Labour cut waste collection, road maintenance, community centres, libraries, elderly persons homes, ice clearance, job training and Social Services.

Cuts to street level services click to enlarge

Cuts to street level services click to enlarge

Labour’s hopelessly misjudged Council budget proposals are set to be approved tonight. Cuts to all front line public services are planned yet

Labour also intend to retain a £1 million a year “slush fund” which is used to pay for a range of inessential “vanity” projects.

The £1 million this year has been used to pay for lighting and firework displays, free WiFi access in the City centre, a plan to open the Bonding warehouse as a “digital media hub”, building design competitions, an “innovation catalyst” programme; not to mention the occasional foreign travel trip.

More waste is evident in the Councils capital programme where commitments to introducing an unnecessary Citywide 20 mph speed limit and the purchase of a barge for use as an arts centre have seen interest payments, on borrowed money, double since Labour took control of the Council.

Abandoning these “vanity” projects and making good use of the reduced running costs (down by £375,000) of its new HQ would allow the Council to restore many of the most damaging cuts.

Labour’s key proposals would see:

A 1.9% hike in Council tax levels (despite central government offering to underwrite the costs of a freeze)

• Privatisation or outsourcing of leisure/swimming pool management the Warden Call service and the “Sheltered housing with extra care” service. Even the Mansion House will be commercialised

Grants to Museums Trust cut by £100,000, the Theatre Royal by £101,000 with similar % cuts other voluntary sector bodies

• At a time when people are rightly worried following revelations about meat quality, trading standards faces a £42,000 cut, while there will be less air quality monitoring.

• There will be less for job training as Future Prospects loses £150,000

• The closure of elderly persons homes will be brought forward meaning that some residents face double moves before new accommodation is completed. In 2014 pensioners will face a 90p charge when using their passes on Park and Ride services

Disabled facilities at Greenworks and Brunswick Nursery cut by £50,000 Supported employment budget cut by £200,000 forcing disabled people into “mainstream employment”

Social Service clients with personal budgets will lose out from a £500,000 budget cut

Looked after children – basically those with foster parents – face a £700,000 cut with another £400,000 to come off in 2014.

Respite services get a £50,000 reduction.

Children’s centres face a £128,000 cut in 2014

• The toy library bus will scrapped in 2014

Some reductions in expenditure were inevitable.

Labour have simply chosen to economise on the wrong services.

Meanwhile there are some concerns about the likely quality of tonights Council debate

Bus usage up in York

Bus usage in York

Bus passenger numbers have increased by 9% in the third quarter of the financial year compared to the same period last year (4,086,429 compared to 3,757,029 in 2010/11). As a result, it is now expected that passenger numbers will meet the annual target of 15 million.

Park & Ride passenger numbers have also increased.

The figures bring into question the Councils decision to spend over £200,000 redesigning the bus network. They plan to “franchise” services in the City. This means that the Council would specify routes, frequencies and fare levels on services against which the bus companies would submit tenders. It is a proposal which could be unaffordable in the new economic climate.

NB. The number of people using car parks in York is also forecast to increase by 3% this year. From April to November this year 1,098,883 people used car parks.

North Yorkshire Police mobile safety (speed) camera routes 29 February – 6 March 2012

North Yorkshire Police will be carrying out mobile safety camera enforcement on the following roads between Wednesday 29 February and Tuesday 6 March 2012. (York area only. Full list on Police web site)

•A64 east-bound carriageway Bowbridge Farm Tadcaster
•Strensall Road, Huntington, York
•A1237 Monks Cross, York
•The Village, Stockton-on-the-Forest, York
•A1036 Malton Road, York
•York Road, Haxby, York
•A64 west-bound carriageway, Bowbridge Farm, Tadcaster
•Broadway, Fulford, York
•Murton Way, Muton, York
•Fordlands Road, Fulford, York

The mobile safety cameras will be in operation at the above sites at various times during the dates stated. Cameras will not be in use on the above routes all day, every day

Proposed changes to York Sunday bus services 112 & 113

Click to enlarge

Major changes are planned to the Sunday bus services which provide links to Copmanthorpe, Bishopthorpe and Skelton. This results from the decision by Coastliner to discontinue their 112 and 113 services.

The Council are proposing to subsidise 3 new services one of which would route down Tadcaster Road.

The Council propose the following option for Sunday services in place of the existing services on routes 112 and 113:
• Provision of an hourly service between Bishopthorpe and the city centre via South Bank on the same route as the weekday route 11.
• Provision of an hourly service between Copmanthorpe and the city centre on the same route as the weekday route 13.
• Provision of an hourly service between Skelton and the city centre on the same route as the weekday route 19.
• No direct services between Skelton, Clifton Moor, Wigginton, Haxby and Monks Cross.
• No services before 10.00 or after 19.00 on these routes.

