadium has already been put back to 2016 and further delays cannot be ruled out.

Airport advertising to be reconsidered?

Plans to spend £85,000 on marketing at Leeds Bradford Airport have been called-in by opposition councillors.

advertising airport

Last week the Labour Cabinet agreed that City of York Council would spend an initial £85,000 on marketing the city at the airport, with £10,000 for the development of the campaign followed by £75,000 for the roll out.

A further three instalment of £75,000 could then be invested over the next three years.

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York Council facing £3.7 million over spend on this years budget

Council tax bag

The Council’s first review of its expenditure this (financial) year suggests that it is heading for an over spend of £3.7 million.

Such a forecast is not without precedent and tends to reflect the most pessimistic view of trends.

However the nature of the possible over spend is important and here £1.1 million is put down failures in social services. Essentially, more and more people are arranging their own care packages and receiving direct payments from the council.

A £227,000 shortfall in car parking income is being reported, although this is offset by fewer pensioners using bus services in the City.

For the first time York will be able this year to keep the Business Rates that it generates within the City.

After adjustments to reflect relative prosperity, the City is forecasting that it will receive £23.2m. Part of any income above this figure will be kept by the Council (although Labour have agreed to pay the “surplus” into a West Riding “rates pool”).

The Council has discontinued its policy of reporting on public service performance indicators. So it will be another 3 months before the scale of the decline in service quality becomes public.

Ice and snow clearance cuts – Only 10 days left to record objections

click to access larger interactive map

click to access larger interactive map

The Council’s “consultation” on its plans for the future of its network of salt bins concludes on 1st September.

Click to see a list of existing bin sites across the City.

Most of the existing salt bins are scheduled to be scrapped.

In the Foxwood area of the 11 bins currently on the streets, only 4 will remain.

Overall in Westfield the number of bins will be reduced from 40 to 21. Only one bin will be provided on Front Street despite the high volume of use by elderly people.

Roads on a gradient like The Green/St Stephens Mews will lose their bins altogether while St Stephens Road and Thoresby road will also have no bins.

Many roads face a crisis as they are being cut from the routine gritting list.

These include bus routes like St Stephens Road and the whole of the Windsor Garth, Ascot Way and Danesfort Avenue area.

Part of Bramham Road will also not be gritted routinely.

The Council’s “survey” is full of loaded questions. Click here.

Many residents are simply writing on the form that cuts in ice clearance are unacceptable and will jeopardise safety.

Instead the Council should abandon some of its costly vanity projects such as the £600,000 plan to introduce a 20 mph speed limit.