Small Business Saturday Bus launches York campaign

York will see the  Small Business Saturday Bus  roll into the city on Tuesday 18 November to launch the city’s drive to encourage residents and visitors to show their support for local small businesses on Small Business Saturday, taking place on 6 December 2014.

small-business-saturday-bus-tour

Small Business Saturday is about encouraging everyone in the UK to support small businesses with events and promotions being held on what is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

The Small Business Saturday bus tour is promoting the campaign in advance to shoppers and also handing out vital promotional material to help businesses be involved on the day. The arrival of the bus offers an opportunity for small business owners to gain advice and tell the Small Business Saturday team and City of York Council’s York Means Business team what they are doing to celebrate Small Business Saturday. The bus will be located in St Helen’s Square from 11am until 3pm.

York will be celebrating Small Business Saturday itself by hosting a market celebrating York’s independent businesses. Located along Duncombe Place (outside York Minster) and organised by City of York Council and the Proudly™ initiative, itself  a collective of York’s independent businesses,the event will feature local businesses selling goods and sharing their unique stories.
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Lendal Bridge Inquiry to be revived

£162,000 refunded so far to motorists who were illegally fined.

It looks like the Labour Councillors who were responsible for the £1.3 million Lendal Bridge closure fiasco will not get away scot free.Lendal bridge notice

In August, when Labour still had a Council majority, they voted not to undertake a review of what went wrong with the trial closure.

Now a report, suggesting that a full and open inquiry into the failure should take place, is to be considered on 12th November.

  • Residents will be eager to learn how a scheme, that was obviously failing only one month into the trial, was  allowed to continue for another 6 months.
  • They will be expecting the legal advice received by the Council at each stage to be made public.
  • They will want to know what secret meetings took place and how they influenced the Councils position.
  • They will look very carefully at the public statements made by officials and Council members in March and April 2014 – after the enforcement arrangements had been found to be unlawful – and which gave the impression that the cameras were still being used for enforcement purposes.
  • The committee will also no doubt wish to look in detail at the costs that were incurred, not least those that accumulated during an ill considered attempt to appeal against the decision of the Traffic Penalty Tribunal Adjudicator

Most of all they will be looking to the Council to remove its arbitrary December deadline for refund applications – from those fined unlawfully – and to finally agree to write directly to all those affected telling them of their right to claim a refund.

So far 7,783 refund claims have been processed.

To date a total of £162k has been refunded as part of the refund process.

However, we understand that some claims have been refused and information about how many – and why – is urgently being sought by LibDem Councillors.

Income from the Lendal Bridge trial totalled £1,378,000. There was administrative expenditure totalling £527k which primarily covered the cost of processing penalty charge notices. As part of the year end accounts the Council made provision of £708,000 to cover the refund penalty charge notices.

 Separately the report confirms that the Adjudicator has still not dealt with an appeal against his decision on Coppergate. No camera enforcement of the Coppergate restrictions is currently taking place.

Cllr Andrew Waller – the new chair of theEconomic & City Development Scrutiny Committee  which will consider the report next week –  commented:

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Disabled scooter riders seek dropped kerb on Martin Cheeseman Court

Disabled residents living in flats in the Martin Cheeseman Court area have asked the Council to provide a dropped kerb.

Location of proposed dropped kerb

Location of proposed dropped kerb

At present those elderly people, who rely on battery powered scooters to get around, have difficulty getting off the footpath.

Cllr Andrew Waller has been asked to intervene and ensure that a dropped kerb is added to the forward works programme.

Acomb Toilet closed again

Acomb toilet closed again

Acomb toilet closed again

The public convenience in Acomb has been closed again

Once again no explanation for the closure, or estimated time when the facility will reopen, has been posted by the Council.

Roof repairs were expected to be undertaken during September but there is no sign of active work retaking place on the site this week.

The Council was criticised in the spring for closing the facility without making available a portaloo or an update on the scale and timetable for the modernisation work.

