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!

Need for clarity from Council Executive members

The Council’s scrutiny committees will begin to receive reports this month from the new Executive councillors.

The expectation will be that a line will be drawn in the sand and a new suite of measurable outcomes will be published.

Street sweeping poor

At the moment residents must rely on Open Data pages to try to check on progress.  They represent a confusing array of stats with some key service areas barely covered.

The public will want to know what the trends are in volumes? Are the demands on the Council’s resources increasing or are they stable?

 Whether it be numbers of schoolchildren or elderly people requiring support, these are key figures. 

Blocked gullies

The volume of waste being presented is an example of  important information, as are jobless and job vacancy numbers.  Complaint and issue numbers provide a clue to residents’ concerns.

“How many?” “how often?” “where?” are all legitimate questions

Going beyond these how is the Council responding?

  • What are the customer satisfaction numbers?
  • How quickly does the Council respond?
  • How effective is the response?
  • What are the root causes of repeat problems and how has the Council responded?
No weed control

Two reports to a scrutiny meeting next week offer little insight. They include no numbers.

The Executive member scorecards for the first quarter (April – June) haven’t even been published yet.

An outturn report to a full executive meeting on 29th August prompted no debate.

Paths obstructed

Taken with the obvious decline in street public service standards that have been evident during the summer months, this simply isn’t good enough.

It doesn’t matter which party is in control of the Council a “can do” attitude coupled with good, honest communications is essential.

Residents expect better.

Timetable to address York public service woes needed

Anyone expecting the York Council’s Executive to take decisive action, to address declining public service standards at their meeting yesterday, will have been disappointed.

Despite a plea from Independent Councillor Mark Warters that a team be set up to deal with outstanding complaints, the Councils leadership remained tight lipped.

Cllr Warters was echoing a similar call from a growing number of Liberal Democrat supporters in the City

Many residents may conclude that there is something seriously wrong at West Offices.

Not only is there no timetable for addressing outstanding issues, but communications with residents are poor while many local Councillors (not all) fail to roll their sleeves up and tackle issues directly in their wards.

The York Council is no longer a “can do” organisation. It’s become a “maybe things will get better next year” type authority.

That won’t do. Its the kind of complacent attitude that has prompted a rise in more extreme political ideologies elsewhere in the country and abroad. It needs to be reversed, and quickly.

Not everything is bad, of course. Some individual Council officials are making limited progress in improving our streets as we show here.

The drainage channel on Foxwood Lane has been cleared
The Field Lane cycle track has been cleared of obstructions
But for every success there is a failure. The footpath on Hull Road remains obstructed despite pedestrians being forced onto the busy highway
and weeds still haven’t been treated even on streets where Councillors actually live!
New issues are emerging each day. This footpath on Field Lane, near the Hull Road junction, is now obstructed.
Not the Councils responsibility, but there has been a build up of litter on the Teal Drive “pocket park”. Reopened 6 weeks ago, it is being well used but it does need routine cleansing (or a litter bin). Reported to JRHT.

Media haven’t got the whole story on weed growth in the City

The Press and other local media outlets are running stories today about excessive weed growth on paths and in drainage channels in the City. The local Tories are criticising the Lib Dem/Green administration for the problems. The published stories give the impression that the Tories have been actively campaigning on the issue.

That is misleading.

Problems with the effectiveness of the weed spraying contract became apparent in May. As the contract was relatively new, and responsible executive members were busy changing roles post the local elections, It seemed fair to allow a few weeks for things to settle down and for the chemical treatments to take effect.

We reported serval dozen problem areas including the longstanding weed problem on the parapets of the Ouse Bridg,e together with a build-up of silt on many traffic islands.

Nothing much seemed to happen. As usual with this sort of report there was no feedback from the Council to those who had highlighted the problems.

Tongue in cheek, in early July we launched a “biggest weed contest”.

There was still no response from Council officials. Councillors were notified but the only response came from Mark Warters who was having problems in his Osbaldwick ward.

6 more weeks passed and we felt we had no option but to make a formal complaint (see below). This was tabled on 15th August. It was copied to the Councils leadership.

An official replied on 21st August blaming the weather for the problems.

The complaint was escalated on 22nd August and we await a further response.

The Council’s leadership did announce yesterday (Wednesday) that they would conduct a review of weed control processes at a meeting which will be held in October. What happens in the interim remains unclear.

We are quite clear that a blitz on weeds and overgrown hedges, using mechanical removal methods, is needed urgently.

One other aspect that needs to be clarified is the responsibility for keeping former trunk roads like the A59 clear. Highways England confirmed that it was down to local authorities to deal with these highways. Yet the Council’s current weed control contract seems to exclude these roads (they have certainly not been sprayed).

We have submitted a Freedom of Information request in an attempt to clarify the situation.

Ironically a review of performance indicators, being considered by the Councils Executive later today, pointedly puts no focus on the appearance of the City’s streets.

While the Tories are being opportunistic in highlighting the current weed problems, they might have a point if a Council, committed at the recent election to raising street level public service standards, failed to address quickly and effectively significant failures when they have been identified.

BID funds more cycle parking spaces in central York

cycle-rack-esplanade-york

The York Business Improvement District (BID) team is reminding residents that additional cycle parking facilities were provided earlier in the year. Funded by the BID, the security hoops can be found at the following locations

# Blake Street

# High Petergate

# Spark: York Piccadilly

# Lord Mayors Walk

#Esplanade

#Deangate

#St Maurice’s Road

#George Street

#Castlegate Area

The overall capacity of city centre cycle parking was increased by 10%. Along with this the BID brought seven new signposts showing a map of the cities cycle routes and all the available cycle parking.

Each of the cycle racks features information and maps detailing cycle routes and parking around the city centre.

York BID’s Street Rangers also play a role in ensuring that as much bike parking is available as possible, by monitoring bikes that have been abandoned throughout all of the city’s cycle parking facilities.

“There is a high demand for dedicated cycle racks, so we regularly look out for bikes that have been left for long periods of time, and work with City of York Council to remove those that go unclaimed,”

Tags are attached to any bicycle that appears to have been abandoned, and if it not moved after a month, it is taken away for storage for a further month, before any unclaimed bikes are recycled and sold. 

A cycling map can be downloaded from this link (click)