Council Plan

The York Council are set to adopt a new “Council Plan” on Thursday. Although a significant document, it is likely to attract little comment. This is partly because much of its content is anodyne and partly because it is linked to impenetrable bureaucratic processes and documentation Only 353 residents responded to the initial consultation on the document.

Council Plans are rarely a “good read”

This plan though does have one major setback. It fails to react to the decline in street level public service standards that have been seen in recent months.

The KPIs suggested are essentially those that have been carried over from previous plans. They have the merit of a good historic database making trends easier to judge and they are generally easy to collect, but they offer little for those seeking “smart” targets.

Nor has the Council addressed the issue of service level agreements. This exercise presented an opportunity to update and reissue what used to be known as “Customer Contracts” but it seems that taxpayers will remain largely in ignorance of what their payments are buying.

There are a range of day to day services which residents depend on. They therefore legitimately might expect to have access to stats which, for example, tell them

  • How many potholes are reported and how quickly they are fixed?
  • How much litter there is on our streets?
  • How many streets are 98% clear of weed growth?
  • How many reports there have been of obstructions to public paths and how quickly those obstructions are removed?
  • How many bins are not emptied as scheduled each week?
  • How reliable local bus services are?
  • How many streetlights are working?
  • Satisfaction with Council estates (communal areas)?
  • Time taken to resolve issue reports by different channels (on line, email, telephone, personal visit)?

All would give residents a clearer picture of Council performance than some of those suggested.

Carbon emission sources in York revealed

It appears that a meeting held 2 days ago was given a table showing estimated carbon emission levels for various activities in York.

The table has only today been published to residents by the York Council.

As it turns out the latest figures available are from 2016. The world has changed a lot in the last 3 years.

The table reveals that the biggest source of CO2 emissions in the City is domestic heating. This will hearten those who have supported the adoption of “Passivhaus” high insulation standards in homes.

There is an opportunity for the Council to make a real difference here as improved home insulation also disproportionately benefits poorer residents by reducing energy bills. We look forward to seeing a project plan with identified milestones.

A Press article today highlighted diesel trains as an emissions threat. In reality, they account for less than 1% of all local emissions.

CO2 emissions, per capita, substantially reduced in York during the 11 years that were monitored.

How will York tackle weed growth in the future?

The long awaited report, into the collapse of weed control activities in the City this summer, has now been published.
Key routes into the City were disfigured

The report lists several actions which might be undertaken to prevent a repetition of the problems.

It was clear as long ago as June that something was seriously amiss with the Council contract.

A contract has been let which had omitted several key roads like the A59, as well as many back lanes and paths. Gutters and paths rapidly become overgrown. In some cases, because of restricted sight lines or trip hazards, there was an unnecessary risk to public safety.

Amongst the worst affected were major entry points into the City which gave visitors an early impression of neglect (It became clear later, that former trunk roads were amongst these omitted from the contract)

The Councils reaction to the problems was highly complacent. It was two months before they admitted that the list of streets to be treated by the contractor was out of date. They blamed the weather (too much rain) and turned a blind eye to the fact that the “quad bike” contractors were missing out large areas altogether. Treatment, where undertaken, proved to be ineffective.

It was Septembers before the failings were finally acknowledged. Contractors were asked to add a blue dye to the chemical so it would be clear which areas they had treated.

To this day, residents continue to search for the illusive blue dye trail.

Another problem was the choice of weed killer. Glyphosate, which is a contact weed killer, has no residual effect, so it only kills weeds present at the time of application. It is an industry standard product, but it failed to act on deep rooted weeds. Alternatives were available but not used.

The Council claims to have “deployed additional resource to focus on removing detritus which collects in kerb lines, particularly on the offside of traffic islands where sweeping is more difficult and less effective. The detritus build up is greater when weeds are present”.

The report doesn’t analyse how the Council came to issue an incorrect contract specification, doesn’t reveal the results of supervisory checks on the contractor, offers no update on the September recovery programme and fails to review “difficult to reach” locations such as bridge parapets, snickets, back lanes and garage forecourts.

The contract required certain outputs to be achieved. These included a 98% weed free appearance on treated areas.

