Dumping and litter blights nature area

“Investment in waste and environment services to include additional staffing on waste rounds, improved city centre cleaning and effective weed control”. That’s what the York Council is promising in their newly published budget for next year.

In total – over two years – an additional £1 million will be found for a new system of “neighbourhood working”.

This, says the Council, will “improve the waste collection service to residents by increasing the number of green waste collections, adding two extra green waste collections each March from 2021 onwards.

The pilot of 3 free replacement boxes per property will continue and be made permanent.

The Council will develop neighbourhood working models across public realm and waste to better respond to the communities needs building on the success of local management, ownership and responsibility elsewhere in the council.

The Council will work with York Business Improvement District to review how city centre cleansing can be improved. The resilience of the services will be improved by removing the reliance on fixed term staff.

In addition they will invest in the weed control service to increase the areas treated and, in response to the world wide ongoing challenge about the use of glyphosate,  will trial alternative methods for dealing with weeds such as foams etc”.

The proposal is short on detail but improvements in cleaning services can’t come soon enough for some sub-urban areas.

Several amenity areas are now overwhelmed by fly tipping and litter.

The Westfield/Grange Lane park and adjacent nature area is a case in point and is particularly bad at present.

Westfield Park which is located between Grange Lane and Westfield Place

T

4% increase in Council Tax in York

Budget plans for next year published as residents say  highways maintenance is top priority for them

York residents will have a month to comment on the York Councils budget plans for the next financial year.

Plans for some of the key expenditure areas were published over the weekend.

Council Tax will increase by 3.99% with 2% of the increase being earmarked for social care services. The latter will get a £4.5 million boost.

The results of the Councils consultation on budget options are also published. Only 691 residents responded. Their top expenditure priority was, unsurprisingly, road and path repairs.

The Council plans to make £4 million in savings although many of these are, largely opaque, financial management tweaks.

Council staff will get a 2% pay increase.

£11 million will be invested in services as part of the Council budget plans.

  • As much as £1 million will be invested in a new waste and street environment services. This is in addition to capital investment of £6 million on new refuse collection vehicles.
  • Capital investment of over £12 million will support, repair and improve the highways network. This includes £275,000 for the creation of a reactive pothole repair team,
  • A long term investment of £3 million in planting more trees is proposed as part of the “northern forest”
  • Borrowing for house building results in a £1.5 million bill for interest charges on money already borrowed although £7 million is also allocated for modernisation works to the Council housing stock

Corporate

Savings include centralising communications budgets, fee increases and “making best use of Council assets”.

Growth includes £141,000 extra for Councillors pay and £80,000 for   an “organisational development programme to ensure delivery of key Council priorities”

As well as the welcome commitment to invest more in highways maintenance there are some, surprises in the capital programme . There is £100,000 for a trial of robotics monitoring of social care clients. It will utilise AI. £230,000 is earmarked to replace rising bollards on Bishophill, while a whopping £6.6 million will go on new refuse collection vehicles. This, in effect, confirms that the reason for the multiple vehicle failures last year was poor replacement programming (3 of the new vehicles will be electric powered).

29 Castlegate

More is to be spent maintaining and extending the electric car recharging network. £270,000 is to be spent renovating 29 Castlegate which has been empty for several years. The report says “The condition of the building both internally and externally is deteriorating whilst unoccupied” (Quelle Surprise!)

Theatre Royal

The York Theatre Royal will get another £500,000 to spend on heating, lighting and access improvements. (NB. The Theatre received a £770,000 grant 3 years ago to complete refurbishment work & was supposed to be self-supporting by now).

Installing “hostile vehicle” prevention barriers in the City centre will cost £1.6 million.

Health and Adult Social Care.

Savings include changes at Yorkcraft and revised charging arrangements.

Growth mainly reflects price increases from suppliers and increased demands from an ageing population.

Children and Education

Savings include reducing child placement costs & less for community centre maintenance.

Growth  items include an extra £250,000 for “safer communities” and £50,000 to create a Mental Health early intervention fund.

Environment and Climate change

Savings: Increases in fees and parking charges including evening charges, Minister badges and an “additional diesel duty” in 2021.

Growth items extra litter /poop scoop bins, better tree maintenance (halleluiah!), “ review of waste collection, including plastics and food waste” and including  adding two extra green waste collections each March from 2021 onwards, additional staffing on waste rounds, improved city centre cleaning, effective weed control (praise the Lord!), another study into re/opening Haxby railway station (the fourth in  the last 2 decades) and additional Taxi Licensing enforcement .

Housing

Savings  Extended use of smart mobiles, reduced use of sub-contractors, reduced void times plus new James House rents,

Growth   Electrical safety check programme, water hygiene testing, quicker repairs & “improving the care of estates

Capital investments include an average of £8 million a year to be invested in Council house modernisation and building insulation programmes.

NB. The report pointedly does not make any reference to Council House rent levels.

We will publish other details as they become available  

York Council seeks help in balancing budget

Without apparently any sense of irony, in the wake of a decision yesterday to hike Councillors pay levels by an average of 18%, the City of York Council is now asking residents, partners and businesses for their help in balancing the council’s budget for 2020/2021.

