“Get a grip” call to local Councillors as footpath weed problem spreads

Residents have called on local Councillors to intervene to ensure that weeds growing on local paths and gutters are cleared. Today’s weather, damp and warm, is likely to see the problem get worse over the weekend.

Weeds are obstructing footpaths, gullies and garage areas in the Westfield Ward

In the little Green Lane garage area grass is now growing through the recently resurfaced forecourt. It is a similar situation in Windsor Garth

The weather also means that hedges will be growing more quickly. We’ve reported this bramble bush which is obstructing the public footpath near the entrance to Hob Moor school
Although the Council says that they have removed litter from the Tithe Close snicket, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Similar situation on The Reeves snicket
The only thing that the Council seems to be doing quickly this summer is knocking down parts of west York. This is all that is now left of the Windsor House elderly persons home. There is some mud on local roads which needs to be monitored.
Still no sign of the replacement for the children’s games area at Hob Moor. Contractors using the old all weather games area for storage are at least polite!

Call for Askham Lane footpaths to be resurfaced.

More issues with overgrown hedges reported

The bitmac footpaths on the odd numbered side of Askham Lane need to be resurfaced. The paths are cracking up and are gradually being eroded by the adjoining verge. The York Council has promised to invest heavily this year in getting roads and paths back into a safe condition.
More hedges are now obstructing local paths and cycle tracks. These are in the Gale Lane/Thanet Road area. All have been reported to the Council.
In the same area, weeds are overgrowing the public footpath while the verges haven’t been properly cut this year. Again, we have asked the Council to take action.
Its not just west York that is suffering from the blight of weeds. Councillors on the east of the City are reporting similar problems in villages like Dunnington

57 complaints last year received by Ombudsman about the City of York Council

The Local Government Ombudsman was asked to investigate 57 complaints about the York Council last year.

Transport and planning issues attracted the most complaints.

Ombudsman complaints 2018/19

The equivalent figure for the North Yorkshire County Council was 82 complaints in total, with Adult Social Care and Children’s Services being the most criticised.

The figures are included in the annual report of the Ombudsman

Of the York complaints, 21 were further investigated by the Ombudsman.

Of these, 11 were upheld. A full  list can be found here (click)

The Ombudsman says that the Council complied with their recommendations in all 11 cases although there were delays in 3 instances.

The annual letter from the Ombudsman to the York Council can also now be read on their web site (click)

It includes a “public interest” report about the Council’s failure to provide adequate support for a couple with a terminally ill baby.

The report says that social workers did not visit the baby in hospital

The Ombudsman’s findings are normally reported to a Council committee for consideration and possible changes to procedures.

Extract from the Ombudsman’s annual letter 2019 to York Council

More problems with hedges blockng footpaths

Pedestrians should take care when using the Tithe Close/Tedder Road snicket. A potentially hazardous thorn branch is overhang the path at eye height.
The Reeves snicket is also being obstructed. We’ve reported the increase in litter in the area.
Even more overgrown is the snicket link from Gale Lane to Bachelor Hill. More dumped rubbish also reported.
Although attractive, the roses on Dickson park also need trimming back from the footpath
Similar problems on Askham Lane
Potholes a problem for cyclists at the Dijon Avenue/Lowfield Drive junction
At the same location there is little evidence of weed treatment.

Labour wants to plunge York further into debt

£75,000 salary for “Children’s Commissioner”

A huge increase in borrowing is proposed in a Labour party amendment to the York Councils budget plans.

£2.5 million extra will be borrowed with more being taken from reserves currently earmarked to provide additional social housing.

They say, most of the extra money will be spent on reducing “damp” in Council housing. The Council had already let a contract for £2 million to address this issue on 11th May.

The Council has record debt levels with over 22% of what a resident pays in Council Tax set to be spent on interest charges by 2022.

Plans for a “Children’s Commissioner” on a fat cat £75k salary, appear to be equally misguided. The Council has a well-paid Executive Councillor with responsibilities in the same area.

Labour also plans to cut £1/4 million from the “safer communities” crime reduction budget. This is an extraordinary misjudgement of the problems that exist in parts of the City with anti-social behaviour, drug misuse, graffiti and vandalism on the increase.

Instead money would be spent on two additional talking shops; a “Human Rights Commission” and a “Carbon Neutral City Citizens Assembly” are proposed.

The only part of the Labour plan which might gain some support is a proposed investment of £40,000 in reducing, to one day, the target time taken to remove “fly tipping”. Some may, however, feel that the first step should be to improve bulky waste collection arrangements and reintroduce regular visits by “skips” to key estates.

The Council’s revised budget proposals will be debated tomorrow (Wednesday)

Big investment in York Public Services

Council leadership set to prioritise road repairs, play facilities, housing, energy efficiency and Social Care.

The new Council leadership has announced changes to the budget that it inherited. As expected, extra investment in improvements to street level public services are planned.

There will be extra investment in

More to be spent on road repairs
  • Removing graffiti
  • Additional Litter bins
  • Tree management
  • Crime reduction
  • Waste collection
  • Street environment (cleaning and community projects)
  • Buses
  • Electric vehicle charging point maintenance.

The biggest investment will be £1 million spent on road repairs and a further £1 million on cycling/walking improvements

There will be a £250,000 boost for children’s play facilities.

The Council will invest £1 million in speeding up housing modernisation and a further £1 million on energy efficiency improvements

£22,000 is being taken for the reserves to improve children’s and adult social care standards.

Several of the proposals are less than transparent. We are told, for example, that the Council will “Re-purpose funding from the Leeds City Region Business Rates Pilot to strengthen our approach to inclusive growth, including child poverty, greening the high street and promote lifelong learning

We think that there is unlikely to be rioting in the streets as a result of the Councils decision to discontinue the “digital immersive model” marketing project. There may be public unrest if the Council doesn’t publish its reports in plain English in future.

