Major improvements announced at Westfield School

Westfield school

A meeting of the Councils Executive will be asked next week to agree to an investment of £650,000 at Westfield Primary school

The money will be spent modernising and expanding school meal provision at the school.

A report  describes the background to the plan. ”

The increasing number of pupils at the school has highlighted the problems the  school currently has around the management of the school meals service as more pupils are having a school meal.

The proposed scheme will include work on both the dining and kitchen areas which will address current safety concerns and enable more pupils to access nutritional school meals”.

Parliament Street fountain’s days are numbered

Parliament Street fountain

It looks like the Council are set on removing the fountain from Parliament Street. It was provided over 25 years ago following a poll of York residents who were asked what features they wanted to see in the remodelled street.

Now the Council says that it is beyond repair and gets in the way of other activities.

In other words, it reduces the amount of commercial events that can take place there.

St Sampson’s Square 30 years ago

A report to a meeting in April will also consider the future of the – long disused – underground toilets which are located in St Sampsons Square.

In both cases is is unclear what alternative use the spaces would be put to.

Make it York” caused  a storm a couple of years ago when they targeted the fountain for removal.

York city centre bus stops set to reopen on Monday

On Monday, 5 March, bus services will return to their normal bus stops at Stonebow following relocation during the refurbishment of Stonebow House.

The temporary stops outside Marks and Spencer, and further down Stonebow will close.

The stops will reopen with wider pavements and better lighting, significantly improving the environment for passengers. Seating will also be improved later in the year.

At the same time, three bus stops at Rougier Street, for buses heading in the direction of York Station, will close to allow a new bus shelter to be to be put in place following the refurbishment of Roman House.

The Rougier Street stops will reopen towards the end of April after the new shelter has been completed.  The new shelter will be a substantial improvement with better lighting, improved seating and in-shelter CCTV.

All stops in the city centre have also been fitted with real time information displays, and all stops have received new, easy to read, timetables.

NB. The number 4 bus service returned to its original route past the railway station yesterday.

For more information about traveling in and around York visit

So which roads are open in York and where can I find a salt bin?

The York Council provides an “on line” map which shows public service locations. These include the primary and secondary road gritting (salting) routes which are mainly the major bus routes. click here to view (then click “street car”e on the map index and then pick the service you want to see)

The Council also provides an update service on Twitter @yorkgritter

In addition the map shows the location of self help salt bins and the areas covered by VOLUNTEER snow wardens. The latter do their best to keep local paths open but not all neighbourhoods are covered..

Salt bins do not fill themselves so, if you see an empty one, then please report it to the Council  on York 551550 or “on line


Some choice for York – “Wild Bunch” or “Trotsky’s chums”?

It looks like the coalition, that has run the Council for the last 3 years, will be coming to an end.

The faction that plunged daggers into the back of the last Tory Leader are now re-sharpening their blades. They hope to cut into core public service standards in the City. Four right wingers, emboldened by national changes in the Tory party, are demanding low (or zero) Council Tax increases funded by a widespread close down of public services like libraries. They are disparagingly referred to by other, more moderate, Tories as the “Wild Bunch”.

On the other side of the Council, new Labour Councillors lack experience and historical perspective. They embrace a high tax, high borrowing philosophy. They cite “austerity” as the cause of all evils without actually explaining how any alternative would be funded (or even allowed by central government). Despite adopting locally the Corbynite tactic of never quite explaining their policies (e.g. Europe, single market, tax etc), the Labour group is clearly now far to the left of anything seen in the City during the last 60 years. Many experienced, moderate Labour representatives have quit, or are likely to face the “Momentum” ice pick, before the May 2019 Council elections.

So should the LibDems seek to reach an administration agreement with either of these Groups?

The answer is probably “yes”.

The City faces a difficult year.   It is a time when Councillors, from all sides, should put York first. That inevitably means compromise and ideally seeking a broad consensus on dealing with issues.

The Council can now choose to revert to the committee system which was used to run the City until 1995. Councillors from all parties (and none) would be more directly involved in the decision making processes

Council officials – some of whom must bear some of the blame for the current crisis – will need to burn the midnight oil if an alternative constitutional model is to be made available in time for the Council’s annual meeting, which is scheduled to take place on 24th May.