No KPIs are quoted.

The Council has however listed 10 initiatives (see right) that it could take to improve the appearance and safety of the City.

 All, and more, will be required next year if the reputation of the City is not to be further damaged.

Missed bin collections Wednesday

Recycling was not collected in part of Dringhouses today (“vehicle capacity issue”) and garden waste wasn’t collected from Muncaster (“vehicle breakdown”).

The Council also hasn’t caught up with delayed bin emptying from earlier in the week in Osbaldwick and Woodthorpe

It appears that the Council hasn’t yet placed an order for new vehicles to replace its chronically unreliable existing fleet.

According to a notice published today, a decision on a new “waste collection methodology” won’t be taken until 24th October. Even then it is likely to be several months before the Council actually joins the year long queue for new vehicles.

While refinements to waste management arrangements are needed if we are to recycle more, a greater sense of urgency from the Council leadership, in addressing current unreliability issues, is an essential first step.

York cycle paths still obstructed

The Council’s PR department is saying that mechanical means may be used in future to remove weeds from footpaths and gullies in the City.

That can’t happen soon enough for most residents following the collapse of his years – chemical – treatment programme.

More of the cycle network is now subject to obstruction from overgrowing vegetation. It is a problem on Bishopthorpe Road near the Racecourse while the Naburn Lane path is impeded by nettles.

Naburn Lane path impeded by nettles

Warden of the North

Initially we thought this was a joke but apparently not.

Warden of the North. Local defence force next?

The York Council is now seeking volunteer “Leaf Wardens”. Their job will be to sweep up fallen leaves from (Council owned) public places including highways.

Now we know that many residents do try to keep the area outside their homes clean and tidy. Many will pick up litter, remove weeds and even mow verges.

Some may sweep up fallen leaves while others may clear snow.

The motivation for most volunteers is to improve the appearance of their neighbourhood over and above what is possible using the resources available to the local authority.

But it is what the label suggests – a voluntary action prompted by community pride.

In our view, the Council is now trying too hard to institutionalise and exploit that goodwill

So we now have “snow wardens”, “flood wardens” and “litter pickers” all kitted out by the Council.

The collapse of the weed killing programme this summer, footpaths blocked by overgrown trees/ hedges and, most recently, a sharp decline in the reliability of the bin emptying service should have acted as a “wake up” call to the Councils leadership.

What residents first want to see – before they are asked to do a second job as well as their day job – is the Council delivering good quality public services at street level on a consistent basis.

No one expects leaves to be swept up immediately the first bad weather of autumn arrives. But they do expect to be told what the Council will do, when and to what standard.

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The council should publish revised “customer contracts” or “Service Level Agreements” and report back regularly on improvement plans.

They should then consult Parish Councils, Councillors and residents associations before they offer any patronising training on how to sweep up leaves.

Piling on the grief at Hob Moor school

Contractors at the new centre for disabled children on Ascot Way were piling yesterday. The site is only a few metres from the school so it is unfortunate that the nosiest work couldn’t be completed before the new school term started.

The residents association at their meeting on Wednesday are likely to be demanding answers to questions about why work on the replacement off street games facilities for young people haven’t been started yet.

Residents were promised 6 months ago that an all weather surface would be provided at Thanet Road together with an outdoor gym.

Neither has appeared although the Kingsway MUGA was closed some 3 months ago

More on weed control in York

The Council has now replied to our complaint about inadequate weed control on public areas this summer.

They candidly accept now that the spraying has not been satisfactory.

They are now commencing a re-spray. The spray will include a colouring agent which will show which areas have received attention.

Weeds on the A59 have not been treated

This will be supplemented by Council staff who will work on areas not included on the contract. The areas near Poppleton on the A59 are a high priority.

Another problem has developed with obstructions to public cycle and footpaths.

Again the path on the A59 is one that is blocked

Path near Poppleton is still blocked
Brambles over growing the cycle path on Tadcaster Road may become a safety issue with darker nights coming.
Bushes are impeding access to the Hob Moor cycle track
Hedges blocking the cycle path at the rear of Hob Stones still haven’t been cut back
Someone has spent some time on this graffiti near the southern by pass
But less time on this!