York Council marketing restaurant unit at Guildhall

The Council have let a contract worth £16,000 to “market” the restaurant unit which it hopes to construct at the Guildhall.

The contract has been awarded to Reesdenton Ltd

Delays in deciding the future of the Guildhall have left the building in poor condition

The Council had earlier in the year let a £15.4 million contract for building works at the Guildhall  with  VINCI CONSTRUCTION UK LTD.

A new restaurant has recently been announced which will use the adjacent old Post Office building on Lendal. Jamie Oliver’s nearby restaurant has already closed

The total £20 million Guildhall redevelopment scheme has been criticised by residents who are concerned about the long term burden likely to be placed on taxpayers.

Delays in deciding the future of the building have resulted in escalating renovation costs.

£630 for fly-tipping furniture in car park

A York woman has been ordered to pay £630 for repeatedly fly-tipping, despite receiving waste disposal advice from City of York Council.

York Magistrates heard on Tuesday (3 December 2019) that Sharn Ogden (aged 27 of Martins Court, York) was seen disposing of a table and chairs in the car park of Martins Court on 29 July 2019.

City of York Council enforcement officers made multiple attempts to contact Ms Ogden, which she failed to respond to. On 13 August 2019, Ms Ogden admitted to leaving the waste and said she would take the items to the Household Waste and Recycling Centre. However when officers returned to Martins Court on 13 October 2019, the items had not been removed.

Since 2016, Ms Ogden has received several home visits from enforcement officers regarding waste issues in the area, six letters advising her how to present her waste correctly and two fly-tipping warnings.

Ms Ogden continued to present her waste unlawfully, has been charged for the removal of items and had now been prosecuted.

She attended court and pleaded guilty to one offence of fly-tipping. She was fined £312 by York Magistrates (3 December 2019) and ordered to pay costs of £286 and a surcharge of £32.

Tom Brittain Assistant Director for Housing and Community Safety at City of York Council, said: “We offer plentiful advice to residents on how to dispose of waste lawfully and safely and, as this and other cases show, we will take action when people fly-tip.

“It is important that rubbish is put out for collection as directed by the council. If you are unsure of your collection days, you can check at www.york.gov.uk/RefuseLookup or by calling us on 01904 551550.

“Residents can also take waste to our household waste recycling centres – see www.york.gov.uk/wasteandrecycling – or arrange for the council to collect it via www.york.gov.uk/BulkyWaste.”

Theft from vehicles exploiting key-less entry loop hole

The media are reporting today that a York Councillor’s car has fallen victim to a crime which may have exploited the vulnerabilities of “keyless” entry.

The incident, which took place “on street” in the Albemarle Road area of York, resulted in theft from the boot of the car.

Faraday pouch

You can find some advice on avoiding this type of theft via this link with more here

Essentially car owners are being recommended to store their car keys in a “Faraday Bag” which effectively blocks radio signals. One example is the “Defender” which can be found by clicking here

No doubt North Yorkshire police will be issuing more advice on what may be a growing issue.

Details of York Council football club loan published

A response to a Freedom of Information request has finally forced the Council to reveal the terms of its £350,000 loan to York City FC agreed in 2014. 

The loan was secured by a legal charge on the Bootham Crescent ground.

The loan involved annual repayments of £35,000.  

The balance of the loan is payable immediately if the Club sell Bootham Crescent. It is understood that a house builder still has an option to purchase the site when the football and rugby clubs move to the new LNER stadium in 2020.

In addition the Football Club has agreed to pay £2 million towards the cost of building the new stadium.

There is a legal charge on the club’s assets to cover this liability.

The Council continue to refuse to publish the valuations that they have undertaken on Bootham Crescent.

They also refuse to say how much rent they expect to receive from the football club at Monks Cross (the stadium part of the development is expected to cost around £16 million of the total £47 million cost of the whole development).

The council has confirmed that, once all processes have been complete, it intends to release the lease agreement with York City into the public domain.

Young volunteers deck the halls at Glen Lodge

An award-winning partnership between youth homeless charity SASH and the council have helped older residents deck the halls at Glen Lodge.

Glen Lodge

The Enable team was at the council-run Heworth independent living scheme on 28 November, when they provided and hung the Christmas decorations. This is the third session which Enable has completed at Glen Lodge this year: in the spring they redecorated a tenant’s flat and gave an area of the communal garden a makeover in the summer.

While carrying out the garden project the older tenants told the young volunteers how much they all loved Christmas, but getting the decorations up was a massive task. Following this the young people asked if they could help, Christmas decorations were sourced by the council and the team trimmed Christmas trees, played seasonal music and got into the festive mood with residents and staff.

This month’s makeover is the latest of 27 different projects carried out by the Enable team which consists of young people and colleagues from the youth homeless charity SASH, and City of York Council housing experts. The scheme was developed to improve the lives of younger and older people in York and in 2018 it won the Best Community Project at the York Community Pride Awards.

Over the past five years, young volunteers have given their time to help older people in York who struggle with jobs around the home and garden. In return they have learned new skills which will come in handy when they live in a place of their own.

