York economy performing well but….

St Nicholas market popular this year

The start of “Business Week” in the City coincides with the publication of a progress report by “Make it York” (MIY). This is the QUANGO charged with developing the York economy and particularly the visitor sector and markets.

Reading the report, one might think that all was rosy in the garden.

There has been a steady stream of tourists visiting the City this year. They have partly been attracted by a series of festivals while other initiatives like the food court on the market have attracted favourable publicity.

The complementary York BID scheme has produced tangible improvements to the streetscape coupled with imaginative lighting schemes.

However, part of the success in attracting foreign visitors is down to the low value of the pound.

The MIY report is singularly short of figures.

One look around the City centre, at this the busiest shopping period of the year, reveals that key shop units are still empty several years after they become vacant. The pile of empty shipping containers on Parliament Street doesn’t help while the surface of the City’s most popular car park (Castle) is in an appalling condition. Advanced car parking space availability signs – and their “on line” counterparts – haven’t worked for over 4 years.

This all adds to a depressed feel in the “high street”.

The report – to be considered by a Council scrutiny committee on 28th November – considers progress against a limited number of targets. Some issues, like the shortage of labour and key skills, aren’t mentioned.

Nor is any attempt made to assess the impact that BREXIT will have on the City economy over the next five years or more.

We hope that Councillors, faced with a bland report, will ask questions which root out any complacency.

Yuletide at York Mansion House: A festive preview at the re-furbished house

York residents and visitors are being invited to take a sneak preview at York’s newly restored Mansion House this festive season.

Fully dressed for the Christmas period – complete with decorative garlands and a 10ft Christmas tree – the Mansion House will open its doors to the public for the first time since its £2.6m restoration, on the first weekend in December (Saturday 2 – Sunday 3 December).

As well as seeing the new-look Mansion House restored to its former glory, visitors will also be able to find out more about Christmas culinary specialities through the ages with food historan and broadcaster, Dr Annie Gray.

Younger visitors will also be able to write a letter to Father Christmas, and hand it over to the Lord Mayor, Councillor Barbara Boyce, for her to send on to the North Pole, receiving some chocolate treats for their efforts.

Richard Pollit, Mansion House Curator, said: “This is the first chance visitors will get to have a look at the incredible outcome of the resoration project. We’re so excited to open the doors to the public for the first time and are really looking forward to welcoming our first visitors.”

Councillor Keith Orrell, Interim Executive Member for Economic Development and Community Engagement, City of York Council, said: “York Mansion House is a beautiful building at any time of the year, but during the Christmas period it really take centre stage in the city. I hope that local residents will take this opportunity to see for themselves the marvellous retoration work – the biggest since the house was finished in 1732 – and find out more about the unique history of York’s Mansion House than ever before.”

The restoration includes a new-look exterior, with a brick-coloured facade and a polychrome crest – a colour scheme voted for by York residents in 2016 – and thought to be similar to how the Manison House would have looked in the 1890s.

The Mansion House will be officially re-opened on 27 January 2018 (Residents’ First Weekend), when visitors will be able to see the newly curated silver galleries for the first time.

York residents can get half price entry to the Mansion House with a York Card or proof of residence (such as a Council Tax bill). Full price entrance is £6.50 for adults, £5 for concessions and £3.50 for children. The house is open every day (except Mondays and Tuesdays) between 10.30 and 5pm until Saturday 23 December.

More details are available at www.mansionhouseyork.com. Tickets are now available and can be purchased by clicking here 

The ‘Opening Doors’ restoration project was made thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), funding from City of York Council and a variety of grants and generous donations totalling £2.6 million. The project sought to improve the visitor experience by beautifully restoring this gem of York’s architectural history, allowing more people than ever to enjoy it.

More to be banned from becoming Councillors in York?

York’s Standards Committee, which monitors Councillors behaviour, is being asked to support government moves to extend the range of offences which preclude people from standing for election.

There are already a wide range of exclusions including anyone having been convicted of a criminal offence, with at least a 3-month prison penalty, during the previous 5 years. Other disqualifications prevent some Council officials, teachers and bankrupts from seeking election.

The Government now considers that anyone who is subject to sex offender notification requirements, commonly referred to as ‘being on the sex offenders register’, should be barred from standing for election. Residents may have some sympathy with that view.

The government goes further and proposes to exclude anyone who is subject to some anti-social behaviour orders i.e. Civil Injunction or a Criminal Behaviour Order.

However, anyone subject to a dispersal, community protection, public spaces protect, or closure order will be able to seek election. We think there is a case for requiring anyone in this category to reveal the fact in any literature they may distribute when seeking election.

We do not, however, expect to see a mass exodus of “Yoof” in the general direction of the local polling booth.

More serious, though, is the way that in which the Standards Committee is failing its own Council members. Two have been under suspicion of wrongdoing now for three months. They have been (very publicly) sacked from paid jobs on the Executive and have been given no indication when they will have the opportunity to hear any evidence which may be available against them, much less have they had any opportunity to respond.

That simply isn’t good enough.

If the police had any evidence of wrongdoing they would have acted by now.

It is for the Councils own committees to bring the matter to a swift conclusion.

The committee may also wish to look at whether the individual circumstances of other Councillors may have changed since they qualified to stand at the last election.

Essentially Councillors need to have their principal place of residence or work in the Council area and/or own property in the area.

Judging by the councils web site, no fewer than 12 of the 47 Councillors give only “West Offices” as their contact address. All will have had to declare their home address on their nomination forms before being elected, so why the rush for secrecy now?

Gone it seems are the days when a taxpayer could pop a note about an issue through the letterbox of their local representative.

In fairness all the Conservative, Green and Independent Councillors publish their home addresses. All but one of the LibDems also do the same.

