Controversial Newgate market plan stumbles forward

From 17 March to 7 April, City of York Council will be embarking on its final phase of consultation on the controversial £1.6 million Newgate Market’s refurbishment, and will be “showing how research and consultation with shoppers, traders and local businesses is shaping the new layout”.
york_newgate_market3

The Council claims, “Using feedback, we have identified the most popular ideas which include creating a new wider ‘street’ from one end to the other to enhance pedestrian flow and open up views into Newgate”.

“We’re also working with businesses in the Shambles on how they could maximise trading opportunities by developing dual shop fronts – one onto the street, another onto the market. Other ideas include looking at creating a weatherproof roof that lets in light, more and different designs for stalls, better signage and a new recreational public space behind the Marks and Spencer store.

Potential to create a lively food court complemented by new kiosks and Shambles businesses opening into the market is being considered for the south eastern edge of the market. Artwork on the walls and lighting installations, café seating, pop-up trading or evening events could be accommodated in this flexible space

The Jubbergate entrance and how it can draw Parliament Street shoppers into Newgate is being considered with ideas including an overhead canopy of lights which double as colourful ‘bunting’ during the day.

This final stage of public consultation will show the latest proposals, developed from workshops and general consultations in the foyer of the council’s West Offices from Monday 17to Monday 24March, in the window of 5 Silver Street, and also online from Monday 17March to Monday 7April at www.york.gov.uk/newgatemarket

Thoughts on what is liked best and what is liked least about the latest proposals will be gathered by questionnaires at the exhibitions and online.

Meanwhile questions are being asked about where the Continental market and Food Festival events will be located while Parliament Street is in temporary use for the regular market stalls.

Smarter York not so bright!

Residents will be wondering what they have to do to report issues to the York Council……….. let alone get some action.

Ridgeway footpaths need repair. Try reporting them to "Smarter York"

Ridgeway footpaths need repair. Try reporting them to “Smarter York”

The flagship “Smarter York” web site is largely dysfunctional.

Only a handful of issue types (mainly litter and graffiti) can be reported using it.

Not surprisingly, very few residents now bother to use the facility which was developed at considerable expense to taxpayers,.

Those expecting to be able to report potholes , overgrown hedges, unkempt verges etc via the Councils web site will also be disappointed. That facility has also been withdrawn.

Users of services like “My Council” will be able to record problems. But acknowledgements are often delayed and complaint reference numbers haven’t been issued for several months now, following major systems failures.

Residents can Email the Councils “Customer Contact Centre” but responses are often delayed.

So most residents with an issue will now call the Contact Centre by telephone (01904) 551550.

That is the most expensive way for the Council to receive and process issues, adding to the spiral of debt and decline which so sadly typifies the performance of the Labour administration.

 

 

LibDems taking action in Lowfields area

Damaged verges. W're asking he Council to s[end some of its £13 million housing profit on verge cross overs and/or lay bys

Damaged verges. We’re asking the Council to spend some of its £13 million housing profit on verge cross overs and/or lay bys

Litter drift on Lowfields amenity area reported. The fence-line of the Acomb Car park has accumulated large amounts of litter over the last 3 months.

Litter drift on Lowfields amenity area reported. The fence-line of the Acomb Car park has accumulated large amounts of litter over the last 3 months.

The Council should ensure that garage areas are kept clear of rubbish and weeds. Too many of them never get any maintenance attention despite high rent levels.

The Council should ensure that garage areas are kept clear of rubbish and weeds. Too many of them never get any maintenance attention despite high rent levels.

The Council is being asked to intervene following fears expressed by some residents about the safety of large trees in the area. Large branches fell off during recent high winds.

The Council is being asked to intervene following fears expressed by some residents about the safety of large trees in the area. Large branches fell off during recent high winds.

Tour caravan woe for Monk Stray?

Caravan and camping site planned

Monk Stray

Monk Stray

It appears that the York Council are going to approve the use of Monk Stray as a huge camping and caravan site to service the needs of Tour de France visitors.