The consultation is now open and asks which areas the council should invest in and prioritise and where people feel savings could be made.

This year, there are a number of different ways to get involved with the council consulting sooner and holding special budget decision sessions which the public can attend or watch online. People can have their say by:

  • Taking an online survey at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/York_20-21_Budget_Consultation by Tuesday 31 December
  • Completing the straw poll in Our City (the council newsletter for residents), distributed to York houses throughout December or available at West Offices or libraries and return it freepost by Sunday 12 January
  • Coming along to one of the following decision sessions in the new year at West Offices to tell us your thoughts:
  • Housing and safer neighbourhoods 13 January 2020 at 2pm
  • Economy and strategic planning, Environment and climate change and transport 13 January 2020 at 5.30pm
  • Children and young people and Culture, leisure and communities 14 January 2020 at 4pm
  • Health and Adult Social Care 15 January 2020 at 12noon
  • Leader and finance and performance 15 January 2020 at 5.30pm

Papers for these sessions will be published from Friday 3 January. The decision sessions will ensure that residents can view the budget proposals significantly in advance of previous years to ensure higher quality consultation.

The online consultation closes on 31 December 2019 and all printed questionnaire responses from Our City will need to be received by Sunday 12 January.

Councillor Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council said:

“We have recently agreed an ambitious council plan that promises to support and invest in our communities despite the financial challenges we face. 

“Demand for our services is increasing and in the last decade our funding from government grants reduced by £52m, equating to a 44% real terms reduction. Next year we need to save a further £4m with further savings needed in the coming years.

“We are committed to continuing vital services and making sure the right support is there for those who need it most.  Whilst we have set out an ambitious strategy for our city over the next four years; we want to ensure that York continues to make history and build communities. It is really important that we hear from residents, businesses and communities to make sure we invest in the right areas.”

Councillor Andy D’Agorne, Deputy Leader of City of York Council: “York is in a sound financial position which allows us some flexibility to invest in all our futures.  However, growing demand for adult social care as our population grows older is a continued challenge and as more and more savings are needed the decisions get tougher.

“We want to make sure our spending reflects our priorities to protect the most vulnerable and respond to the climate emergency.

“Your feedback in the council plan consultation helped us shape our priorities and we are looking forward to hearing where residents think we should focus our spending against each priority.”

For more information, please visit www.york.gov.uk/budget

Guildhall contract – further details

York Guildhall

The cost of the redevelopment contract for the Guildhall has been confirmed as £15.4 million. This covers only construction work.

To this must be added supervision, legal and fitting out expenses.

The contract was awarded to Vinci Construction on 16th September 2019.

It is expected that the total will be around £20 million but with substantial annual running costs.

The main use will be as a serviced office location although some Council use will be retained.

25% paying for parking by phone in York

A freedom of information request has revealed what proportion of drivers are using their phone to pay for parkign in York.

Of 1.2 million parking transactions made at off street parking locations during the last financial year, 234,832 drivers paid by phone.

The proportion for on street parking was much lower. The vast majority of those parking on street used one of the Councils 68 ticket machines.

Ring Go’s smartphone App has made parking easier in York

In total the York Council received £5,597,280 from parking charges last year.

More trees and wild flowers

How not to do it

The new York Council has rightly decided to plant more trees and expand the areas devoted to wildflowers with good propagation features.

More trees will help , in a modest way, to offset the losses both locally and internationally which have occurred over recent years.

The plight of bees robbed of propagating flowers in urban environments, because of increased hard surfacing and use of herbicides, is well documented.

The Council does however need to understand that such a policy is not a cheap alternative . The authority will need to plant the right species of trees to match the needs of specific locations. Too many well intended “plant a tree in 83” type schemes resulted in the wrong type of tree being planted in the wrong location.

This is particularly true in the case of highway trees (those in verges) where lack of regular maintenance has meant that many have grown the point that they interfere with passing vehicles, overhead plant or neighbouring properties. The only pruning that they get is from high sided vehicles which sooner or later impact on branches often sending them crashing down onto the highway.

High winds can have a similar effect.

The problem can be traced to an inadequate maintenance budget. This was given a modest boost in the Council most recent review.

Before planting more trees – there are plenty of spaces where new mini forests could be created in and around the City – the Council should first sort out its existing stock

On Balfour Street a (self seeded?) tree has been allowed to spread to the point where it is absorbing the adjacent railings and destroying the public footpath. It has been reported on several occasions with out a response from the Council. An obvious case for the local ward committee to use its delegated budget to tidy up the area.

For some people wildflowers are synonymous with pervasive weed growth. We have seen the neglect of highways over the summer although some lobbyists have argued that the weed growth will at least be “good for nature”.

We doubt that, with damage to paths and drains likely to pose an expensive hazard.

But there are locations where the Council could proactively plant low maintenance flowers which would greatly increase propagation opportunities.

The authority will need a proactive programme which will need to include a commitment to the long term maintenance of any planted areas.

This area next to the Leeman Road cycle track is actually paved. Neglect means that is has gradually become overgrown. If it serves no landscaping purpose, then the paving could be removed and a good propagating, low maintenance, plant such as lavender, could be substituted.