The Council should not only post a notice on the building explaining what is going on, but also update its web site with details and brief the local media.

 

 

 

Ouse bridge weeds in rude good health

Ouse bridge weeds 25th September 2014

Ouse bridge weeds 25th September 2014

Almost 4 months after the weed growth on Ouse Bridge was first reported to the Council they continue to thrive.

The Council agreed in the summer to ensure that they were treated with weed killer but – if the process ever took place – it has proved to be ineffective.

Great shame as the bridge is well used by both residents and tourists and the undergrowth is a poor advert for the City centre.

Hopefully the Council will act before the structural integrity of the bridge is compromised.

We now understand that they are to try to pull the weeds by hand

 

Labour Council first to fail ‘value for money’ test

External auditors have offered only a “qualified” judgement on Labour run York Council’s 2013/14 accounts due to failings in adult social care.

Lowfields care village - 3 years behind schedule

Lowfields care village – 3 years behind schedule

At last night’s meeting of the council’s Audit & Governance Committee it was confirmed that auditors Mazars would only offer a “qualified” judgement on the council’s accounts, specifically their ‘Value for Money’ assessment.

A report presented to the committee said there were “weaknesses in budgetary control and financial management in Adult Social Care services….a lack of understanding and ownership of budgets….and performance information was limited”.

It said “during 2013/14 the service did not demonstrate an ability to address the issues that it faced” and financial arrangements in place were “not strong enough”.

The final announcement comes in the wake of serious delays in a  number of social care projects.

Key amongst these are plans to construct a state of the art centre on the Lowfields school site which would have made the service more efficient.

The project is 3 years behind scheduled and Labour Councillors have refused to reveal why, although no formal contract for the facility has yet been advertised for tender.

Cllr Nigel Ayre, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health and a member of the Audit & Governance Committee, commented:

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York Council to investigate failings of weed treatment contractors

Weeds 1 York Council 0

Dijon Avenue garage area choked with weeds

Dijon Avenue garage area choked with weeds

The York Council has now acknowledged that weed control in the City in general – and Acomb in particular – has been inadequate this summer.

They are even suggesting that the contractor who was supposed to treat the weed growth may not have been doing the job correctly.

This will come as no surprise to residents with weeds in some streets now over 3 feet tall.

One of the biggest problem areas are the  forecourts of rented garages,

Andrew Waller points out some dumping which he reported on Saturday in the little Green Lane garage area

Andrew Waller points out some dumping which he reported on Saturday in the little Green Lane garage area

which have been badly neglected by the Housing Department.

It is not just weed growth, damaged perimeter fences and poor surfaces that plague the garage areas, many are subject to dumping.

Time, we think, for the Housing Department to invest some of its £12.7 million surplus in raising standards in our estates.

Increased cost of Community Stadium is bad news for taxpayers

Future of Waterworld and Yearsley pools under threat

08-27-2014-08-48-27-555

Labour are circulating a glossy brochure ahead of the publication of a report on the future of leisure provision in the City.  Private briefings to staff and media have raised serious issues about the future of swimming and other facilities in the City.

The project will now cost £37 million in total with Greenwich Leisure (who have operated Waterworld for the last 3 years) taking on responsibility for all major sporting and swimming facilities in the City.

Greenwich Leisure are a CIC although the level of local York engagement – if any – in their management decisions and structure has yet to be announced.

Community Stadium

The project will cost taxpayers £8 million more than originally budgeted. It had been expected that a 6000 seater stadium and replacement athletics track could be built for the £12 million contribution from the John Lewis development.  The Council would have contributed only the value of the Huntington Stadium site (conservatively assessed as £4.1 million). The Football Foundation would have put in the £2 million that it had loaned against the value of a redeveloped Bootham Crescent.

Later Labour said that they would spend the £4 million contingency included in the Councils budget for the project. This had been included as a potential loan which would be repaid from stadium income.

Now Labour are stating that they will borrow an additional £4 million bringing the taxpayers contribution up to £8 million in total, with the stadium capacity increased to 8000 (it costs roughly £1 million for every additional bank of 1000 seats).