They will not start with a blank sheet of paper.

There are many other Local Authorities who now operate using the committee model. These include the Nottinghamshire County Council (Tory/Ind majority), Kingston (Conservative), Sutton (LibDem), South Gloucestershire (Conservative), Brighton and Hove (Green when Committee system adopted, now NOC), Newark and Sherwood (Conservative), Barnet (Conservative), Norfolk (Conservative, NOC when Committee system adopted) & Reading (Labour)

Numerous smaller authorities never changed to the “Cabinet/Leader” governance model.

Some councils have chosen to create versions of the Leader/Cabinet system (which means that they do not require a formal change under the Act) that include aspects of the committee system.

The most common arrangement is to set up non-decision making group of councillors, usually corresponding to cabinet portfolios, which examine papers and make recommendations about how decisions should be made. This system worked in a balanced Council in York between 2007 and 2010 (Labour then decided that they would not participate) The decisions are subsequently made at meetings of the cabinet or by individual cabinet members, and may well follow the recommendations of the ‘committees’ although they are not legally required to do so.

Either way, it is time to put personal and party ambitions to one side and do what is best for the City. 

York Council budget battle lines drawn

A meeting tomorrow (Thursday) will set the York Councils budget for 2018/19.

The ruling coalition – still wobbling from its leadership woes – has already announced its plans. Now two opposition groups have said that they want to increase Council Tax by a larger percentage. The choices are:

Tory/LibDem = +3.49%

Labour = +4.49%

Green = +5.99%

Central government no longer provides York with a grant to underpin local services. Instead the City must depend on income received from service charges, Business Rates and Council Tax. The government caps the maximum that can be raised from the latter two income streams.

The coalition budget would see an additional £3 million invested in York’s Adult Social Services. The expectation is that this investment will ease the pressure on local hospitals and ensure that no beds there are “blocked” Recently it was found that, over 7 days, 123 patients in hospital beds (the equivalent to 4 wards) were medically ready for discharge.

In addition, several other investments are promised

  • A £150,000 investment in improving the City’s drains over the next three years. This will ease surface water flooding issues.
  • A £175,000 investment in Education Psychology to support specialist staff working with children with Special Education Needs
  • A £3.3 million investment in a new Electric Bus Scheme, which will include new vehicles, charging points and the UK’s first Clean Air Zone
  • An investment of £250,000 for Energy Efficiency projects, such as the inclusion of solar panels on major projects, so residents can save on energy bills.
  • £500,000, over two years, to repair and modernise cycle routes
  • Deletion of the planned cut to the older and disabled persons garden care scheme

The other parties support most of the published plans.

As well as the higher tax increase, Labour say they will spend more on a projects to reduce falls, address dementia, on mental health issues in schools, on the Citizens’ Advice Service and youth provision.

They’d cut the Council’s scrutiny processes and the number of Executive Councillors. More would be spent on subsiding home to school transport and in reducing the bulky waste collection charge from £44 to £22.

Slightly bizarrely they want to spend £100,000 on a feasibility study for an energy provision company

The Greens have a shopping list which would do justice to a school boy locked in a sweet shop.

They agree with Labour (and we suspect most residents) that the bulky waste collection charge is too high.  Lower charges might reduce the amount of fly tipping in the City

The Greens also want to borrow an extra £2 million to buy empty property.

The Council has already made provision to purchase empty homes on the open market, so the proposed use of Compulsory Purchase Orders must be aimed at empty commercial property. That would be a very risky venture.

Elsewhere, the Greens go for a mixed of enlightened self-interest – reduced ResPark fees and parking enforcement using ANPR cameras (!), the eccentric (£3000 on installing poster boards around the Parliament Street fountain), the divisive (locking the gates and providing gardeners at some but not all public parks) and the unpopular (increasing car parking charges by an additional 10p per hour – making the increase 20p in total)

The meeting tomorrow will also elect a new Council Leader.

If the Green amendment is carried he would no doubt resign before the meeting had concluded!