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Home truths

A recent Shelter report on house rental levels, which suggested that prices in York were the highest in the region, has been seized upon by some Labour spokespeople as a rod with which to beat the government.
In reality they are trying to draw attention away from their threadbare local polices on housing.
They inherited from the last LibDem administration a level of homelessness in the City which was much improved from 2003. The provision of additional social housing units, including the first new Councils homes to be built in the city for 20 years, had played a part in dealing with this serious issue

Homeless figures for York. click to enlarge

The current controversy centres around the rent levels charged by private landlords. These have been restrained for several years by the maximum level of Housing Benefit (Local Housing Allowance) that can be paid. The maximum subsidy payable by the government is limited with the precise level dependant on local market conditions.
In 2010 the new Coalition government indicated that there would be a ceiling put on the maximum allowance payable for a property. The weekly maxima were:
• £250 a week for a one bedroom property (including shared accommodation)
• £290 a week for a two bedroom property
• £340 a week for a three bedroom property
• £400 a week for a four bedroom property
Average rent levels in York fall far below these limits. The government (correctly) argued that taxpayers should not have to, in effect, subsidise private landowners who could be raking in huge profits by exploiting local housing shortages.
For many years, there has been a maximum that the government would pay depending on family circumstances. Taking as an example a couple with 2 children who would be entitled to claim for a 3 bedroomed house. The maximum entitlement in York would be 137.31 per week. This is the same as in the Leeds area while the neighbouring Harrogate area is higher at £155.77 a week. Few families qualify for the full allowance.
The allowance is set by sampling the rent levels in the area. 655 rents levels were sampled in York. Prices ranged from around £100 to £200 per week. The rent levels were slightly higher in Harrogate.
There may be a case for updating these figures although professionals say there has been little change in rent levels for most types of properties in most areas of the City over the last couple of years. One exception is for properties near the Universities where rent levels of £90 per week for a single room in a shared house have been reported (a rip off which does require some action by local MPs)
A claim is being made is that York rental levels are now comparable with those found in London. This is nonsense with average rents in much of the capital being over £300 a week for 3 bedroomed properties. However rent levels in York now seem to be on a par with Harrogate.
In York at the moment the cheapest 3 bedroomed house available to rent is advertised at £156 per week (a house in Nursery Drive). So a family with a (very) low income would have to find £20 a week to rent this property.
In Harrogate a 3 bedroomed terraced house is advertised with a similar £156 price tag.
The real solution to the housing problems faced by those on low incomes is to increase the supply of social housing. Over 200 additional homes for rent were provided by the Council and Housing Associations in the City last year.
Typically the weekly rent on a 3 bedroomed Council House these days in York is around £80.
All Council homes had been modernised by the time that the Liberal Democrats left office locally in May.
NB. Brand new 2 bedroomed bungalows on Cornlands Road are available for private rent for £650 a month.

New bungalows to rent on Cornlands Road

It must be true…it was in the newspaper

Commenting on a complaint from a Mr. Arthur Purdey about a large gas bill, a spokesman for North West Gas said, “We agree it was rather high for the time of year. It’s entirely possible Mr. Purdey has been charged for the gas used up during the explosion that destroyed his house.”
(The Daily Telegraph)

Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van, because they cannot issue a description. It’s a Special Branch vehicle and they don’t want the public to know what it looks like.
(The Guardian)

A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coast guard spokesman commented, “This sort of thing is all too common”.
(The Times)

Mrs. Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue, Boscombe, delighted the audience with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she recalled. “He’d always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the crocuses came up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they spelt out ‘Heil Hitler.'”
(Bournemouth Evening Echo)

Labour Councillor in address muddle?

I see that Joe Riches is still claiming on the local Labour web site that he lives in his Holgate Ward in Stamford Street. A few weeks ago he rang me to say that he had moved into the Westfield Ward. Seems that he doesn’t intend to tell his colleagues about the change?
& thanks to the anonymous resident who tipped us off about the Labour Councillor who apparently appeared on the electoral register at two different addresses (in different wards) in April. This is being investigated.

click to enlarge

Acomb Green sports sessions announced

Free multi-sport sessions will be kicking off Friday 28 October, 10am to 12noon on Acomb Green.The fun sessions encourage young people who aren’t usually very active to jump in and have fun. Sessions are free of charge for young people aged five to 18 years. All children under eight must be accompanied by an adult. No booking is required and all abilities are welcome