It is highly unlikely that such an additional burden could be passed on to the Football and Rugby clubs with details of their rental agreements not having yet been revealed.

At a time when the campaign forsafe standing” – backed by the Liberal Democrats is gaining momentum – local fans will be bemused that the design does not appear to provide for rail seats (although this modification could still be made)

Council taxpayers will be responsible for the debt repayment charges on the amount borrowed which will be around £600,000 a year. It is far from clear where this money will come from although some additional “commercial elements” have been designed into the scheme.

Given the controversy about out of city centre shopping, this raises doubts about how long the planning process might take and with it the ability of any contractor to meet a July 2016 opening date.

 Waterworld

Waterworld and its associated gym will close in December.

A new pool and gym will be designed into the stadium. However it will be more conventional than Waterworld with only a small “fun” pool included.

Waterworld is only 20 years old and with that kind of life one wonders how durable such facilities now are? (The Barbican pool lasted for 40 years, Yearsley is over 100 years old)

Since the opening of the Sports Village on Hull Road, the Council has met national standards for the provision of swimming pools.  There is insufficient demand to pay for an additional swimming pool (which is why Labour quietly dropped their plans for a city centre pool).

Yearsley Pool

Under Labours plans, the opening of the new pool at Huntington will mean the end of the Council subsidy (around £250k pa) for the Yearsley pool. The unique 50 yard pool has fought off two previous attempts by Labour to close it although ironically in early 2011 – following a £1 million refit undertaken by the then LibDem controlled Council – Labour invented a bogus  “closure” rumour and campaigned against something that was not going to happen.  A new boiler was fitted at the pool meaning that the steam heat supply from the Nestle site could not attract disproportionately high charges.

Yearsley Pool

Yearsley Pool

Labour have now performed a 180 degree policy about turn.

The only chance for the pool would be for users to acquire the site and run it independently as a community asset. However it is highly unlikely that that increased admission charges could make up the financial deficit – more so as it would have to complete with three other modern pools in the City not to mention those at several independent sports clubs, hotels and schools.

Its only hope would be for Nestle to relent and allow a profitable gym to be added although this might involve them losing some car parking space.

Energise

The management of Energise – the sports facility on Cornlands Road – seems less threatened by the take over plans.

The centre is very popular and no doubt Greenwich Leisure will want to keep it that way.  However standardisation of charges and facilities, together with focusing some types of provision at just one site, may prove to be a challenge in the future.

No guarantees are being offered on admission charges although heavy competition from the private sector may help to keep them down.

What next?

The Stadium project is running over two years behind timetable. The publication of a report, for decision by the Councils Cabinet on 9th September, is belated but welcome.

Residents will be looking very carefully at the business plan for the new facility as the Council – which will remain the freeholder – does not want to risk having to step in to recover a failing project a few years down the line (as happened in Huddersfield a few years ago).

The changes to the retail component of the project do raise planning issues that may take some time to resolve, jeopardising the construction start date..

Whether a July 2016 opening date is realistic remains to be seen.

Poor footpaths, litter and dumping – time for the York Council to take notice

Dangerous footpaths

Dangerous footpaths

The York Council needs to get a grip of the growing number of issues affecting the estates that it is responsible for managing.

Litter

Litter

Dumping

Dumping

Dozens of issues are being reported to the Council with little feedback.

A petition has been started in Chapelfields asking the Council to improve parking arrangements and provide better maintenance of communal areas

 

Neglect in City continues

Ouse Bridge 7th August 2014

Ouse Bridge 7th August 2014

A couple of months ago we reported that public service standards in the City had declined.

Ouse Bridge York June 2014

Ouse Bridge York June 2014

One particular problem was weed growth – with Ouse Bridge badly affected.

The weeds were not only a potential threat to the integrity of the bridge but were an eyesore in a particularly sensitive area.

So it is disappointing to find that two months later no action has been taken to address the issue.