Quite why 2/3 of Labour Councillors seem to have gone into hiding is unclear

NB One Conservative Councillor has been offering their home for sale for some months now. Whether this is to allow them to move closer to the ward that they represent hasn’t been revealed. Alternatively they may have moved away from the City.

One Labour Councillor gives neither his home address or a contact Email address on the Council web site!

Nearly 100 elderly and disabled residents to lose York garden care help

The York Council has gone through today with its threat to cease the hedge and grass cutting service provided for many elderly and disabled people in the City

As we forecast, the Council is hoping to save £46,000 a year expenditure on its housing revenue account (HRA).

The HRA currently has a surplus of over £23 million and made £4.3m profit last year

The garden assistance scheme is available to tenants aged over 70 who are physically unable to cut the hedges and grass in their gardens.

The hedges are cut twice a year and the grass on 7 occasions.

409 tenants received the service in 2016.

365 received the service in 2017 following a tightening of the criteria for qualification.

It is thought that the new scheme involving use of the “handyman service” could cater for up to 306 elderly people.

The rest would not be given help. A waiting list might have to be established.

The service will in future be means rested.

The cut has been agreed by a Tory Councillor without any consultation with local Resident Associations or the citywide Tenants Federation.

 

 

Liberal Democrat Councillor supporting young people’s voice across Yorkshire and the Humber

Ashley Mason with Members of Youth Parliament and Youth Council Leads from across Yorkshire and the Humber

Liberal Democrat and City of York Councillor, Ashley Mason, is taking a regional role to champion the voice of over 500,000 young people in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Cllr Mason, who has a track record in supporting the York Youth Council, has been supporting the regional Youth Work Unit to ensure young people have access to information and resources, in order to enable them to have their say in local and regional decision-making.

Cllr Mason is now working to create an online digital platform for all young people to access. It will contain useful information on how decisions are made, which bodies are responsible for services and what the role is of their elected representatives.

On Saturday the 18th November, Councillor Mason met with 12 young people, from respective Local Authorities, to discuss the creation of a possible digital platform. The discussion included Members of Youth Parliament and Youth Council from: Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, York, Doncaster, North Yorkshire, Rotherham, Barnsley and North East Lincolnshire.

Cllr Ashley Mason said:

“It was great to discuss my plans with these highly engaged and passionate young people. It was abundantly clear that there is a lot of disparity across the 12 local authorities, in regards to engagement and access to information. This new resource will help any young person wanting to learn more about organisations such as Councils and CCGs and in turn, help them influence the decisions that affect young people in their communities.

Cllr Mason added “I have given up a lot of my time to this project work; championing the voices of young people is something I feel very passionate about. It is so encouraging to have the full support of the young people I have spoken too and to hear what impact this could have. I am also very grateful to the Regional Youth Work Unit, who are equally as enthusiastic about this project as I am,”

The website is intended to be launched at the Young Peoples Convention in Northallerton, January 2018. The project is currently being self-financed by Cllr Mason, but anyone interested in supporting or contributing to this valuable project should email cllr.amason@york.gov.uk

Brighter futures for children in care in York

Employee volunteering charity York Cares and the council have been working together on a project to help young people in care acquire the skills and experience to prepare them for their next steps.

Called Bright Futures, this ongoing joint project aims to help those aged between 11 and 18 by matching them with employers from across the city who can offer taster days, behind the scenes visits and skills workshops.

This week of opportunities took place ahead of activities run around the tenth national Takeover Challenge which this year will run from 24 November 2017. The Challenge involves organisations across England opening their doors to children and young people and letting them take over adult roles.

York Cares works with many of the city’s leading employers several of whom, over the course of the Bright Futures week, delivered activities to young people in care in Years 7 to 13. Many different sectors were showcased by employers throughout the week from construction to performing arts giving young people an insight into a range of careers.

Activities that have taken place included building firm Evora offering a young person an insight into architecture and setting them the challenge to design their own house. A group of young people took to the bikes at York Sport Village and learnt about the range of roles available within the leisure industry. Young people also visited York Theatre Royal, Askham Bryan College, Portakabin, and The Dormouse pub which have all given young people a taster of what they could expect from working there.

After one activity, a young person said, “I will probably come back here and apply for a job!” demonstrating how inspiring activities with employers can be for young people thinking about their futures.
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Action taken – Sheena steps in to deal with Tedder Road park problems

As we reported last week, the Council has been slow to deal with a hazard presented by an overgrown rose bush on the Tedder Road park. Its thorn branches have been overhanging a footpath at eye height for several weeks.

Cllr. Sheena Jackson has now taken direct action herself over the weekend and cut back the dangerous branches . We hope that the Council will soon trim the rest of the bush.

While in the park, Sheena took the opportunity to sweep up the leaf fall in the well used snicket which links Otterwood Lane and the Tedder Road park. The Council has been asked to clear broken glass from several locations in the area.

Residents are reminded that the current cycle is the last for emptying green bins (garden waste – including leaves) until April.

 

What’s on in York: An Evening With Ali Smith

Nov _23 Ali Smith 2015 By Sarah Wood

York Explore Library :

Thu 23 Nov :

6.30pm – 8.00pm :

£5

Penguin and Waterstones present award-winning author, Ali Smith, who will be discussing her new novel, Winter. The follow-up to her sensational Autumn, Smith’s shape-shifting quartet of novels casts a merry eye over a bleak post-truth era with a story rooted in history, memory and warmth, its taproot deep in the evergreens: art, love, laughter.

Ali has previously been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, the Folio Prize and the Orange Prize, and has been the winner of the Baileys Prize, the Goldsmiths Prize and the Costa Novel Award.

Waterstones logoBook at Waterstones York, by phone (01904) 620784.

To book tickets please click here.