The Councils Executive committee will discuss the vexed question of highways maintenance next week.
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.
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.
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The list is available for download from “open data” click here It is unfortunately categorised by ward names which were superceded over 15 years ago.
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
All is not as it should be with highway maintenance operations at the York Council.
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
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.
Increased ward budgets.
A “Safer Communities” fund to meet residents’ priorities.
More ward control of spending on highways to meet
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.
A reportto 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
The York Councils maintenance
programme for the forthcoming year has been published. Expenditure of over £9
million has been identified although a lot of this will go on addressing surface
water drainage problems. The schedule includes £700,000 for gulley repairs
The programme also
includes investment of over £600,000 to maintain the City Walls, with the focus
being on the Bootham section.
One of the most
expensive single schemes will see Stonegate repaved at a cost of £500,000.
On the west of the
City the carriageways on both Gale Lane and Tadcaster Road will be resurfaced.
Cycle routes will get a £250,000 maintenance boost.
However, the funds allocated
for footpath repairs is disappointingly low. The identified major footpath resurfacing
schemes are all on the east of the City.
It must leave residents
living in streets like Walton Place wondering just how bad a footpath must be before
night the York Council woke up to the major backlog in highway repairs that has
developed in the city during the last decade. Cynics may say that Labour and
the LibDems vying to be the voice of the road user has something to do with the
imminent Council elections which take place in early May.
residents’ surveys have confirmed that poor highway maintenance is now the biggest
concern that residents have.
It will take a major and sustained boost in funding if the roads and paths in the City are to be returned to a safe condition.
The Council have been busy today relaying the road surface at the top end of Foxwood Lane. The carriageway there had been subject to repeated problems with potholes. They posed a hazard for cyclists in particular
We’ve reported a pothole that was developing on the surface of the road in Walker Drive
Local LibDem Councillor Sue Hunter will present 4 petitions to the York Council meeting on Thursday.
They cover the following issues raised by residents.
Speed humps on Askham Lane need repairs
(i) regarding the following improvements prior to any further building work starting in the Hob Moor area:
Improving the access along Kingsway West/Ascot Way, removing where necessary, the grass verge
Providing dropped kerbs of lay-by parking where this doesn’t already exist
Providing alternative, modern, children’s play facilities before any existing provision is removed
(ii) regarding having roads and footpaths in the Ridgeway area repaired and, where necessary, resurfaced and that grass verges be “edged” and hedges trimmed back so that the original widths of footpaths are restored.
(iii) regarding having roads and footpaths (including speed cushions) at the low numbered end of Askham Lane repaired and that grass verges be “edged” and that hedges/trees are trimmed back so that the original width of the footpath is restored.
(iv) calling on Talk Talk to repair the footpaths and verges that they have damaged during their works
Petitions presented at full Council meetings are normally referred for an officer report to be prepared. They are then considered by a Council committee.