Some strange Council responses to problems

Some reports of highway defects are being knocked back with “no further action required” responses this year.

One of the deficiencies of the Councils “report it on line” system is that no reason for inaction is given. There was a time when a pothole might go unfilled because it didn’t meet what were styled “the Councils intervention level”. Basically they weren’t judged to be deep enough.

Eventually frost damage would, of course, ensure that it did become bad enough to justify filling.

But there are some very uneven roads which are, perversely, being judged as safe these days

Morrell Court access road potholes which are not judged to require attention

Council officials are also reluctant to send warning letters to drivers who have damaged verges, even when it is obvious who is responsible,

Verges need hard-surfacing to prevent damage

One piece of better news, with local Councillors reporting that work on finishing drainage work on the Osprey Close footpath will recommence shortly. The footpath may be diverted around the worst of the mud with further repairs to the land drains taking place when the area dries out.

Public Right of Way blocked at top of Osprey Close

Graffiti , bins and footpaths reported

The Council is dealing promptly now with graffiti reports. The new system seems to be working well.

Graffiti on litter bin on little Hob Moor
Graffiti on a utility box also on little Hob Moor. Reports like these are passed on to the utility company but there is rarely a quick response. We think that the utility companies should ask the Council to clean the boxes on a rechargeable basis.
Footpaths in Newbury Avenue need reconstructing now that the new bungalows are almost ready for occupation. The damaged verge on the Newbury Avenue/Kingsway West junction needs to be repaired at the same time.
We’ve reported the full poop scoop bin at the entrance to Acomb Wood
Still waiting to hear when the public footpath at the top of Osprey Close will be reinstated. A local Councillor is now on the case.

Potholes getting worse in York

The Council was told this week that it needed to investment more in road maintenance. That has been obvious for over 5 years following budget cuts in the early part of this decade.

Frost is now accelerating the deterioration in places such as Foxwood Lane and Bellhouse Way.

It is important that issues are reported to the Council.

If you use the Councils “report it on line” system it will generate a reference number automatically.

This helps to identify the issue if you have to follow it up later.

The system doesn’t produce update reports for highways issues in the same way that litter, graffiti and fly tipping are automatically tracked. Progress on these types of issues can be viewed in the residents personalised issue folder after you log in.

Potholes on Foxwood Lane. Report ref; 191212-000048

Potholes report confirms York has a major problem and it is getting worse

A report on highway maintenance in the City reveals that the value of the current back log of maintenance is approximately one hundred and twelve million (£112 million) based on the current condition and cost of repairs.

The figure confirms what many residents had feared. The condition of York’s roads and footpaths is continuing to decline

A separate annex reveals that, in most parts of the City, between 3% and 10% of carriageways are rated as “structurally impaired”. These are “very poor”, the lowest condition rating.

The percentage of roads classified as “very poor” has increased in every ward in the City during the last 3 years.

The figures also confirm that the City’s roads have not recovered from the draconian maintenance cuts imposed by the then Labour administration in 2012.

More recently the new LibDem/Green led Council has substantially increased the resources allocated to highway maintenance.

 The figure also includes a delegated budget to be determined at ward level. There is little evidence that this money has so far been invested*.

The report says that from 1st April 2019 until 26th November 2019, the council has completed “16,646.3 m² of pothole repairs, this equates to 520 m² per week, this is 29.71 m² per day, per gang”.

This can be compared with the same period in 2018 when the council completed “7,586.4 m² of pothole repairs, this equates to 237 m² per week, with training etc. that was 18.9 m² per gang, per day”

Some of the parties vying for votes at the General Election are promising to fill in all potholes. Government funding has been consistently low in recent years.

We doubt that central government appreciates the scale of the backlog in maintenance work which currently exists

*Each ward also has a share of a £500,000 fund earmarked for improvements for “cyclists and pedestrians”. So far suggestions from residents for the use of this fund – for example to reduce ponding problems on routes across amenity areas – have produced little positive response from officials

Too many potholed roads in York.

The York Council is being urged to get on with patching works on roads which are already damaged. Failure to act soon could result in the surfaces breaking up as frost takes its toll.

Kingswood Grove
Uneven carriageway on Queenswood Grove

The Council are making good progress on the large resurfacing job on Gale Lane which should be finished by the end of the week

Now see on line highways condition survey results

The York Council has added details of the results of its surveys of local carriageway and footpath condition to an on line map.

You can see the rating for every street in York. Red means very poor.

Click here to access.

Then click “street care” from the drop down list

Then tick the appropriate boxes e.g “Highways annual condition survey 2019 – Highways” & “Highways annual condition survey 2019 – Footpaths”

You can focus down to street level.

NB. Part of Gale Lane is being resurfaced next week.

Extract from street View on line map

Road repairs – little progress by York Council

The Councils Executive committee will discuss the vexed question of highways maintenance next week.
Foxwood Lane

If there is any basic public service likely to raise public ire,  it is the number of potholes and cracks in roads and footpaths.

 The conditions simply reflect many years of under investment in maintenance work.

The new Council was elected on a manifesto which promised improvements. They quickly moved to allocate an additional £1 million budget although half of this was earmarked for new cycling and footpath projects.