Although there has been no consultation with local Councillors or residents, notices posted in the area suggest that the facility will be open for around a month.

The actual TdF start event in the City lasts only 2 days.

Most had expected camping facilities to be located closer to the Knavesmire where the start takes place.

Meanwhile the Council is remaining tight lipped on how it proposes to recoup at least some of the £1.6 million that it is putting into the event. At the last Council meeting, details were promised in “January” but they have not emerged.

The York Council taxpayers subsidy is the largest agreed by any Local Authority in the region.

The official Tour web site is markedly silent on issues like car parking and sponsorship.

The madness of the York Council

Street name plates neglected click to enlarge

Street name plates neglected click to enlarge

Ascot Way in Acomb demonstrates just how mixed up the York Council’s priorities have become.

20 mph sign installed within 5 metres of a sharp right bend.

20 mph sign installed within 5 metres of a sharp right bend.

School sign rusting away

School sign rusting away

Over £600,000 is being spent on installing 20 mph speed limit signs.

These include some in areas which are already protected by speed cushions (which make excessive speeds pretty much impractical).

Others have been installed at locations where it is impossible to exceed 20 mph anyway including short cul de sacs and near a sharp right hand bend (see photo).

Meanwhile other public services are being starved of investment. Street name plates are becoming illegible while other signs are simply rusting away.

Ironically the maintenance of speed cushions has been abandoned making them potential death traps for cyclists and a likely source of tyre and chassis damage for motorists.

Damaged speed humps. Already dangerous for cyclists.

Damaged speed humps. Already dangerous for cyclists.

York Council systems broken

After pulling away at the last minute from trying to censor what York citizens say at its meetings, the York Council last night failed to debate most of the items on its agenda.

dsyfunction-junction

After sailing through the early formalities, the Council became bogged down in debates about “joint authorities” and caravan site extensions.

Add in a bit of grandstanding, for the live web feed, and you have a recipe for muddle and confusion.

The Council didn’t even reach the controversial proposals to privatise York’s public conveniences. Major questions – on security, handing dangerous items like needles and the practicality of charging at night for the facilities – remain unanswered (or even unasked!).

The Council Leader managed to reply to only two of the questions tabled to him, with no time for a follow up challenge. (Credit where it is due, he has since provided written answers to others “on line”)

Other items – including a motion of “no confidence” – were voted on without discussion. What ever you may think of those involved, that is outrageously unfair.

In effect the inability of the York Council, to organise itself to debate issues, suggests that it has now become wholly dysfunctional.

It will increase calls for a return to the more discursive “committee system” which allows backbench Councillors – and residents – to make their points before issues reach a full Council, meeting.

In the meantime, the Group Leaders should ensure that each item on the agenda is allocated a “time slot”. The Chair of the meeting (the Lord Mayor) should limit contributions to the time available before taking any necessary vote and moving on.

In the past Group Leaders have nominated a speaker on each issue ensuring that there was a balanced debate. Each was given 3 minutes to make their points.

York residents will expect their representatives to find a solution to the procedural mess that has emerged.

£1million scheme to connect York small businesses with super fast broadband

Broadband

A broadband connection voucher scheme is being launched in York early next year to provide Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs up to 250 employees) better quality, high speed broadband.

 

Funded through Government’s ‘Super Connected Cities’ programme and City of York Council, the vouchers will provide assistance of up to £3,000 per business for SMEs seeking faster and better broadband (of at least 30 Mbits) to support them in growing their business.

The York voucher scheme is just one element in York’s strategy to become the best connected digital city of its size in the UK. The city launched the world’s first city tour application which uses ‘hologram tourist guides’ for visitors and proposals are well advanced to provide wi-fi in the city centre during the first half of 2014.
(more…)

York Council loses dozens of complaints

My Council

At least 50 reports about failing public service standards in York have not been actioned by the Council over the last couple of months.

The Council has claimed that reports submitted via the popular “My Council” Mobile app were not processed because they were indecipherable when uploaded to the Council.

