York Council censors resident’s WiFi and internet access

The York Council has blocked residents from accessing what it considers to be unsavoury internet sites.

These are not the sites that you might expect.

The move is not aimed at hard core porn, gambling or terrorism sites.

The Council has taken the steps to block residents from accessing “payday” loan web sites.

In a media release it says, “In a bid to protect residents from payday loans websites and the risks of spiralling debt from high interest providers, City of York Council has blocked these companies from its staff and public wi-fi and computers and is encouraging use of more reputable financial solutions.

Computers for customer use at all City of York Council libraries and Explore centres and at West Offices now do not give access to payday lender sites, “some of which charge exorbitant interest rates”.

Pay day loans

The Council has not published a list of the companies that it considers to be exploitive.

In addition, the council’s extensive free wi-fi provision is blocking these sites at its libraries and West Offices, at Energise and in the city centre around St Helen’s Square and along Coney Street.

Instead, York’s libraries are going to “support promoting of local credit unions which support savers and borrowers who have difficulty accessing high street banking options“.

The North Yorkshire Credit Union, however, went bust last year and its replacement is only just finding its feet in the City.

“In March, the council launched the free ‘Small Changes’ booklet on how to manage money and make it go further. Published in association with York Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and Aviva, it includes tips on budgeting, ways to cut costs, savings and insurance essentials and hints on how to avoid getting into debt. Also, there are lots of ideas on how to enjoy life in York without having to spend too much money, including low cost family days out, free events and courses”.

As usual there was no consultation with users before the Council took the decision (behind closed doors) to censor the internet access available to its citizens.

Many, while sharing the Council’s concern about unscrupulous lenders, may consider the step to be an unfortunate precedent; bordering on an infringement of civil liberties.

There is a fine line between a genuine wish to ensure that consumers are protected and a patronising, nanny Council, approach.

National Railway Museum petition

Railway Museum York

The Press have launched a petition aimed at preventing the NRM from “closing”.

Its future – together with other museums – is under review as part of the government’s attempts to balance the nations books

We think that it is much more likely that the Museum will reintroduce admission charges.

Virtually every other major attraction in the City (and indeed the world) – with the exception of the York Art Gallery which is closed for refurbishment at present – charges visitors, with the Minsters fee of £10 for an adult being about the norm.

Whether York residents would continue to enjoy free admission on production of a YorCard might be more open to question.

The Press petition can be downloaded here

York residents unhappy with Council’s ice and snow clearance policies

30 days hath September, April, June and November all the rest have 31 save February which has 28 and January which has 80 (and rising)

Damaged salt bin Cornlands Road

Damaged salt bin Cornlands Road

Residents responding to a survey carried out in the Westfield ward, have criticised the York Councils winter maintenance performance.

57% were disappointed with icy weather arrangements.

An overwhelming 97% felt that the Council should top up all salt bins at the beginning of winter.

This winter – for the first time- the Council only filled some of the local salt bins and had to be forced by public opinion to fill the rest around the middle of January.

Unfortunately the bins had been left out over the summer period and many had been damaged. Lids were missing from some of them while many of the rest had become informal litter bins.

We believe that the Council should recover all the bins this summer and repair them.

Then they should make sure that they are out on the streets again, and full, before the icy winter weather starts.

Horses United 1 Dog & Cat Rovers 0

horse dog

Coming soon after the Council announced that it would be scrapping the specialist animal welfare (formerly dog warden) officer patrols, it has decided to appoint a “horse bailiff”.

The move comes after numerous complaints about horses straying onto private land and being the cause of several road traffic accidents.

The Cabinet is set to approve a “protocol” next week

The plan will cost Council tax payers £40,000 a year to implement

Foxwood park and Spindle Close snicket links to Ashbourne Way may be secured at night

The Council is to consider, on 18th April, a petition which asks for the night time closure of the snickets leading off Ashbourne Way

The snickets are well used during the day, not least by children attending the Woodthorpe School.

Night time closures have been tried before – notably in the nearby Carrfield/Foxton/Chantry Close area – where, in 2009, a similar plan was abandoned following objections by local residents.