School Street

The expectation was that the, all too obvious, major problems would be quickly identified and a programme agreed for repairs. Anyone reading the report will be very disappointed.  There is no refreshed list of roads that will be resurfaced this year.

Officials even plead for existing policies to continue.

Councillors have had long enough to get a list of repairs on a ward by ward basis. With only 6 months to go in the current financial year, contracts for these repairs needed to be issued quickly.

Ideally this should have been done before ice took a further toll on the vulnerable surfaces of poorly maintained surfaces.

Morrell Court

The report talks of an annual condition survey. The survey details condition of every highway. All are graded between 1 and 5 with 5 being those in worst condition. (Grade 1: very good, • Grade 2: good, • Grade 3: fair, • Grade 4: poor, • Grade 5: very poor)

Over 13,000 stretches of highway are categorised as grade 5

That is little help.

A more detailed assessment is needed if the worst roads are to be prioritised.

The list is available for download from “open data” click here It is unfortunately categorised by ward names which were superceded over 15 years ago.

Walton Place

Still we can say that streets like Foxwood Lane and School Street are amongst the worst in the City. The 50 year old potholed access roads to Spurr Court and Morrel Court are graded at 4 (poor). Footpaths in streets like Walton Place don’t even get a mention.

We hope that Councillors will ask some searching questions next week.

All is not as it should be with highway maintenance operations at the York Council.

Tackle the potholes now

Winter will be with us soon now and with it the risk of icy weather. Frost damage, to a poorly maintained highway surface, can be devastating making expensive reconstruction work inevitable.

Residents are being urged to report any potholes so that they can receive attention. There is rightly some scepticism amongst residents with reported highway defects often marked up with paint but then seemingly left for months before work is undertaken

Click here to report issues on line

Defects on Dijon Avenue and Kingswood Grove have been reported on several occasions. We”ll see how long it takes for repairs to take place.

Damaged road surface on Kingswood Grove

York Council plans more devolution to residents

The York Council says that it will give more powers to local residents to influence how resources are used in 4 key public service areas.

They are:

  • Increased ward budgets.
  • A “Safer Communities” fund to meet residents’ priorities.  
  • More ward control of spending on highways to meet residents’ priorities
  • Timely delivery of Housing Environmental Improvement Schemes (HEIP). NB.These are tenant funded.

The plans are broadly to be welcomed.

Over the last 8 years the number of locally determined improvement schemes has declined while those that have been approved have faced unacceptable delays in implementation.

One set of new parking laybys in the Westfield area took over 4 years to plan and construct.

Askham Lane lay by took 4 years to complete

A report to the Councils executive meeting this week, paints a confused picture of what is wrong with the current “ward committee” process and what might replace it.

Councillor dominated “Ward teams” will stand in for residents associations where the latter do not exist.

£250,000 has been allocated to wards for them to spend making local communities “safer”. Although joint working with the police is proposed, the major issue – an institutional reluctance to expand the use of technology solutions such as CCTV – remains. So, the most that residents will likely see will be “target hardening” style initiatives.

Two additional staff members are to be employed helping to administer ward committee improvements. Last year £157,000 of ward budget was not spent. This is put down to process delays.

£500,000 is being allocated for local highways improvements (road and footpaths). A further £500,000 is allocated for “walking and cycling” improvements. The irony, that better highways maintenance is the best way of encouraging safe walking and cycling, appears to be lost on the report authors. 

Perhaps School Street will now be resurfaced?

The £1 million simply should be added to the road and footpath resurfacing budget.

The budget is classified as “capital” meaning that it must be spent on an asset with a long lifespan. That would seem to rule out a crash programme aimed at removing the trees, hedges and weeds which obstruct many existing foot and cycle paths.

 The idea of recognising and responding to local concerns is the right one though.

Poor highway maintenance is invariably the most criticised local public service in residents satisfaction polls.

The Council plans to introduce a “6 stage” process in allocating the estate improvement budget.  As the main criticisms of the existing process is that it is cumbersome and slow, the introduction of additional bureaucratic stages is unlikely to be welcomed.

The report talks of the provision of parking lay-by taking up to 24 months to complete. In the past, the use of contractors had cut this target time down to less than 4 months. Councils should return to the old procedure where Residents Associations/Parish Councils took responsibility for drawing up improvement lists.

Walton Place footpaths need repairs

Finally, the report talks of using a mechanistic formulae for assessing the “social value” of each project. As a way of spending scarce public resources this is a discredited approach. The value of projects can best be determined by door to door surveys thus giving residents a chance to directly influence their neighbourhood.

The report does not propose any PFIs to monitor progress on any of these programmes.

It does, however, require decisions to be made in public and with a public record. Regular “on line” updates are proposed (although these have been  promised in the past but have never been produced in a timely or accessible way)

There are no proposals which would provide better support for Residents Associations. The Council recently refused to even publicise RA activities on its web site.

How much locally?

The Council has published a list indicating the amounts that will be available to spend in each ward. In Westfield (one of the largest wards) during the present financial year that totals £55,878  

With highways (£63,830) and safer communities fund (£17,181). That figure increases to nearly £120,000 over 4 years.

 To put that into context a 4 space parking bay costs around £10,000, while the resurfacing of Stonegate is costing £1/2 million this year.

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