Extraordinary response from City of York Council to FOI request

Readers will recall that a few weeks ago we published a list of inquiries that York Councillors had recorded with the City of York Council.

The list (left) indicated how many inquiries individual Councillors had recorded during the 2015/16 year.

We submitted an Freedom of Information request asking for the up to date figures for the 2016/17 year.

The Council has now responded saying,

“This information is exempt under section 44 of the FOIA because it is considered that due to the forthcoming general election, it could affect public support for a particular party.

Should you wish to submit a new request for this information following the election, the council would be happy to consider this”.

Given that none of the York Councillors are candidates in the General Election we do wonder how voting intentions might be influenced by the publication of a factual list?

Perhaps the electors in the Hull Road and Micklegate Council by elections deserve to know how hard they might expect their new Councillors to work for them?

 

 

York to be badly hit by “Dementia Tax”

The Tories plan to force sick elderly people to sell their homes to pay for care cost will affect York residents more than any other City in the country.

Figures released today suggest that, because of relatively high local house prices, 99% of those accessing care services would lose ownership of their homes.

Under the Tory plans, revealed when they published their General Election manifesto last week, the homes would be sold to pay off any care cost debt, when a patient died.

Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, has launched a national movement calling on people, irrespective of their party affiliation, to stop the Conservatives’ planned Dementia Tax.

It comes alongside Liberal Democrat research that reveals that across England, 9 out 10 homes could be eligible for sale to meet Theresa May’s Dementia Tax.

Tim Farron is writing to key organisations about the campaign, including David Cameron as President of Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Writing to the leaders of leading health and older peoples’ charities, Tim Farron said:

“The measure of a Government is how they treat the most vulnerable in our society.  I don’t think that the Conservatives are unaware of the impact of their plans but they chose to ignore the human cost.

“Every elderly person that needs care should receive it in the best place for them and not be fearful of those mounting, limitless costs. I am determined that we ensure that Theresa May drops the so-called ‘Dementia Tax’ and implement a cap on the cost of care.

“Caring for our elderly must be above party politics and that is why I want to urge anyone who opposes the Conservatives’ plans to come together to stop it.

“We must resist this plan and challenge would-be Conservative MPs to reject and stop it.

“As a first step, I am urging people to sign up at dementiatax.org.uk  to help. I hope you will urge the supporters of your organisation to do the same. Together we can stop the so-called ‘Dementia’ Tax

Points

  • Across England, 9 out 10 homes could be eligible for sale to meet Theresa May’s Dementia Tax.  
  • This includes:
    • in the South East in Oxford, 98% homes could be liable
    • in London, Richmond upon Thames, only 7 out of 476 homes sold would be exempt
    • in the North West, Stockport, 92% of homes could be liable
    • This year to date only 1 home sold out of 356 in Theresa May’s local authority would be exempt
    • In the poorest 10 local authority areas, an estimated 50% of homes could be liable to meet the ‘dementia tax’
    • For instance;
    • The local authority with the lowest average salary (Blackpool), where 52% of homes could be liable

click to sign

That was the week that was in west York in pictures 30th April 2017

An upgraded CCTV camera has been installed near the shops on Chapelfields. We hope that it  -, together with increased high visibility police patrols – will reduce crime levels in the area. We’re also told that – after repairs to the doors – all the garages in The Wandle block have been let.

Still high levels of fly tipping in west York. These are some of the numerous cases that we have reported

Good to see that the parking bay lines have now been repainted. We’ve reported the full – and damaged – litter bin

The growing season is upon us and several hedges are now obstructing footpaths. Particularity disappointing was the failure by the Council to take prompt action to remove the self seeded bushes on Askham Lane which block the view from the bus shelter.

Still a mystery over why the road was closed on Friday. Most of the speed tables in the Windsor Garth area are breaking up.
Shame more information is not posted by the Council on local noticeboards. What’s there is out of date and pretty untidy

New 40 mph speed signs have been erected covering the section of Wetherby Road to the by pass. Residents hope that the buffer will reduce speeds in the built up area. The Vehicle Activated Speed signs on the road are both working. A very quick check revealed that about 10% of motorists still activate the 30 mph limit reminder

Council admits set back to parking space availability web page

The York Council has admitted that its plans, to reintroduce web site information on the availability of car parking spaces, has run into more problems.

