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“Dig in” Cornlands Road park

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The next time the Dig In team will be at the Cornlands playground site will be Saturday 25th February 10:30am – 12:30pm, this is the first gardening group gathering. They will be finalising the design for the garden and also sowing some seeds in pots that can be taken home and nurtured then brought back to the garden to transplant in April.

The next big free family event is on Saturday 7th April. (See poster right)

LIB DEMS FIGHT FOR LOCAL DEMOCRACY

Liberal Democrat Councillors are leading a fight against the Labour Cabinet’s proposals to have vital meetings on key decisions about York’s future held behind closed doors. Cllr Ian Cuthbertson made clear at the Council’s Audit and Governance meeting last night (13/2/2012) that the Lib Dems would not stand to see Cabinet Members’ public accountability abandoned without a fight.

Labour’s plans would see public Cabinet Member Decision Sessions being abolished to be replaced by meetings held behind closed doors. That would mean crucial decisions being made with only Labour’s Cabinet members and Council bosses in the room. Cllr Cuthbertson argued that such proposals exclude members of the public.

He said “These plans show a blatant disregard for public opinion. If members of the public can’t be present and make representations when individual Cabinet members decide things, the door is open to more secret decision-making and less accountability. Labour’s Cabinet seem determined to keep local residents in the dark and sideline opposition councillors.”

The Labour Cabinet has argued that savings can be made by removing sessions in which Cabinet members make their plans clear in public. However, Cllr Cuthbertson argues that allowing the public to be present and make representations if they wish this matter is a small price to pay if the Council is to be seen to act in an open and transparent way. Officers have been asked to review the proposals and to re-present them, including a means by which members of the public can be present and speak at such decision-making sessions if they wish.

Cllr Cuthbertson said: “We recognise that the Council needs to save time and ensure that things are done efficiently, but decision-making sessions need to be held in public when the public request it. Although it seems that a relatively small number of such public sessions would be needed to ensure transparency, we believe that democracy should not be threatened in this way.”

“Local Liberal Democrats want to see more openness and accountability but it seems that the Labour cabinet think differently. We will look out for the amended proposals and will continue to fight to ensure that Cabinet members are accountable to York’s residents who, after all, elected them.”

LABOUR’S HIDDEN CUTS WILL HIT MOST VULNERABLE

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Councillors have reacted angrily as it has been revealed that the Labour budget will target 20% cuts at voluntary sector organisations that work with some of York’s most vulnerable residents. The revelations became apparent as Lib Dem spokesperson for Social Inclusion Cllr Ayre looked deeper at cuts labelled “review of grant funding to voluntary sector organisations to improve the efficiency of administration.”

Cllr Ayre said, “In reality this is the worst kind of cut. To describe the proposals as an efficiency saving is intentionally misleading. The council administers two funds to the voluntary sector totalling £340k and Labour’s plan is to cut this funding by £81,000. This cut is nearer 25% than the 8% Labour have claimed in the newspapers.”

“The list of people who will be affected by this are a list of some of the most vulnerable in our society including the Family Mediation Service, Older Citizens Advocacy, Relate, Snappy, the Welfare Benefits Unit, York Citizens Advice Bureau, York CVS, York Credit Union and YREN. To target these with some of the most severe cuts shows Labour’s claims to be placing fairness and inclusion at the heart of their budget are a sham.”

Further investigation of this budget saving has revealed that none of the affected groups have yet been informed of the proposals and may be unaware that they face drastic cuts and possibly even complete loss of funding all together.

Cllr Ayre said “Labour have hidden this budget from the public for as long as possible and now we can see why. They are trying to hide savage cuts with misleading reports in the hope the short timescale will prevent scrutiny. Cutting more than £80,000 of funding to the voluntary sector is not a matter of efficiency. Labour are choosing to remove funding from groups that work with the most vulnerable people in our city.”

Cllr Ayre has been contacting affected groups to alert them to the proposals.

Council to close Acomb branch office on 28th February

Acomb Council branch office to close in 2 weeks

The Council has confirmed that its Acomb office will close to customers on Tuesday 28 February at 5pm.

Some new advice sessions are starting on Monday 13 February.

They are, however, a wholly inadequate substitute for the branch office which was open 5 days a week.

The advice sessions will run as follows:
Mondays, Gateway Centre, Front Street, YO24 3BN
Housing advice and Council Tax and Housing benefits service: 9am – 3pm

Wednesdays, Foxwood Community Centre, Cranfield Place, YO24 3HY
Housing advice and Council Tax and Housing benefits service: 9am – 12 noon

Thursdays, Sanderson Court Community House, Bramham Road, Chapelfields, YO26 5AS
Housing advice and Council Tax and Housing benefits service: 9am – 12 noon

Fridays, Acomb Explore Library Learning Centre, Front Street, YO24 3BN
Council Tax and Housing Benefits service: 9am – 1pm

Fridays, Moor Lane Youth Centre, Wains Road, YO24 2TX
Housing advice: 1pm – 4pm

A homeless support worker from York Housing Association will join the Monday morning sessions at the Gateway Centre from 27 February between 9.30am and 11.30am.

Online services for housing at www.york.gov.uk/housing/ and housing benefits advice at www.york.gov.uk/advice/Benefits/ will continue and residents can have free use of computers, internet access and support from staff at Acomb Explore.

Face-to-face help and advice will also continue at the council’s customer service centre at Library Square and advice on the phone can be requested for benefits on 01904 551556 and for housing on 01904 551200 (option 2).

New mountain bike challenge opens

York’s off-road cyclists can gear up for City of York Council’s new mountain biking area opening at Rawcliffe Country Park on Friday 17 February.

A series of exciting and challenging jumps, banks and turns will challenge all levels of mountain bikers, and the 70 metre inner circuit and the easier 140 metre outer track are linked to each other and the rest of the park.

The scheme is part of the Big Lottery play programme that also funded the climbing boulders at Rawcliffe Country Park.

During the big launch day people can wheel or walk along for:

• Riding skills courses for 8 – 14 year olds from 10am-3pm (must be booked in advance with Grit Track and Trail at info@grittrackandtrail.co.uk)
• Local shops offering bike servicing and freebies
• Top local riders giving advice and showing their skills
• Activities for bikes from sustainable transport charity Sustrans and the council.

More good News: Police Council Tax frozen

The North Yorkshire Police Authority has followed the lead given by the Fire Authority in freezing its Council Tax level for a further year.

It has decided to take advantage of the governments offer to provide grant support to offset what otherwise could have been a 2.5% hike.

The move leaves the City of York Council as the only major authority in the region likely to implement a 2.9% Council Tax increase.

What’s on in York

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More information
Minster http://www.yorkminster.org/calendar/ tel. 0844 939 0015
York Theatre Royal info@yorktheatreroyal.co.uk tel (01904) 623568
York Barbican http://www.yorkbarbican.co.uk tel. 0844 854 2757
Grand Opera House www.grandoperahouseyork.org.uk tel. 0844 847 2322
Visit York http://www.visityork.org/ tel. 01904 550099
Yortime www.yortime.org.uk

Feathering your nest?

As part of National Nest Box week come and make a home for the birds to nest in this spring – all for FREE!

Friday 17 Feb, 10.30am to 12noon at Little Hob Moor, Acomb

Open to all ages. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Please book your place contact Jenny Cairns on 07833 436832 or Jennifer.cairns@york.gov.uk