Rather than get to the bottom of the problem, the reports were ignored.

Now an administrator for the “My Council” web provider (abavus.co.uk) has stepped in and offered to sort out the difficulties.

More and more people are using web sites like “My Council”, Fix my Street  , and Fill that hole”  to report issues.

This is to the advantage of Councils because the costs of processing issues electronically are much less than hard copy mail, personal callers or telephone communications.

However this case is likely to damage the credibility of the system in some residents eyes.

The Councils own mobile app (Smarter York) allows only a very small number of issues to be reported and user numbers have been disappointing.

The “Report it” section of the Council web site is cumbersome and has similar limitations.

The Council has been asked to sort out its data interface problems, ensure that reports blocked over the last couple of months are now entered onto its systems and to make efforts to contact those residents who may be unaware that issues that they have reported have not been actioned.

The industry generally needs to do more work on interface issues.

Councils in other parts of the country may be affected by incompatibility issues

Alexander resigns from City centre role.

York City centre "to let"

York City centre “to let”

The Councils Leader is standing down from the chair of the “City Team York” group which was established in response to the national effort to improve the fortunes of the high street.

The move follows months of protests from City centre traders who have seen shopper numbers fall in the wake of the new traffic restrictions and huge increases in car parking charges introduced by the Labour led Council.

Launched in August last year, the group is made up of retailers, the city council and a range of professional and businesses organisations from across the city centre with a remit to improve business growth, resilience and economic vitality.

It replaced a City centre traders group which had worked closely with the Council for many years with the introduction of a cheap “shoppers car park” on Fossbank one of its achievements.

An advert for a new private sector chair has been published.

Closing date for applications is 31st December 2013 and full details for any business person who would be interested in applying for this voluntary post may be found here: http://www.yorkmeansbusiness.co.uk/updates/city-team-york-chair.aspx

York Council to water down petitions action – “smile you’re on……”

The Council is being asked to abandon the right citizens currently have to hold highly paid officials to account.

A proposal to the “Audit Committee” says that senior officials should not in future have to attend a meeting to answers questions raised about their management responsibilities.

York residents petition

York residents petition

The existing petitions scheme (agreed in 2010) contains the following clause:

If your petition contains at least 500 signatures, you may ask for a senior council officer to give evidence at a public meeting about something for which the officer is responsible as part of their job. For example, your petition may ask a senior council officer to explain progress on an issue, or to explain the advice given to elected members to enable them to make a particular decision. The following senior staff can be called to account:
• Chief Executive
• Chief Finance Officer
• Monitoring Officer
• Directors of Service

A report, drafted by the Council’s monitoring officer, suggests abandoning this right.

Cabinet members also escape any requirement to explain their actions to taxpayers.

There are currently 5 live petitions running on the Councils web site.

The last Council meeting discussed a record number of petitions (7) submitted by residents and which had passed the 1000 signature threshold which guaranteed a discussion at a full Council meeting.. Most concerned the controversial aspects of Labour draft Local Plan.

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The same meeting – which is taking place next Wednesday -is set to approve a “protocol” for web casting of Cabinet and Council meetings.

Sadly the report makes no reference to the costs of such a proposal nor does it indicate how many “viewers” the trial broadcasts have attracted (understood to be derisory)

Cabinet agenda WebCam

The key issue is whether a casual viewer would be able to follow what was actually taking place at a Council meeting. Even those sitting in the public gallery, with an agenda in front of them, some times struggle to work out what is going on.

The Council need to further develop the information that can be provided possibly using a split screen format. It is just possible that, if residents could see the relevant agenda item papers, together with the way that individual Councillors vote on each issue, more interest might be generated.

The trial web casting of “Cabinet” meetings has attracted very little interest. The meeting consist only of a dull procession of uninspired speeches from Labour Councillors. (It is a one party meeting).

A Council meeting offers more opportunity for debate on important issues but it will require much better organisation than has been evident on York Council governance issues over recent months.