It is over 3 years since the service was discontinued. The Council had previously promised that accurate information would be available from the end of March but this deadline passed without the upgrade being completed.

Sources within the Council say that plans to install new loop counters in the surface of car parks – near entrances and exits – have had to be abandoned. Apparently the state of repair of the bitmac surfaces was too poor to allow the installation to take place (which will probably not come as a surprise to users of the Castle car park).

Blossom Street VMS

Now we understand that the Council hopes to utilise video camera based detection technology to get the system working again. This technology is currently being installed for traffic signal detection across the City.

The Council web site – as well as misrepresenting the number of parking spaces available – also lists car parks which closed some years ago.

On a more positive note, the Council has confirmed that all variable message signs in the City centre are now working with the exception of the sign on Fishergate (which is awaiting a spare part).

York Council consultation systems failing

The first residents knew of a plan to extend alcohol sale times at the local Tesco express store on Acomb Wood Drive was when one found a vandalised notice in a hedgerow.

It was unclear where, or for how long, the Council notice had been displayed but the date for representations had already passed.

Late night alcohol sales – in this case the application would allow sales from 7:00am to 11:00pm seven days a week – are an issue in the area where an adjacent pub already supplies on premises needs.

Residents only find out about licensing applications if they happen to access an obscure part of the Councils web site. On the page, they can download the latest list.

There is no option for interested parties to be alerted to changes through text or Email alerts.

We think that the Council needs to up its game on consultation and make use of increasingly sophisticated social media channels.

It still hasn’t rolled out the much-promised personal account system which it claimed would allow every individual citizen to interact with the authority.

6 months after access to litter reports was rolled out – with some success – other service reports are still dogged by inadequate feedback systems.

Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs)

Thanet Road proposed road humps

Worse still is the publicity given to TROs. This is a statutory activity. The Council is required to advertise any proposed changes to parking, access, speed limit and other transport restrictions.

For many years, the draft orders appeared on an obscure page in the local paper.

One would reasonably think that in 2017 the orders would also be displayed on the Councils web site.

It appears not.

Use the search facility on the Councils web site and no TROs are displayed.

It is almost as if the Council didn’t want drivers to find out what they are planning to do!

If objections to an draft Order are received, the Council is required to consider them and make a public decision on each.

One of the TROs currently out for consultation concerns Thanet Road where a 20-mph speed limit – and traffic calming measures – may be introduced.

Anyone searching for Thanet Road on the Council web site will be disappointed.

It is a shame that the Council doesn’t make better use of its web site, Facebook and Twitter together with more traditional methods like noticeboards.

The noticeboards in Windsor Garth and Ascot Way (both close to Thanet Road) have not had any notices of any sort displayed on them for over a year!

Fossgate sign gets planning permission

Proposed metal banner

Councillors decided last night by 7 votes to 3 to approve plans to install a high level sign at the entrance to Fossgate.

The application had attracted no objections and in the end only three Labour Councillors opposed the plan.

Both Liberal Democrat representatives on the planning sub committee committee (Sue Hunter and Keith Orrell) spoke in support of the proposal

Conservation officers had opposed the sign saying it might create a precedent for other streets in the City. However the Civic Trust plan attracted support from local traders and the Merchant Adventurers Company as well as residents

The gateway sign is expected to be installed before the end of the year.

Carlton Tavern sale set to be halted

Carlton Tavern

Council officials are recommending that the Carton Tavern pub be listed as an “asset of community value“. If approved at a meeting taking place next week, the listing would give the local community 6 months in which to raise sufficient funds to purchase the property.

Marstons – the owners of the Tavern – announced last month that the site had been sold and that a care home would be built there.

There are similar plans for the nearby Oakhaven site.

The community value application has been submitted by a group calling themselves the “Friends of  the Carlton” . It is unclear what financial backing they have and they may face an uphill battle in the limited time available to raise the estimated £700,000 which would be needed to secure the future of the pub. They quote extensive community use as one of the justifications for the listing although this is disputed by the brewery.

Marstons letter of objection to the listing can be read by clicking here.

The decision meeting is taking place on Thursday 6th April

The care home plan has not yet received planning approval