Also, the Council will fund “connections with communities most impacted by EU exit to better understand their needs, and to take forward the community hubs work initiated”

Four schemes are intended to be self-funding. They relate to foster care, Special Education Needs and Disability pupils, Public Health and mental health.

The proposals will be welcomed by many in the City. It will, however, take more than £1 million to get the City’s roads back into good order. 

£4.25 million of the plan is capital investment, meaning higher debt charges in the future (and less to spend in the revenue budget).

The plans are likely to be criticised for failing to clearly identify the objectives of some of the changes with no detail given of how the success of the projects will be measured.

No KPIs are listed and there is no clear vision of how the City will look in 4 years’ time.

Residents may feel that prompt attention to reducing the costs of some inherited major projects is necessary, especially if demands on taxpayers in future years are to remain under control.

It really shouldn’t cost £35,000 to “ launch a public Citizen’s Assembly on how the Council can best work in an open way

The Council must become a “can do” rather than a “can talk” organisation.

Still it’s a start, and a better one than was managed by the last two Council administrations.

The proposal will be discussed at a meeting taking place on 17th July

A full list of budget proposals can be read by clicking here

Full list of budget changes
Budget changes list continued

York Business Improvement District performance review

320,000 pieces of chewing gum removed from pavements.

York Councillors will be considering  a report on Wednesday that reviews the work of the York BID.  The, mainly business funded organisation, was formed in April 2016 and aims to improve the attractiveness of the City centre.

The report includes an impressive list of achievements. The blight of chewing gum on footpaths is produces a particularly eye catching headline. In addition, 961 pieces of graffiti and fly posters have been removed.

The BID ranger service has also helped to reduce anti-social behaviour and address other criminal activities.

There has been a 1.9% increase in footfall in the City.

The report comes at a time when the government has announced that it will not be funding an initiative to regenerate the York  “Future High Street” The shortlisted cities include places like Wakefield and Sheffield, but North Yorkshire has been snubbed.

Last month the government, the Architectural Heritage Fund and the National Lottery Heritage Fund announced a £62 million package of support to breathe new life into historic high streets across the country, to restore historic buildings, create new work spaces and cultural venues. As part of the overall funding, £55 million had been allocated from the Future High Streets Fund. We still hope to see York benefit from this type of government support.

The York BID has been successful initiative and has made a real difference to the quality of the City centre. It has been criticised for drawing Council resources away from sub-urban centres like Acomb but overall the BID is viewed positively.

There are ongoing issues with more improvements needed to the streetscape – too many weeds and too much graffiti – and of course empty properties. The latter in areas like Coney Street now look to be intractable problems, which is why the governments attitude to the City is so disappointing.

Some underused sites and buildings – including those owned by the Council – need to be redeveloped quickly now. The meeting on Wednesday will hear from the Executive member with responsibility for “Economy and Strategic Planning”. Members will no doubt be hoping to hear some positive news about the use of empty property economic development activities in the whole of the City.

We hope that corporate interests will similarly ensure that prominent, but derelict, sites like that next to the Barbican will also now be developed (or at least tidied up).

Overall the BID has had a successful 3 years and can look with confidence to an extension of its mandate.

NB. “Make it York” is reporting separately on its activities click here to read their report

Council hurriedly publishes who does what list

The Council has now published several updates to its constitution.

The changes haven’t been through any democratic process so fail the transparency test.

Amongst the documents now on the Council web site “library”” are sections covering


Executive Member responsibilities (click)

Council Committees and Other Bodies

 Scrutiny Review Procedure Rules

Overview and Scrutiny

Some of the Executive member responsibilities will raise eyebrows.

Splitting responsibility for “parks and open spaces” from “sport and leisure” does’t look like joined up thinking. Both are areas where the last Council had major policy failures, so some sort of refresh is needed.

Extract from new York Executive responsibilities as at June 2019

Call for clarity on public service standards from York Council

Perhaps not surprisingly, the change in political control of the York Councils affairs has produced an hiatus in decision making. The published forward programme of decisions which need to be made is very thin (click to link)

They new Council Leadership is perhaps wise to be cautious and to avoid the impulsive decision making, in the wake of election euphoria, which has been the undoing of some previous administrations

However, over a month after the polls, residents are little wiser on who now has responsibility for overseeing the different aspects of Council policy and performance. All we have are vague – and seemingly controversial in some quarters – job titles.

The result is a lack of clarity with crucial street level public service standards under pressure. Surprisingly few of the new intake of Councillors have so far communicated direct with the people who elected them. A “thank you for your support” leaflet was de rigueur until recently.

As we reported yesterday, some haven’t even included a contact telephone number on their Council web page yet (click link) NB. Councillors are recompensed for telephone costs through the “basic allowance” that they receive.

Meanwhile there are issues across the whole City which should be resolved quickly. The Councils PR team should be tasked with informing residents what will happen, when and to what quality.

Paths obstructed by overgrown hedges
Grass not cut (Bishopgate Street)
Weeds blighting streets
Verges need cutting

York Council publishes contact arrangements for new Councillors

All now have Email addresses but several have not yet published contact phone numbers

York Councillor contact arrangements

Download from this link

We hope that Councillors will soon publish their contact telephone numbers. These will be required by residents when problems arise outside office hours.

NB.Councillors receive payments as part of their allowances which refund the cost of telephone and broadband facilities at their homes. They are also supplied with equipment such as tablet computers.

Most Councillors now have a presence on social media although some are markedly more enthusiastic in using it to provide news updates than others.

We will update and republish the contact details when all the spaces have been filled in.