Art Gallery charges – decision in September

The Councils new more democratic decision makers decided last night that more information was needed before they could “clarify” the terms of its building lease to the York Museums Trust.

After an all party debate the responsible Executive member nodded through a proposal to defer the decision.

The YMT had planned to introduce admission charges at its new Art Gallery when it opens at the weekend. It is still able to do so, although the terms of the lease require it to provide free entry for York residents.

The Museums Trust will need to act promptly now to deal with the confusion as they are actively marketing an alternative (to the Councils Yorkcard) season ticket.

It is a shame that so far more formal records of meetings, which took place in the spring between the then Labour leadership of the Council and the Museums Trust, have not been published. Expectations on all sides might then have been clearer.  Incredibly some Labour Councillors are now claiming to be opposed to charging even though they – together with Green Party Councillors – voted through the cuts in subsidy in March – the decision which prompted the YMT move.

The Council has little in the way of moral high ground to retreat to on the principle of charging. It charged for Art Gallery admission when it directly managed the facility up until the middle of the last decade (when the Council was also mostly under Labour control).

Museum charges

Charges have always been levied at the Castle Museum (£10) and Yorkshire Museum (£7-50p).  There are no lease restrictions on the latter.

Children are entitled to free admission

As we have said previously, the Councils Executive member simply could not make a decision, on easing the restriction included in the lease,  without being clear about the impact on the Trusts business plan and without a public debate about all the options available.

There is also the wider issue of public access to the plans and results of York’s burgeoning number of QUANGOS. Others (libraries, economic development) depend even more heavily than the YMT, on taxpayers subsidies to keep them afloat. None publish details of their management meetings.

That charging decision will now be made at an Executive meeting taking place in 24th September

 What might happen, if the Council and YMT are not able to agree a compromise, is a moot point.

 If the Trust simply ignored the restrictive covenant clause, then the Council might ultimately terminate the lease. As the Council no longer has the capacity or expertise to run the gallery and museums, that could lead to their closure.

A legal wrangle about the enforceability of the lease clause could sap the resources of both organisations.

On the other hand, if the Trust demands money, to make up any shortfall in its income resulting from a decision to continue to allow YorkCard holders free admission, then the cash strapped Council would be unable to provide it.

Some compromise is required and quickly now.

Grange Lane Park – dog fouling problems

The installation of railings around the play equipment on Grange Lane has not entirely eliminated problems with dog fouling.

Gate being left open at palygorund

Gate being left open at palygorund

Unfortunately the access gate does not have a spring on it and it is often being left open.

We hope to have a spring fitted and a notice erected reminding people to kept the gate closed.

Meanwhile we’ve reported the full poop scoop bin for emptying

Full poop scoop bin on Grange Lane reported for emptying

Full poop scoop bin on Grange Lane reported for emptying

Hanging gardens hit by earthquake as LibDems step up local action in Westfield

The hBabylon 2anging gardens of Foxwood Lane are no more as a team, led by Andrew Waller, has removed the weeds growing out of the bus shelter gutters.

Elsewhere local LibDem Councillors have been out and about identifying and reporting other public services in need of improvement.

Action update 25th May 2015

York Council hoarding 110,000 square metres of vacant and derelict land

New figures obtained under Freedom of Information legislation suggest that the York Council has been slow to exploit the full potential of the  “brownfield” derelict land that it owns.

Vacant land register April 2015

The list includes the former park and ride car park on Tadcaster Road which current houses a little used pay and display car park.

Residents had already highlighted the vacant plot to the rear of the Acomb Library which has originally been intend to house a replacement Acomb Council office together with some much needed affordable homes. The project was dropped by the new Labour Council in 2011 and the site has remained derelict ever since.

Now officials have suggested that the project may be revived although there has been absolutely no consultation on any proposals.

Most  of the vacant land is at the former Lowfields and Manor school sites. The Council has also courted unpopularity at Lowfields by refusing to keep local residents up to date on its development plans.

Also on the list is Oliver House which has been empty for over 2 years and for which offers of over £3 million have been received.

The Labour Council leadership decided to delay its sale until after the elections.

In total the Council owns 110,877 square metres of unused land.

Release of some of the land would go some way towards reducing housing pressures in the City while helping those who are campaigning to preserve the City’s Green Belt.


Boost for Foxwood Community Centre from Greens estate agent

Just days before the York Council, scraps its grant to the Foxwood Community Centre, Greens Estate-Agent have stepped in with an offer of sponsorship.

That have announced that;

 “As a way of supporting the local community and the people who use the community centre in Foxwood and all the projects and services it provides, I will donate £20 from the completion of any house sold in the YO24 2 & YO24 3 areas.

This can then start to help them in a time of need which can be put back into the community”

The Centre  and Foxwood Residents Association are seeking additional sponsorship from local businesses

Liberal Democrats launch Zero Waste Bill to safeguard the environment

Liberal Democrats have announced plans to tackle industrial fly tipping and protect the environment for future generations.

As part of our plans to introduce Five Green Laws in the next Parliament, Liberal Democrats have unveiled proposals for a Zero Waste Bill.


The Bill is intended to boost the number of organisations prosecuted for illegal dumping while also introducing a higher, more consistent level of fines for fly-tippers who damage Britain’s environment.

As well as causing severe damage to Britain’s environment and wildlife, illegal waste sites, fly-tipping and landfill tax evasion costs the UK taxpayer on average £500m a year in lost revenue.