Comments on the new arrangements by emailing transport.planning@york.gov.uk or writing to Paul Brand, City of York Council, 9 St Leonard’s Place, YORK, YO1 7ET. Please ensure that your comments are received by 2 March 2012.

It is likely that any new routes and services will begin in summer 2012

Blossom Street York: roadworks from 5th March

The Second phase of work is due to start next month (week commencing 5 March).

Significant work was carried out on Blossom Street at its junction with Queen Street, close to Micklegate Bar during phase I in September 2010. Phase II is due to start shortly and will focus on Blossom Street and Holgate Road and their junctions with The Mount and East Mount Road.

The main features of the work will include:
• Full replacement of old traffic signals with new modern equipment.
• Partial resurfacing of the carriageway
• Pedestrian crossings to be widened and modernised, incorporating on-crossing detection.
• Widening of the footway on the corner of Holgate Road.
• Inbound and outbound cycle feeder-lanes on Blossom Street.
• Inbound cycle lane on Holgate Road starting at Dalton Terrace.
• Inbound bus stop outside the Reel Cinema to be extended and the shelters and cycle parking repositioned.
• A new bus shelter introduced at the outbound bus stop (for bus numbers 3 and 4).
• New stop-line and signals (inbound only) on Holgate Road near to Holgate Villas to keep queuing traffic out of, and ameliorate the air quality in the bottle-neck at the end, but which will not affect traffic capacity.
• No change to number of traffic lanes.

Full details of the planned improvements are available at www.york.gov.uk/council/consultations/current/blossomst/

Mobile safety (speed) camera locations: Wednesday 22 to Tuesday 28 February 2012

North Yorkshire Police will be carrying out mobile safety camera enforcement on the following roads between Wednesday 22 and Tuesday 28 February 2012.

Those being checked in the York area include:

•A64 east-bound carriageway Bowbridge Farm Tadcaster
•A64 west-bound carriageway, Bowbridge Farm, Tadcaster
•Millfield Lane, Poppleton, York
•Beckfield Lane, York
•Green lane, Acomb, York
•Ryecroft Avenue, Woodthorpe, York
•Temple Lane, Copmanthorpe, York
•A1036 Tadcaster Road, York
•A1237 Monks Cross, York
•Strensall Road, Huntington, York
•The Village, Stockton-on-the-Forest, York
•A1036 Malton Road, York
•A171 Jugger Howe opposite Springhill Farm

The mobile safety cameras will be in operation at the above sites at various times during the dates stated. Cameras will not be in use on the above routes all day, every day.

York Council bus bid misses the point

York Council bus bid

The Council today is approving a bid to the Coalition Governments £50 million “Better Bus Area Fund”. It is right to do so because we do need to continue to make an investment in public transport, even in difficult economic times.

The bid is flawed because it fails to present an identifiable business case. The Council report is remarkable only is so far as it seeks to persuade government to release £2 million in funding for the City, yet it fails to identify how much is needed to fund each section of the bid.

The new Labour Council embarked on a radical new approach to providing bus services in the City when, last June, it set aside £100,000 to spend on consultants who would redesign the bus network. Another £100,000 is up for approval at the annual Council meeting on Thursday. The same meeting will consider increasing bus subsidies by £50,000. That £¼ million is likely to be small beer though when tenders to run the new network are received. All the indications are that subsidies of several millions of pounds will be required to provide the low fare, high frequency, service that some aspire to.

Separately the Council wants to introduce a paper based “through” ticket to benefit the 3% of passengers who undertake journeys in the City where they have to change bus operator.

The solution isn’t a scheme which invoices apportioning revenue manually to individual operators. That is ludicrously poor value for money with set up and running costs approaching £200,000.

The solution is to move over to smart card payment methods, a form of which has been available on Park and Ride services for some years.

The expectation was that the new generation of “touch in, touch out” charge cards would perform this function and York’s largest bus operator, First, themselves announced some months ago that they were taking that idea forward.

Next best, is a stored value or “oyster” type card. Either is worth pursuing, preferably in partnership with neighbouring Local Authorities.

It is the other aspects of the bid which will come under most scrutiny. There is talk that up to £2 million of matching funding could come from local taxpayers (apparently from the £20 million being borrowed to prop up an Economic Investment slush Fund). That is unrealistic in the present economic times.
Improving 5 bus interchange stops in the City centre are unlikely to be seen as a national priority.
The final aspect of the project will be the most controversial. It involves reserving two of the City centre bridges for public transport use. It has be talked about for a decade, so perhaps now is the time to undertake an off peak trial and monitor the consequences. Although a trial should not be expensive, a permanent restriction could well be.

