Council officials grabbing power as decision making vacuum continues at York Council?

Following the unprecedented attack on the Knights rugby club by a Council official, changes are being made to the way in which decisions are taken at the York Council.

Sadly it appears that more are to be delegated to Council officials with the controversial Sarah Tanburn being given powers to decide key transport issues.

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The Council’s forward programme has recently been changed to prevent the Cabinet member (Levene) from holding meetings to consider several items including changes to the   Rougier Street Bus “Interchange” (next to Roman House) and the Holgate Road (Iron Bridge to Acomb Road junction) Cycle Scheme

While the Cabinet member decision meetings were far from ideal (single members meetings rarely are) at least agendas were published in advance and residents had the opportunity to comment.

The best that residents can hope for, under the delegated decisions scheme, is for the agenda and decisions to be published on the Councils web site AFTER the meeting has been held.

The Council’s constitution hasn’t been updated to reflect the reduction in the number of Cabinet members and many believe that the process for appointing them (at the discretion of the Council Leader) has not yet been formally completed.

A recent Urgency committee meeting even failed to make routine changes to Council committee membership.

All in all, the Groups currently represented on the Council need to agree a system which ensures that any decisions which are needed, before the all out election scheduled for May 7th, are taken in an open way and that they reflect the wishes of the York Community.

More 20 mph speed limits slipped through by Labour 3 days after losing York Council control.

Strong Police objections overruled in “behind closed doors” decision

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Papers published today confirm that a Council official has nodded through the introduction of 20 mph speed limits on 3 more roads in the York area. The decision meeting took place on 21st October but no notice of the meeting was given to opposition Councillors.

The roads concerned are:

  • Heslington Road (part of)
  • Hospital Fields Road (full extent)
  • Broad Highway, Wheldrake (part of)

The Police objected to the proposals saying, in a strongly worded letter, that they would not be able to enforce the 20 mph limit.

 Their objection – which can be read by clicking here – points out that average speeds are below 30 mph anyway and that at least one of the roads is not “residential” in character.

In another, the Police question whether the change proposed might actually increase speeds near a school increasing, rather than reducing, accident potential

It is possible that the changes do have the support of local Ward Councillors.

But the expectation was that the new Council would immediately stop the practice of holding private “decision” meetings before subsequently publishing – sometimes days later – agendas and supporting papers.

Residents have a right to make additional representations on proposals if they chose. They can’t do so if a decision has already been taken.

The opposition group Leaders seem to have been out manoeuvred on this issue – and a similar one concerning TransPennine Express and Northern Rail franchises  where there is no sign of any opposition influence.

Opposition Councillors will need to raise their game quickly on the newly balanced Council.

York will expect open decision making and genuine consultation from now on.

Decisions affecting traffic in every part of the City taken in private session by Labour Councillor

Traffic and parking decisions nodded through at behind closed doors session.

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The man responsible for the secrecy was Labour Councillor David Levene.

Over 50 proposals for changes to parking restrictions and other local traffic management measures were decided last week.

Residents had no opportunity to influence the decisions with papers only being published on the Councils web site AFTER the meeting had concluded.

Labour Councillors representing areas like Westfield  failed to make any representations  on the plans which potentially affect dozens of local residents and hundreds of drivers.

This is the kind of secrecy and indifference that should disappear when Labour lose the Westfield by election and with it their Council majority.

The background reports can be read by clicking these links

Acomb

Bishopthorpe

Clifton

Dringhouses and Woodthorpe

Fishergate

Guildhall

Haxby

Heslington

Heworth

Heworth Without

Holgate

Hull Road

Huntington

Micklegate

Osbaldwick

Skelton Rawcliffe Clifton Without

Strensall

Westfield

Wheldrake

York Council tenants show concerns in secret report

Only 49% now satisfied with tenants choice modernisation work

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The annual report into satisfaction with York Council services has shown some growing concerns amongst York Council tenants.

The report was considered at yet another behind closed doors meeting last week

While on most activities performance has been consistent over the years there are areas of growing concern.