Under the proposal, organisations caught fly-tipping on an industrial scale to deliberately evade tax could face up to £9m in fines.

Currently only a small number of prosecutions are successful, ranging between 171—197 a year. The value of fines imposed varies considerably between courts, but averages only £7,000. This is despite the large-scale dumping operations conducted by some companies.

The Liberal Democrats plan is to create a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to UK waste, one which combines a Stern Review style action plan that turns waste into an economic asset but comes down hard on industrial fly tippers through larger penalties and fines.

Local fly tipping like this on Grange Lane is being reported regularly  by  the LibDems

Local fly tipping like this on Grange Lane is being reported regularly by the LibDems

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“Commercial fly-tipping and illegal dumping of waste not only harms British wildlife and the environment, but also means the taxpayer loses out.

“Our Zero Waste Bill not only ensures a fairer society by giving companies who use illegal dumping to shirk their tax responsibilities their comeuppance; but also creates a stronger economy, turning waste on its head to make it a beneficial resource for the country”

Liberal Democrat Environment Minister Dan Rogerson added:

“Environmentalism has been at the core of our party’s DNA long before it fell in and out of fashion with other parties.

“This is why we have such a strong environmental record in government, from planting a million trees and protecting our national forests to introducing a 5p charge on throwaway plastic bags.

“Our five green laws take this even further. We will make Britain’s waste pay – trebling fines for industrial scale fly-tipping, and establishing a ‘Stern Report’ to end the practice of needlessly sending waste to landfill.”

Latest “behind closed doors” decisions by York Council

Behind closed doors logoHolgate Road cycle lane

Parking is to be removed and cycle lanes installed on the uphills section of Holgate Road between Poppleton Road and Watson Street.

Some currently unrestricted carriageway will become Respark spaces.

Click here for diagram showing the proposals

Osbaldwick Lane – extension of 20 mph zone with traffic calming

Click here for map of (revised at annex B) plans

Millthorpe Secondary School – School Keep Clear

Making an Order will allow enforcement of the existing School Keep Clear zig-zag markings, to prevent dangerous parking by the entrance at school times and therefore improve safety for pupils.

Click here for a copy of the plan

Archbishop Holgate’s School – Proposed School Keep Clear and No Waiting At Any Time Traffic Regulation Orders

Click here for copy of plan (annex B)

Pinch Point Scheme, A19 South Transport Corridor – Phase 1 (Designer Outlet/Fulford area)

Click  here for proposed revised layout


York Council mismanagement revelations – trend emerges

Even the most enthusiastic Labour supporter cannot fail to be dismayed by today’s revelation that the York Council considered issuing “fudged” figures to potential care village bidders.

But it is simply the latest in a string of mistakes that has eroded the trust that residents have in their local authority.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

The Lowfields Care Village project fell foul of a system which has encouraged a series of over ambitious “mega projects”.

 At a time when the Council’s management structures were being cut back, leading Councillors failed to recognise that the system had broken under the strain.  

They failed to get answers to key questions in a timely way

Not only is York’s social care system now breaking down, but another project – to turn the Guildhall into a Digital Media centre – has produced fresh calls for a public inquiry.

 Local experts have poured scorn on rental income assumptions for the serviced workstations proposed for the site.

When the item was “called in” earlier in the month for review, business plan assumptions were only displayed via a projector, giving Councillors no chance to evaluate them.

Westfield Councillors launch "save our care services" campaign

Westfield LibDem candidates launch “save our care services” campaign

If the business case is flawed, then nearly £500,000 of taxpayers money (out of a potential £9.2 million total cost) is already  at risk as the project moves to its next stage.

So there is growing evidence that this business case has also been “fudged”.

So what next?

There are Council elections on May 7th and a record number of candidates (over 200) are likely to be seeking votes. Most have now declared themselves and are beginning to actively canvass for  support.

The prosperity of our City depends on having a team of  able Councillors with a mix of life and work experiences.

Most of the failed Cabinet decisions can be put down to a system which prevents debate and which encourages secrecy.

That needs to be changed, with the traditional “committee system” being the obvious alternative.

Failing that, Cabinet membership should be restricted to Councillors with at least 5 years experience.

On May 7th, electors will need to look beyond the headline policies and seek out the hidden – potentially unpopular – promises which may be hidden in the manifesto small print.

 Hardly anyone noticed in 2011 that Labour intended to introduce wide area 20 mph speed limits – but the policy was there, on the Labour web site, albeit in the small print.

Most of all voters will, on May 7th, need to look beyond party labels and ask who would be the best representative for the ward and for the City?

Who has the best blend of skills, experience and a track record in the local neighbourhood?

Then there is the culture issue that the York Council faces.

Some changes have been made in the months since the Council became “balanced”.  But more needs to be done.

The writing was on the wall from the day when the new Labour Cabinet took office in 2011. Cllr Alexander apparently told the Chief Executive that her job targets were to implement the Labour manifesto.

That attempt to politicise officials may be partly responsible for the attempts that are still being made to suppress information and use the Councils press office to “spin” bad news stories.

That has to stop when the new Council takes over in May.

It is difficult also not to conclude that, to convince residents that a new start is being made, a refresh of the Councils management team should be undertaken.

Council officials are normally proud of their political impartiality.

This is now more in question in York than at any time since the late Rod Hills appointed two former Labour Councillors to Chief Officer posts when he had control of the Council.

Many residents may feel that  the May 7th poll can’t come soon enough.