Electric vehicle recharging wrangle in York

There is confusion today about whether private vehicles can access the rapid recharging points at Monks Cross and Poppleton Bar.

The points were funded from a government(OLEV)  scheme but are largely used by the  First electric Park and Ride buses.

It appears that electric car drivers have been turned away from the points although they are shown as available on a vehicle charging “app”. The Councils iTravel web site says that vehicle charging points can be found on this map (click)

Apparently the Monks Cross rapid charge points have been recorded on the National Charge Point Register has having restricted access for cars. The Council says that a third party app has been advertising these as ‘available’ which has caused confusion for local EV drivers.

In response to an FOI enquiry the Council has confirmed that the dedicated chargers were used on 1157 occasions, using 22025 kWh of energy, during the first quarter of 2017

The Council says,

“the Monks Cross Park&Ride supervisors are able to permit cars to charge where this does not impact the bus service and this does happen occasionally however the buses have charge point priority as they have no viable alternative location. For cars, the nearest rapid charger is one mile away at The Sports Village and EV drivers are recommended to use these facilities instead”

.Range  anxiety is one of the main reasons for the slow take up of electric cars. Being certain that a charging  point will be available is of major concern for drivers.

Electric vehicle public rapid charging points

There are other charging points in York many of which are located on car parks and at hotels

York Council explains reasons for secret staff payoff deals.

After some delay, the York Council has explained why it has entered into 41 “Compromise Agreements” with axed staff during the last 5 years.Top-secret-stamp-006

We reported in June that the York Council had spent £82 million on redundancy costs since 2011. 546 staff (not including teachers) had left the Councils employment with an average payment of £15,000.

The Council has also confirmed that 41 “Compromise Agreements” had been signed with staff. Usually these involve some sort of compensatory pay.

A compromise agreement is a legally binding agreement made either during or following the termination of employment. It is recognised by statute and is the only way an employee can validly “contract out” of their employment law rights. It usually provides for a severance payment, in return for which former employees agree not to pursue any claim or grievance to an Employment Tribunal.

A leading law firm says that the major reasons for using the compromise agreement (other than to settle an existing claim) are to “remove an employee on the grounds of poor performance or misconduct, to avoid legal challenge in redundancy situations and to make it easier to remove senior staff without embarrassment”.

The number of secrecy deals increased markedly when Labour took office in 2011

Three months ago, the Council were unwilling to specify why compromise agreements had been reached in so many cases.

Now, following an FOI appeal, they have lifted the veil a little.

Compromise agreements at City of York Council

Compromise agreements at City of York Council

Clearly the Council has come to several agreements to avoid the costs, and adverse publicity, often associated with claims that run through industrial tribunals.

The legal nature of the agreements means that they can’t be probed further.

Taxpayers may remain a little uneasy about the process and the robustness of the decisions that led to compromises being needed in the first place.

Strange case of the missing £18,000 report

Occasionally Freedom of Information (FOI) requests throw up some interesting answers.

That’s one of the reasons why we believe that the increasing numbers of QUANGOS in York should voluntarily accept and respond to FOI requests. After all, most depend heavily – some exclusively – on funding from taxpayers. The Council’s Executive had an opportunity, when discussing governance of these bodies yesterday, to increase transparency. Unfortunately it failed to take the necessary action.

The York Council should itself set an example in providing information in a candid and comprehensive way.TOR for Council central services report 2

One resident asked recently for a copy of a report commissioned by the Councils Chief Executive from PWC (Consultants). The objective of the exercise was  to improve the Council’s efficiency.

The consultancy cost taxpayers £18,000.

The Council claims that it has not kept a copy of the report (received just 12 months ago!)  and goes on to say that,

This work was commissioned by the then Chief Executive of the Council, who left the authority in July 2015. The interim Chief Executive who was in post from July 2015 determined that this particular work would not be taken forward and therefore no further discussion or action has taken place on this matter.

The Council says that it doesn’t know whether any Councillors saw the report.

This seems, on the face of it, to be a very cavalier approach to the use of taxpayers money.  

The Council’s Leadership, and incoming Chief Executive, should make sure that the report – even if unsuitable for implementation – is made publicly available.

 

 

 

York Council has paid out £8.2 million in redundancy costs since 2011

546 staff made redundant – 41 sign “compromise agreements”

A Freedom of Information response has revealed the costs of cutting staffing levels at the York Council.

FOI response Redundancies table 2

The figures don’t include teaching staff.

In total 546 have left the Council with average pay-outs of around £15,000 each. Over 80% of the redundancies were voluntary.

The figures reveal that the largest number of redundancies occurred in 2011/12 when 212 left the Council. This has fallen gradually each year to a figure of 66 during the last financial year.

A total of £8.2 million has been paid out of which £4,554,000 was the cost of statutory payments, £3,339,000 early retirement costs and £352,000 pay in lieu of notice.

Only three former staff were subsequently re-employed directly by the Council.

The authority says, though, that they don’t record whether any of their agency or contract staff have previously been employed by the Council.

Individual redundancy proposals are reported to a small group of Councillors who meet each week in a “behind closed doors” decision session.

The Council has specifically said in its response that it “has made no enhanced redundancy or pension payments”.

Compromise agreements

The Council has also confirmed that 41 “compromise” agreements have been signed with staff. Usually these involve some sort of compensatory pay.

A compromise agreement is a legally binding agreement made either during or following the termination of employment. It is recognised by statute and is the only way an employee can validly “contract out” of their employment law rights. It usually provides for a severance payment, in return for which former employees agree not to pursue any claim or grievance to an Employment Tribunal.