£190,000 boost for Westfield schools

The Coalition government has confirmed that an extra £1 million is to be allocated to York schools next year. The money takes the form of a “pupil premium” which provides funding to schools for children on free school meals. It was one of the four key commitments in the Liberal Democrat manifesto in 2010.
It is designed to support pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and is allocated to schools, who can spend it in whatever way they believe best supports children.
Children who have been looked after by local authorities for more than six months also qualify for the Pupil Premium.
In Westfield it will mean an extra £85, 888 for the local High School plus £53,192 & £51,240 respectively for the Westfield and Hob Moor Primary schools.
The allocations are the largest for any equivalent school in the City.
At the recent Liberal Democrat Party Conference, Education Minister Sarah Teather announced that the funding available for the Pupil Premium would be increased to £1.25bn. The funding available will continue to increase until 2014/15, when the scheme will be worth £2.5bn.
The funding means schools will now receive almost £500 for each child on free school meals to help reduce under achievement by pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
This year York’s schools will receive over £1.2m in Pupil Premium funding, £200,000 more than they received last year.
The full list of local allocations is reproduced below. Further information can be found on the following web site: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/adminandfinance/financialmanagement/schoolsrevenuefunding/settlement2012pupilpremium

click to enlarge

Folly

Grange Lane hedge damage

A new access to the Grange Lane Park has been created… only 5 metres from the existing gap in the hedge.
The existing access has been in use for over 20 years and has gradually been improved over the years with a bitmaced access path laid, poop scoop bin provided and gate installed to deter motorcyclists.
The new access is marked by two wooden posts and an expensive “public footpath” sign both constructed out of the kind of timber that usually becomes popular around 5th November.
The area immediately inside the hedge has been declared a site of scientific interest following rare flora being found there. Breaks in hedge lines are also discouraged by conservationists as they interrupt the migration routes of small mammals.
However, none of thus seems to have been taken into account by the Council who failed to consult local residents about their plans.
It is possible that the Public Right of Way needed to be diverted to conform with the arcane 19th century footpath maps that some officials find compelling. But the cost of doing that – no one would be likely to object – would be a couple of hundred pounds rather than the £3000+ which the current scheme will add the taxpayers bills.
The Council should publish their intentions to undertake work like this in their “Your Ward” publication. That way some common sense might be injected into the process.

Second access point

Acomb branch office to close

Acomb branch office


Labour have confirmed their threat to close the Councils Acomb branch office. Currently located at the Front Street/Carr Lane junction the original plan had been to move the reception functions into a small extension to the Acomb Explore Library (erroneously derided as a “second Council HQ” in Labour’s election literature). Local estate managers and neighbourhood workers would also have been housed there while annual running costs would have been reduced by £60,000 compared to continuing the present arrangements.
Now the Labour leadership have agreed to give up the lease on the existing building next year, despite even their own surveys revealing that over 80% of Acomb customers wanted to have local face to face contact with Council officials.
Users now face a trek to the new Council offices in Station Rise adding to the congestion problems in the City. Disabled residents would face a particularly difficult journey.
In response Labour Councillors claim that people will use the internet to access Council services in the future. We will see.
Some interview session may be provided within the limited accommodation at Explore and at the Hob Moor children’s centre but they are unlikely to provide a satisfactory response particularly for urgent or complex issues.
We suspect that this is only the first part of an attack on the public service standards enjoyed by residents of Acomb. Labour have threatened to close the public toilets on Front Street
…and as recently as the beginning of September one Labour Councillor criticised the Front Street shopping area as being “quiet” with lots of empty property. She went on to tell The Press, “It’s disappointing when people lose vital services they rely on. ……….. because not everybody has the internet or a car”
Indeed!

Residents survey results. click to enlarge

£16,955 on offer to Westfield residents

The government has allocated nearly £17,000 to be spent over the next 4 years on community projects in the Westfield Ward. The “Neighbourhood Grant” is a minimum figure and comes from a £30 million national budget.
A Community Development Foundation (CDF) has been set up to administer the programme although Ministers are keen to maximise the involvement of community organisations. It is expected that local groups will match the grants with money or time.
The programme complements the “Community Organiser” (so called “Big Society”) initiative.
A “Community First” panel will be set up in Westfield and will help to determine priorities and monitor progress. It will be comprised entirely of local residents. The CDF are currently contacting voluntary organisations in the Ward to brief them on the opportunities available.
Steps are already being taken to set up the Westfield Community First Panel which will comprise between 4 & 8 local residents. Expressions of interest are welcome. More details can be found at http://cdf.org.uk/
In the longer term it is hoped to sustain investment in better community facilities by encouraging people and businesses to dedicate endowments to continuing the programme.

QUESTIONS YOU JUST CAN’T ANSWER

Why doesn’t Tarzan have a beard when he lives in the jungle without a razor?

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are flat?

Why do banks charge a fee on ‘insufficient funds’ when they know there is not enough?

Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Whose idea was it to put an ‘S’ in the word ‘lisp’?

What is the speed of darkness?

Why is it that people say they ‘slept like a baby’ when babies wake up every two hours?

If the temperature is zero outside today and it’s going to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold will it be?

Do married people live longer than single ones or does it only seem longer?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

Did you ever stop and wonder…….

Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, ‘I think I’ll squeeze
these pink dangly things here, and drink whatever comes out?’

Who was the first person to say, ‘See that chicken there… I’m gonna eat the next thing that comes outta it’s bum.’

Why do toasters always have a setting so high that could burn the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?

Why is there a light in the fridge and not in the freezer?

Why do people point to their wrist when asking for the time, but don’t point to their bum when they ask where the bathroom is?

Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours? They’re both dogs !

If quizzes are quizzical, what are tests?

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, then what is baby oil made from?

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Why do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?

Stop singing and read on……

Do illiterate people get the full effect of Alphabet Soup?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog’s face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him on a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?

Does pushing the elevator button more than once make it arrive faster?