Ascot Way still closed

Builders have closed Ascot Way forcing a bus diversion. The road has been closed by builders working on the Lincoln Court/Windsor House site.

A pedestrian route has been maintained but vehicles including buses and cyclists face a detour.

Ascot Way closed

The Council had previously claimed that the Centre for the Disabled, being built on the site of the former Windsor House home, would be completed in June. Work on this project, and the adjacent upgrade of the Lincoln Court apartments , looks to be some way from completion.

The Kingsway area has had more than its fair share of disruption in recent years. There is only one access road open and it has born the brunt of heavy vehicle operations. First there was the Hob Stone development – which dragged on for three years, then the Council development in Newbury Avenue to be quickly followed by the work now going on in Ascot Way.

Local residents are looking forward to the end of the disruption, the restoration of lost amenities plus urgently needed repairs to roads.

Coronavirus York updates; 28th July 2020

Deaths and test results

There have been no additional hospital deaths or positive test results reported in York today

There have been no further deaths in care homes with the total remaining at 77

According to the latest ONS figures, up to 25th July, there had been 168 deaths registered in the City giving the cause of death as COVID-!9.

Where to find an “eat out” discount restaurant

Not too many restaurants in the Westfield area have registered yet for the government backed “eat out to help out” discounts. The list does include the Indian Ocean on The Green and the Carlton Tavern.

Click here to see a list of participating restaurants near you

Use the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme at these establishments:

  • to get 50% off your food and non-alcoholic drinks up to a total value of £10 per person if you eat or drink in
  • every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday between 3 August and 31 August
  • as many times as you like

You don’t need a voucher to use the scheme and you can use it at the same time as other offers and discounts. There is no minimum spend.

Alcoholic drinks and service charges are excluded from the offer.

Check which chain restaurants have registered for the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme.

York Council offices – limited reopening using appointment system

The York Council has been under increasing pressure in recent days to provide a road map back to more normal public service access arrangements in the City.

West Offices

Today they have said,

“From 27th July we are starting to reopen our customer centre by appointment only.

Following government guidance we will continue to ask residents  to use our website or contact our team by email or phone in the first instance. We do appreciate that it may not be possible to resolve all queries in this way, so our customer service team will book residents an appointment where needed.

Residents should not attend their appointment if they;

  • Have any symptoms of Covid-19 such as a fever, new repetitive cough, or change to sense of smell or taste
  • Share a household with anyone who is currently displaying Covid-19 or is self-isolating due to suspected Covid-19
  • Have been advised by the NHS track and trace to self-isolate as a precaution to prevent the spread of Covid-19

How will it work?

From 27 July we are reopening our Customer Centre by appointment only. We are asking people to call our customer centre to book an appointment. We will try, where possible, to resolve their query over the phone.   However if this can’t be done, we will arrange an appointment.

Following government guidance, we will have a reduced number of staff in West Offices, with the majority continuing to work from home to support residents over the phone or by email.

Why by appointment only?

The safety and wellbeing of our residents and staff is our utmost priority. Government guidance remains that where possible people should work from home, throughout the pandemic thousands of queries have been resolved without the need for face to face appointments as people used the website or contacted our customer service team by phone.  We understand there may be some queries or specific individuals that will require in person support and are opening on a limited basis from 27 July, by appointment only.

What safety measures are in place?

We have introduced a number of measures to help keep our staff and customers safe including:

  • Touchless hand sanitiser station for all customers to use on arrival
  • Perspex screens for personal protection
  • Time between appointments
  • Limiting the number of staff and customers in the building at any one time by operating by appointment only

What services can people access by visiting?

Appointments can be made when a query can’t be managed over the phone or online for the below services:

  • Housing benefits
  • Council tax
  • Concessionary travel
  • Planning
  • Blue badges
  • Waste, highways and environment

For information on council services visit www.york.gov.uk, call 01904 551550 or email ycc@york.gov.uk

We hope that the Council will actively promote how access to all help and advice services can now be gained.

Council publishes performance data

Only 29% of York residents feel that they can influence decisions in their local area. 91% however feel is important that they should be able to influence their local area.

The paradox is revealed in the latest set of performance indicators published by the Council. They outturn figures for the last there financial years.  

Another perhaps significant finding is that only 31% of the members of a residents “talkabout” panel “speak positively about the Council”; 28% speak “negatively”.

However, 52% agreed that the Council treated them “fairly and with respect”.  