Gary Hogg, SASH active project coordinator, said: “Enable’s projects have made a real and lasting difference to the lives of older people in York. The young people have made friends, spend time with older people, learned new skills and, perhaps most importantly, have seen first-hand just how much difference they can make to the lives of others.

“With this project, not only have they got Glen Lodge looking a treat for the festive season, but they’ve shared mince pies and some Christmas cheer with the tenants.”

Tom Brittain, assistant director of housing and community safety at City of York Council, said: “Our Enable project aims to give younger people a meaningful experience with home maintenance to help ensure that any tenancy they take on is a lasting success.

“We also want older people to benefit from their skills and enjoy their company. Thank you to everyone involved.”

Potholes report confirms York has a major problem and it is getting worse

A report on highway maintenance in the City reveals that the value of the current back log of maintenance is approximately one hundred and twelve million (£112 million) based on the current condition and cost of repairs.

The figure confirms what many residents had feared. The condition of York’s roads and footpaths is continuing to decline

A separate annex reveals that, in most parts of the City, between 3% and 10% of carriageways are rated as “structurally impaired”. These are “very poor”, the lowest condition rating.

The percentage of roads classified as “very poor” has increased in every ward in the City during the last 3 years.

The figures also confirm that the City’s roads have not recovered from the draconian maintenance cuts imposed by the then Labour administration in 2012.

More recently the new LibDem/Green led Council has substantially increased the resources allocated to highway maintenance.

 The figure also includes a delegated budget to be determined at ward level. There is little evidence that this money has so far been invested*.

The report says that from 1st April 2019 until 26th November 2019, the council has completed “16,646.3 m² of pothole repairs, this equates to 520 m² per week, this is 29.71 m² per day, per gang”.

This can be compared with the same period in 2018 when the council completed “7,586.4 m² of pothole repairs, this equates to 237 m² per week, with training etc. that was 18.9 m² per gang, per day”

Some of the parties vying for votes at the General Election are promising to fill in all potholes. Government funding has been consistently low in recent years.

We doubt that central government appreciates the scale of the backlog in maintenance work which currently exists

*Each ward also has a share of a £500,000 fund earmarked for improvements for “cyclists and pedestrians”. So far suggestions from residents for the use of this fund – for example to reduce ponding problems on routes across amenity areas – have produced little positive response from officials

Fly posters beginning to irritate residents

With the York Council having made some recent progress in getting to grips with the problem of graffiti in parts of the City, it is disappointing to see an upsurge in fly posting.

Fly posters have always been a problem with fairs, circuses and music venues among the main culprits.

But now the City centre is being covered in stickers.

These are mainly from fringe political groups. Ironically one of the main offenders is a climate change group who seem to be blissfully unaware of the environmental costs of removing the stickers

Given the move towards digital communications , there really is no justification for despoiling the City’s historic core in this way in the 21st century.

The Council, police and amenity societies need to take a stand against this trend.

Empty Council properties

The York Councils decision to spend over £2 million adding further properties to its investment portfolio has produced a backlash.

Critics have pointed to the ongoing delays in bring empty properties into use. Six months ago, a Freedom of information (FOI) request revealed a long list of under-used Council buildings. These included Oakhaven, Ashbank, Willow House, the Guildhall and, of course, 29 Castlegate.

The latter is one of the prime properties in the City centre and was valued at £575,000 in 2016. Since then there have been further increases in property prices in the City.

A further FOI tried to discover what progress has been made in selling the property following a decision by the York Civic Trust to pull out of a purchase deal 12 months ago. The FOI has been rejected (see right) on the grounds that there are ongoing commercial discussions taking place. It fails to reveal who is talking to whom about the empty property. No attempt has been made to let the property for temporary use in the busy Christmas period (it includes a frontage onto the Coppergate shopping centre).

Council response to FOI request

At last week’s Executive meeting, Councillors were challenged over their stewardship of the Council’s property estate.

They responded by claiming that the portfolio was “worth £335m and produced an income of £5.8m a year”.

This claim has prompted a further FOI request. A local resident now wants to see a list of all Council owned commercial properties, their value and the net income that each produces.

This is the kind of information that should be routinely provided for the Councils “scrutiny” committee. A six monthly review of investment returns is the least that taxpayers would expect to be published for public review.

Sadly, this no longer happens at the York Council.

Willow House

The delays in disposing of empty property is now a major issue for the authority. It some cases there may be good reasons for the delays but, if so, then there must be more transparency about the process*.

If the Council cannot effectively manage its estate, then there are companies in the City who would be delighted to help.   

*The Council has agreed to receive a staffing report on a 6-monthly basis. The reports will cover FTE numbers, Equality Data, Absence and Well Being, Starters and Leavers, reasons for leaving (i.e. retirement, redundancy, dismissal, settlement agreement) and Agency staff numbers.

Crowds add to litter problems in York

Its not just the transport systems that have been under pressure in York this weekend.

People have been pointing to issues with street cleansing in the City centre. Can’t be easy for Council staff and the BID team to keep on top of the problems with such high volumes of pedestrians around (not to mention the security zones).

Even in suburban areas we’ve been finding examples of full bins and badly littered streets. All have been reported for Council attention.

Full bin at Askham Lane bus stop
Same issue at the Cornlands Road shops
Shops forecourt badly littered