A leading law firm says that the major reasons for using the compromise agreement (other than to settle an existing claim) are to “remove an employee on the grounds of poor performance or misconduct, to avoid legal challenge in redundancy situations and to make it easier to remove senior staff without embarrassment”.

The Council has so far failed to explain what the reasons were for the compromise agreements that it has been party too.

While such agreements usually involve a confidentiality clause, there is no reason why the main reasons for the high level of use of the system in York cannot be made public.

We’ll press the Council to provide taxpayers with more information about this policy.

More Councils signing up to “Fix My Street” and What do they Know”

The Harrogate Council has become the latest to purchase the class leading software which gives local residents access to vital Freedom of Information files as well as an easy, and monitored way, of reporting issues.

Their approach contrasts with the attitude of the York Council which persists with an “on line” issue reporting system which is just not “fit for purpose”

York should cut its losses and follow Harrogate’s lead.

Details here

Fix My Street

What Do They Know

Meanwhile the York Council’s proposals reqarding the future of its “on line” reporting systems have been removed from its “Forward Programme“.

Instead, the controversial new system is due to be debated under a generic “Cleaner City” report in the New Year. The latter report has also been delayed by 2 months but is currently due to be considered on 25th January.

2.6 million visits to York Council web site

The Councils web site had over 2.6 million visits during the last year.

The bounce rate (the proportion of visitors who read only one page before leaving) was around 50%.

Perhaps surprisingly the majority of visitors were using desktop PCs.

By way of comparison, a website like this one receives around 40,000 visits each year with a bounce rate of around 70%.  Not surprisingly over 40% of our visitors are located in York. Most of our visitors are aged under 35 and are split almost equally between male and female.

Web site hits 2014 15

151 social care customers in payment arrears in York

Social care Coins-300x225In 2014, 3843 customers were charged for social care services in York. That was up from the 3479 figure seen in 2013.

11 people were granted a waiver of charges last year.

The number  of customers with arrears in payment of social care charges was 151 in 2014.That is a reduction compared to  the 179 who were in arrears during the previous year.

Only one customer was taken to court by the Council to enforce payment of care charges last year

 

York housing waiting list falls to 1546

The number of residents on the social housing waiting list in York fell from 2311 in 2014 to 1546 in March 2015.

During last year 241 people were rehoused by Housing Associations in the City.

That figure compared to 209 in the previous year.

454 people from the housing waiting list were offered accommodation in Council houses.

That is down from a high of 551 which was seen in 2012.

10 Ombudsman complaints against York Council upheld

“During the year there was a case where the council’s handling of a particular complaint was extremely poor”

ombudsman report 2015

More evidence, that the York Council had become seriously dysfunctional by the end of last year, has been provided in the annual report from the Local Government Ombudsman

The organisation received 91 complaints about the York Council during the year ending March 2015.

Of thes,e 10 were upheld with 35 referred back to the Council for local resolution

The majority of the complaints concerned planning, transport, benefits, adult social care and environmental issues.

One case prompted the Ombudsman to label the Councils response as “extremely poor

The report says that it took “emails, phone calls and finally two threats of a public interest report (sent by special delivery) to see any action taken”. 

The complaint related to social care and the York Council, having accepted it was at fault in December 2013, took until October 2014 to remedy the complaint.

The Ombudsman’s letter was sent to the York Council on 18th June 2015 but has not yet been scheduled for cosideration by any of its committees.

There is likely. in the future, to be a single Ombudsman’s office covering all public administration organisations.

Hopefully the new organisation will also have a role in relation to the growing number of Quangos being established in York and elsewhere. Residents, who at least partly fund organisations like “Make it York”, York Museums Trust and York Libraries, need to have a route to independent arbitration if they are unable to get a local resolution for a problem.

Freedom of Information legislation should also apply to those types of organisation.

York Council spends £204,811 answering Freedom of Information requests in one year

Numbers up by 34% to a peak of 1864 cases last year

The rise in FOI requests to the York Council continued to increase last year.  A report  to a Council meeting suggests that 94% were responded to within target times.

However significant numbers were referred for “review” because respondents were dissatisfied with the response that they received.

FOI appeals click to access

FOI appeals click to access

 38 of the 85 review appeals were upheld.

Most of these concerned “no responses” although some responses were considered to be incomplete while in other cases the Council had incorrectly claimed that the information was exempt from the legislation.

The position was worse on cases referred to the Information Commissioners Office. There, 30 of the 39 cases referred resulted in a finding against the Council.

Although the Council claims that their new web site is now easier to trawl for FOI responses, most serious researchers would question that statement. The information is not updated quickly and is more difficult to search now that it is not assembled in date order.

The report makes no attempt to consider how the – frankly alarming – costs of this process can be reduced.

The most obvious reform would simply be for the Council to publish, on its web site and on a regular basis, the kind of information which generates repeat FOI requests. These would include items like “deaths with no next of kin”, new Business Rate accounts and monthly quality of service stats (at the moment the Council publishes its performance data – such as it is – 6 monthly, in arrears).

While there are no doubt some vexatious requests for  information made by disillusioned service users, most  simply reflect the fact that the last Council tried to throw a veil of secrecy over their activities.

 It seemed that they almost enjoyed playing a game of “catch me if you can” when repudiating requests for information.

The new Council needs to encourage a major culture change on “openness” and transparency.

The Council has asked the Information Commissioners Office to conduct a review of how personal data is used by the authority

Freedom of information angry mob score