Schemes of this sort now tend to rely on mechanisms which automatically lock and unlock a gate at a particular time. None have worked successfully in York other than perhaps that located at the rear entrance to the railway station, from Lowther Terrace, although there the access is part of the cycle network.

Such heavy duty gates are expensive to install and maintain.

Council officials have previously ruled out, on cost grounds, using staff to lock this type of gate while the use of volunteers has been ruled out on reliability grounds.

The meeting on 18th is likely to be asked only to consider whether the request should be put out for more general consultation.

Smarter York app little used but it works (sometimes)

In 9 months the York Council have received only 374 reports using the Iphone smart “app” service . The much publicised facility was launched in June last year.

The majority of the reports made concerned litter and graffiti. The Council does not say how many of the reports were acted on and no customer satisfaction figures have been published.

Before

Before

After

After

However we can say that we have reported using the system residual leaf mulch left over from the autumn in places like Acomb Green and Barkston Avenue. The Council reported back today that it had been cleared from Barkston Avenue.

You can access the system by clicking here.

Labour cut waste collection, road maintenance, community centres, libraries, elderly persons homes, ice clearance, job training and Social Services.

Cuts to street level services click to enlarge

Cuts to street level services click to enlarge

Labour’s hopelessly misjudged Council budget proposals are set to be approved tonight. Cuts to all front line public services are planned yet

Labour also intend to retain a £1 million a year “slush fund” which is used to pay for a range of inessential “vanity” projects.

The £1 million this year has been used to pay for lighting and firework displays, free WiFi access in the City centre, a plan to open the Bonding warehouse as a “digital media hub”, building design competitions, an “innovation catalyst” programme; not to mention the occasional foreign travel trip.

More waste is evident in the Councils capital programme where commitments to introducing an unnecessary Citywide 20 mph speed limit and the purchase of a barge for use as an arts centre have seen interest payments, on borrowed money, double since Labour took control of the Council.

Abandoning these “vanity” projects and making good use of the reduced running costs (down by £375,000) of its new HQ would allow the Council to restore many of the most damaging cuts.

Labour’s key proposals would see:

A 1.9% hike in Council tax levels (despite central government offering to underwrite the costs of a freeze)

• Privatisation or outsourcing of leisure/swimming pool management the Warden Call service and the “Sheltered housing with extra care” service. Even the Mansion House will be commercialised

Grants to Museums Trust cut by £100,000, the Theatre Royal by £101,000 with similar % cuts other voluntary sector bodies

• At a time when people are rightly worried following revelations about meat quality, trading standards faces a £42,000 cut, while there will be less air quality monitoring.

• There will be less for job training as Future Prospects loses £150,000

• The closure of elderly persons homes will be brought forward meaning that some residents face double moves before new accommodation is completed. In 2014 pensioners will face a 90p charge when using their passes on Park and Ride services

Disabled facilities at Greenworks and Brunswick Nursery cut by £50,000 Supported employment budget cut by £200,000 forcing disabled people into “mainstream employment”

Social Service clients with personal budgets will lose out from a £500,000 budget cut

Looked after children – basically those with foster parents – face a £700,000 cut with another £400,000 to come off in 2014.

Respite services get a £50,000 reduction.

Children’s centres face a £128,000 cut in 2014

• The toy library bus will scrapped in 2014

Some reductions in expenditure were inevitable.

Labour have simply chosen to economise on the wrong services.

Meanwhile there are some concerns about the likely quality of tonights Council debate

Mixed signs on local York economy: Average weekly pay in City is nearly £500

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The number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance in York has increased. This is inline with an increase for the region as a whole. A council report confirms:
• Male Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants (3.3%) remain higher than females (1.5%)
• The rate of females claiming JSA is increasing faster than males, but still remains one of the lowest in the region.
• The total number of benefits claimants has decreased in 2011 by 4%, from 12,350 in 2010 to 11,900 now.
5.7% of young people are now classified as “not in education, employment or training” That is just less than in North Yorkshire as a whole. It means that the City has one of the lowest youth unemployment levels in the country.
Average weekly pay for city residents is £492.30 for 2011, which is above the regional average. York is still below the national average but the gap has narrowed (now 2.2% below compared with 4.2% in 2010).

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