  • The number of instances of violence in the City centre rose from 1010 to 1057.
  • The number of cases of graffiti reported to the Council doubled to 385. This may have been prompted by the Councils decision to establish a new (and useful) graffiti removal team.
  • The number of street cleaning issues reported increased from 1943, in 2018/19, to 2578 in 2019/20.  The number of street cleaning issues remedied with within target times was 75%
  • Three fixed penalty notices were issued for littering during last year. This was down from six issued in 2018/19. There were also three PCNs issued for dog fouling offences.
  • The number of issues raised about weeds and overgrown hedges increased from 1919 to 2191.

The figures predate most of the lockdown period.

Lloyds bank in Acomb still open for business

Lloyds Bank in Front Street

Some good news from Acomb with an announcement that the York Road/Front Street branch of Lloyds bank will remain open “until further notice”.

The bank – the last branch in Acomb – was due to close in June.

The decision may help with post pandemic regeneration efforts in the Front Street commercial area.

We suspect that the closure has only been delayed but the decision is a welcome one nevertheless.

Children’s playgrounds all now open in Westfield

Children’s playground in the Westfield area have all now been reopened. Some are displaying “best practice” signs outlining health restrictions. Judging by the numbers in the Acomb Green play area this has proved to be very popular with children (and probably parents).

Acomb Green
Cornlands
Dickson Park
Foxwood Lane
Grange Lane

The art of pretending to listen

North Yorkshire Mayor plan a fait accompli

this happens to me a lot - Imgflip

Many York residents will be irritated today, when they realise that the supposed consultation, on what the City might get out of losing its independence to a North Yorkshire Mayor, was a sham.

A list of funding requests to oil the coup appears to have already been endorsed by City Leaders. It is set to be nodded through as part of a heavy agenda at a “virtual” executive meeting next week.

The naive may have been distracted by the sweeteners leaked by the government this week. Variously these include siting the House of Lords, major government departments or even, temporarily, the House of Commons in the City. All are unlikely but mock indignation from southern peers and Lancastrian Mayors simply adds credibility to the ploy.

In a post COVID recession there will be no funding available for such changes.

Local government in York and North Yorkshire (YNY) is now seeking funding of £25 million a year in what is termed a Mayoral Devolution Deal. It forms part of what some are claiming would be a £2.4 billion investment package over the next 30 years. This is money currently allocated by central government (it is not additional funding).

Under the Councils plans it would fall into the hands of an elected Mayor.

Background reports suggest that the Mayor would operate through a combined authority committee comprised of – based on what is happening elsewhere – three or four unitary authority Leaders. It is possible – depending on whether the York authority can retain its present boundaries – that the committee would be comprised of the members of only one political party.

However, the rub is that it is the Mayor alone who would hold executive decision-making powers.

The Mayor would take on responsibility for police and fire in addition to a whole raft of powers covering transport, digital communications, urban modernisation, housing, planning, skills, business development, energy and the natural environment. This would involve setting up a huge support organisation dwarfing existing local government bureaucracies.

We have seen how the only other individual elected to executive authority in YNY (the Police and Fire Commissioner) became gradually enmeshed in debilitating power wrangles.  This ultimately led to her being jettisoned by her own party.

The old saying that Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely seems to ring true.

The Council has published a menu of changes that it seeks in return for the loss of independence. There is no mention in the programme of the principle of subsidiarity – decisions being taken as close to those who are affected as possible.  There is no mention of any need to fetter the powers of the mayor. There is no “recall” option. There is no requirement for a consensual budget approvals process.

It would be the Mayor who would approve Spatial (strategic) plans for the whole of the area. It would the Mayor who would have compulsory purchase powers which could be used to reshape both town and country.

The list of so called “asks” includes something for everyone.  

Some environmentalists will love the idea that we’ll only – even in remote rural areas – be using electric vehicles in 5 years’ time while the now obligatory “plant more trees” campaign has acquired ritual status in all government documents. The same environmentalist may skim over the plan for agriculture – an important industry in North Yorkshire – the policy for which depends almost entirely on bio science driven change. Concerns about genetically modified crops would be side lined as would be the chlorinated chicken debate and the other less desirable impacts of BREXIT.

Only the truly gullible would be bought off by such illusions.

Will a LibDem dominated York Council executive buy the “pig in a poke”?

 We hope not.

Other devolved structures are available which, although perhaps not producing the same headline expenditure opportunities, would at least retain more independence for the City.

Those other choices, which should include the status quo, need to be exemplified with residents being given a real opportunity to influence which, if any, are pursued further.