  • Tenant’s choice satisfaction with modernisation work was down from 76% to only 49%.
  • Only 44% of tenants who complained said that they were satisfied with the final outcome
  • Satisfaction with the Council “listening to tenant’s views and acting on them” fell from 67% in 2012 to 62% last year
Garage areas neglected

Garage areas neglected

The biggest concern remains the condition of local estates with tenants increasingly critical of the appearance and state of repair of local neighbourhood and communal areas.

Garage areas are poorly maintained, many verges are damaged and gutters are overgrown with weeds.

The Council is apparently going to appoint a private contractor to clean the communal areas of flats leaving the estate workers to concentrate on litter removal and general maintenance. Tenant satisfaction with garden care (also contracted to the private sector) has attracted many complaints this year.

However, overall, there was some good news for the Council with 87% saying they were satisfied with the service provide down only 1% from the previous year,

Labour fiddle York housing waiting list figures

Cabinet member orders that 2400 residents be taken off list

Earlier in the week a report, which is being presented to the York Council “Cabinet”, claimed that the numbers on the Housing waiting list had more than halved in 6 months.

click for source document

click for source document

The report showed that only 2420 are now registered on the list – down from 4692 at the end of March.

4692 was the figure quoted by Labour to justify their plans to build 22,000 additional homes over the next 15 years, mainly on green belt land next to the City.

No explanation was given for this phenomenal reduction which was simply labelled as a “decrease”.

It was all the more surprising as, since Labour took control of the Council the supply of new “affordable” homes, has tailed off.

It now turns out that the change has been achieved simply by taking people off the list who Labour Councillors feel are not in housing need.

These include all those in the so called “bronze” category.

This is another decision that has been taken without any consultation and behind closed doors. It has not been widely publicised since it was introduced about 4 weeks ago..

No doubt Labour hoped, nearer the next Council elections, to announce that they had “solved” York’s housing problems.

Electors are not so easily fooled.

Behind closed doors logoIt is time that the Council ordered a public scrutiny review of the way in which the North Yorkshire housing waiting list has been massaged.

Some of the revised criteria that are now being applied will win general support (listed below).

Many however will find this new example of secrecy a sinister development.

The key changes are listed below.

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Changes to Stonebow bus stops

click for larger map

click for larger map

The Council is implementing changes to bus stop arrangements in the Pavement/Stonebow area.

The park and ride bus stop is being relocated to Stonebow to reduce footpath congestion, while the entrance to Whip-ma-Whop-ma-Gate is being narrowed.

The background report says,

Behind closed doors logo“The proposed alteration of the Whip-ma-Whop- ma-Gate junction will reduce the carriageway width to allow just a single exit lane. Whilst this is considered adequate to deal with traffic flows, and will bring about a number of safety improvements, there is a risk of some criticism over this change”.

No consultation with residents has taken place and he decision was taken “behind closed doors”

Lendal Bridge – the unanswered questions

The Council claim to have published on their web site a complete list of answers given to question raised during their “twitter” Q & A session last week.

Problem is – they haven’t!

Amongst those still not answered are:

New parking restrictions in Clifton announced by York Council

Click for large scale maps of all the proposals

Click for large scale maps of all the proposals

The Council has agreed to implement as advertised Traffic Regulation Orders in

• R33 Bootham (South):
• Sycamore Place;
• R33 Bootham (South : Queen Anne’s Road);
• Junction of Ashton Avenue and Crichton Avenue;
• Ratcliffe Street, junction areas with Burton Stone Lane, Falgrave Crescent and Haughton Road;
• Westerdale Court, Compton Street and Clifton.

However objections from residents were at least partly upheld and proposals amended in:

Kitchener Street;

• And Field View, junction areas with Burton Stone Lane and Haughton Road (with additional restrictions on Haughton Road)

Following representations from residents and Liberal Democrat spokesperson Cllr Ann Reid, the Council has agreed to reduce the time that restrictions will apply outside 48 -54 Clifton. They will apply now only on weekdays, 10:00am – 4:00pm.

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The decision was made at a “behind closed doors” meeting.