It is surprising that the bid does not include the introduction of low emission buses into the City. That may be a big mistake.

Ultimately the absence of any financial figures from the Council report, means that the government’s requirements may not be met. They say, “the bid must be able to demonstrate that a sound implementation strategy is in place for each component of the proposed package of measures”. Clearly that isn’t the case in York at present.

North Yorkshire Police mobile safety (speed) camera routes 8 – 14 February 2012

North Yorkshire Police will be carrying out mobile safety camera enforcement on the following roads between Wednesday 8 February and Tuesday 14 February 2012.

•A64 west-bound carriageway, Bowbridge Farm, Tadcaster
•A19 Selby Road, Whitley
•Brayton Lane, Brayton, Selby
•Barff Lane, Brayton, Selby Westcroft Lane, Hambleton
•A19 Selby Road, Whitley
•Millfield Lane, Chappel Haddlesley
•Northfield Farm, Cobcroft Lane, Cridling Stubbs
•Skipwith Road, Escrick
•A63 Hemingbrough
•Church Lane, Wheldrake
•A64 Seamer by-pass Scarborough
•B1249 Staxton Wold, Staxton, Scarborough
•B1249 Foxholes to county boundary
•A1039 Filey Road at Flixton
•A165 Reighton by-pass
•A64 Seamer Road, Scarborough

The mobile safety cameras will be in operation at the above sites at various times during the dates stated. Cameras will not be in use on the above routes all day, every day. The above locations were accurate when this news release was produced.

Labour to reduce number of roads that are gritted.

Labour are proposing to reduce the number of streets that are treated with salt. A £10,000 a year budget cut means that fewer areas will see gritters in future, although Labour are not saying which streets will lose the service.

Coming in the wake of a weekend when the existing gritting provision was put under enormous pressure, fears have been raised that the move will lead to more accidents.

The Council also plan to leave salt bins out on the streets for 12 months of the year, prompting fears that they will be vandalised. The bins are normally placed in the Council depot in summer where they are repaired and refurbished.

The new Council budget will allow bins to be filled only 3 times a year in future.

The Council are however finding £500,000 as their share of a £6million plan to extend the Art Gallery

ftr – the bogus claims

ftr on York's number 4 route

Artic defence - click to enlarge

Strange article in The Press earlier in the week with the Council Leader apparently saying the ftr running agreement would be scrapped “in June”.

Strange because the 5 year deal had already come to an end in June 2011; 5 years after it was signed at a York Racecourse ceremony.

There was never any question of the agreement being extended.

It was put in place to ensure that the number 4 bus route remained unaltered for a period long enough to ensure that taxpayers got a return on the investment made in providing off street car parking, resurfacing roads, improving junctions and installing raised kerbs to improve access from bus stops.

It was thought that the Press story was linked to a bus service report that is due to be considered at a Council Strategy meeting next Thursday (5th Jan). However the report makes no mention of individual bus routes and simply agonises over the need to consult residents about further changes to the bus network (more on this later in the week).

While no one would pretend that the ftr has been greeted with universal acclaim, the vehicle the vehicle provides high levels of accessibility for disabled people and set new standards of comfort in its spacious air conditioned passenger compartment. The hosts/conductors are generally friendly and valued while the ultra modern appearance still attracts children to the City who simply want to “have a ride” on the vehicle.

Time moves on though, and improved engine technology means that more economical buses with lower emission levels are now becoming available.

The last Council hoped to use hybrid type buses on the new Park and Ride routes. It would be a small step to extend the modernisation to include “stage carriage” services like the number 4. Trials of some of the low/zero emission bus options available took place earlier in the year on the Designer Outlet to City centre Park and Ride route. The trial was abandoned by Labour when they took control of the Council in May.

A key issue would be the cost for companies who want to modernise their bus fleets with, for example, the new style double deckers recently introduced in London costing 4 times the price of an £300,000 ftr.

The London Mayor – Boris Johnson – hopes to get the cost of his “Routemaster” style vehicle down to £315,000 each through bulk purchase. 11 mpg on the new hybrid is promised although the inclusion of a “hop on, fall off” rear platform means that a conductor would have to be carried.

The ftr has a capacity of 100 (53 seated, 47 standing) compared to the new “Boris bus” (87 people — 62 sitting and 25 standing) so overcrowding could be an issue.

More realistically, a conventional 2012 hybrid “bendy bus” has many advantages and costs only about £20k more than an ftr.

In the meantime a resident writing on the Press website has suggested that the Council Leader is tilting at windmills when claiming to “slay” the ftr.

A Don Quixote approach we do not need. Just some clarity on what changes are to be made to bus services and – crucially – how any such changes are to be paid for?