That was the week that was in west York in pictures

Several suburban shopping streets need a tidy up. We asked for bins at Foxwood to be emptied but the Council now needs to provide more support for businesses that “soldiered on” during lock-down providing lifeline services for some.
Still too much graffiti on utility boxes in the area. Two more reported in the Dijon Avenue area this week
Rain and wind have brought detritus down blocking some drainage channels. We’ve asked for those in Kingsthorpe to be swept.
The footpath at the high numbered end of Tudor Road has been levelled. It had been damaged by tree roots. We expect that the problem will reoccur
However the nearby footpath on Tudor Road is still blocked by overrunning Yorkshire Water works

A major problem across the whole of the City are rapidly growing weeds. The Councils contractors have been seen out spraying but they will have been hampered by wet weather.

As a result many back lanes, footpaths, snickets and cycle paths are now obstructed.

This can be a hazard particularly for the partially sighted.

Hopefully residents, who see an issue near their home or business, will deal with it themselves.

Weed growth and other issues can be reported 24/7 via the Council web site ” click “Report it”

Plan for North Yorkshire “Mayor”

Would include York with elections scheduled for 2022

Mayor GIFs - Get the best gif on GIFER

The York Council has revealed that it is in discussions with other local authorities in North Yorkshire about forming a “combined authority”. Government policy is to devolve some funding to regions but only if they agree to be governed by an elected Mayor.

West Yorkshire has a “combined authority” while South Yorkshire has already elected its own Mayor.

It seems that York may have little choice in the matter.

Details can be found by clicking here.

Consultation is promised prior to the Councils executive meeting on 23rd July. That meeting will apparently detail the Councils expectations of any deal. Council media releases refer to the, ludicrously titled, “big conversation” as the preferred conduit for resident comments (although there are no questions about devolution on the “on line” survey).

While more funding for the region would be welcome, the prospect of power being put into one persons hands in such a large an area as North Yorkshire will give many a sinking felling.

York extracted itself from the North Yorkshire County Council in 1997 in the hope that a unitary authority would be more sensitive to local priorities. The results have been mixed, partly as a result of the highly volatile local political scene.

The only current post which is in any way similar is that of the Police and Crime Commissioner (now incorporating fire) which has been a lamentable failure. The post is hopelessly remote, is not accountable in any real way and, so far, has attracted poorly qualified candidates. The current post-holder seems to have little empathy for the problems of York.

The PCC powers would probably transfer to any new Mayor.

All in all, the obsession national politicians have with the American “city boss” model is profoundly depressing. Decisions taken in Northallerton (or Craven) are unlikely to be any more sensitive to York concerns than those currently determined in Whitehall.

But it does look like this is where things are heading.

Front Street -pressure for investment grows

Some residents have reacted to yesterdays article by saying investment is urgently needed to regenerate the Front Street shopping area. Although the number of empty units is currently relatively low, there are concerns that sub-urban shopping areas may be hard hit during any recession.

Barrier prevents vehicular access during pedestrian hours

Fortunately many Acomb businesses built up a new customer base during the period of lockdown.

Most though failed to benefit for the Councils marketing campaign.

Even today, the only indications of Council support are two small “social distancing” signs.

The rest of the precinct looks neglected with weeds gaining a foothold in many areas.

Weeds growing though footpath surfaces in Front Street

We have asked for action to clean up the existing disabled parking bays. However, what is really needed is a more general a “deep clean” Banners, flowers and display lights could also lift the area. A major marketing campaign could emphasis the value and variety offered by many of the indie outlets in the village.

Something more fundament may be needed. The option to reopen the pedestrianised carriageway to blue badge holders on some days of the week, has received some support. There are three parking laybys in the area which together could accommodate 8 or 9 cars. That could provide a worthwhile increase in footfall.

We’ve asked for the gutters to be cleared of weeds and detritus

The lay-bys could, at other times, provide space for pop up stalls. Some mobile shops might also want to visit the area to add to the variety which si available.

Front Street was at its best, and most popular, when hosting the Minster FM roadshow at Christmas. Although it is too soon to plan for the return of  large crowds, more modest arts and entertainments activities could be staged.

It will require investment by a Council which seems, at the moment, to be entirely preoccupied with the City centre (where, in fairness, traders also faces major hurdles,)

Front Street lay-bys could be used to increase footfall in te area

As a sign of good faith, the York Council could fund a precinct concierge who – as well as regulating access and providing blue badge holders with help with carrying shopping – might also help to keep the area tidy.

In the longer term, a more radical solution could see the pedestrian area extended although this would have far reaching implications not least on some residents and the bus service.

However, the Council does need to explore all options as part of, what it terms as, its “big conversation” with residents.

There should be no delay.