York Council has a plan

The new leaders of the York Council say they will publish a new “Council Plan” in the autumn.

This will be preceded by public consultation.

The Council’s Executive will hear on Thursday that they intend to concentrate resources on a list of challenges. These are:

a. Good Health and Wellbeing

b. Well-paid jobs and an inclusive economy

c. Getting around sustainably

d. A Better Start for Children and Young People

e. A Greener and Cleaner City

f. Building homes and World-class infrastructure g. Safe Communities and culture for all

h. An open and effective Council

So, in effect, everything will be a priority!

The electorate told Councillors in May that the top priority should to get basic street level services back up to decent standards.

That means that performance on key services needs to be monitored regularly and publicly published.

The Council needs to concentrate on its core responsibilities. Those that affect most residents are:

  1. Road repairs
  2. Footpath repairs
  3. Litter/Fly tipping prevention
  4. Weed control
  5. Poop scoop/ litter/ salt bins
  6. Hedge/tree maintenance
  7. Street cleaning
  8. Amenity & garage area maintenance
  9. Reducing Dog Fouling
  10. Improving Policing visibility
  11. Car parking
  12. Grass cutting (e.g. verges and open spaces)
  13. Recycling
  14. Street lighting
  15. Schools
  16. Refuse collection
  17. Bus service improvements

To this list should be a commitment to openness and a drive to devolve power to local communities

The Council should concentrate on getting these service right before being tempted to roll out “beer and skittles” prestige projects.

Subsidised bus services in York set to continue

The Council is being recommended to continue to subsidise several bus services in York. The services serve either remote areas or provide services at times of the day when commercial services don’t run.

Tenders to continue services were sought earlier in the year.

The affected series are

  • 10 Evening Poppleton – City Centre – Dunnington Stamford Bridge
  • 11 Evening Bishopthorpe – South Bank – Stonebow
  • 12 Daytime Stonebow – Heworth – Monks Cross
  • 14 Evening Foxwood – City Centre / New Earswick – Haxby West Nooks
  • 19 Daytime Skelton – Clifton & Rawcliffe – Exhibition Square
  • 20 Daytime Rawcliffe – Clifton Moor & Haxby – Monks Cross / Osbaldwick
  • 21 Daytime Colton – Acaster Malbis & Bishopthorpe – Foss Islands
  • 24 Daytime Ascot Way (Acomb) – Acomb & Holgate – Piccadilly
  • 25 Daytime Derwenthorpe – Foss Islands – Crossfield Crescent (Fulford)
  • 26 Daytime Crossfield Crescent (Fulford) – City Centre – South Bank
  • 26 Fri/Sat eve Piccadilly – Crossfield Crescent (Fulford)

There is a question mark against the evening link (new service 15) between Stonebow and Monks Cross but officials hope to sustain the service in some way.

If approved the cost of subsidising bus services in the City will rise to £3/4 million.

The full report can be read by clicking here

A decision is expected on 18th July.

Subsidised bus services in York

Big investment in York Public Services

Council leadership set to prioritise road repairs, play facilities, housing, energy efficiency and Social Care.

The new Council leadership has announced changes to the budget that it inherited. As expected, extra investment in improvements to street level public services are planned.

There will be extra investment in

More to be spent on road repairs
  • Removing graffiti
  • Additional Litter bins
  • Tree management
  • Crime reduction
  • Waste collection
  • Street environment (cleaning and community projects)
  • Buses
  • Electric vehicle charging point maintenance.

The biggest investment will be £1 million spent on road repairs and a further £1 million on cycling/walking improvements

There will be a £250,000 boost for children’s play facilities.

The Council will invest £1 million in speeding up housing modernisation and a further £1 million on energy efficiency improvements

£22,000 is being taken for the reserves to improve children’s and adult social care standards.

Several of the proposals are less than transparent. We are told, for example, that the Council will “Re-purpose funding from the Leeds City Region Business Rates Pilot to strengthen our approach to inclusive growth, including child poverty, greening the high street and promote lifelong learning

We think that there is unlikely to be rioting in the streets as a result of the Councils decision to discontinue the “digital immersive model” marketing project. There may be public unrest if the Council doesn’t publish its reports in plain English in future.

Also, the Council will fund “connections with communities most impacted by EU exit to better understand their needs, and to take forward the community hubs work initiated”

Four schemes are intended to be self-funding. They relate to foster care, Special Education Needs and Disability pupils, Public Health and mental health.

The proposals will be welcomed by many in the City. It will, however, take more than £1 million to get the City’s roads back into good order. 

£4.25 million of the plan is capital investment, meaning higher debt charges in the future (and less to spend in the revenue budget).

The plans are likely to be criticised for failing to clearly identify the objectives of some of the changes with no detail given of how the success of the projects will be measured.

No KPIs are listed and there is no clear vision of how the City will look in 4 years’ time.

Residents may feel that prompt attention to reducing the costs of some inherited major projects is necessary, especially if demands on taxpayers in future years are to remain under control.

It really shouldn’t cost £35,000 to “ launch a public Citizen’s Assembly on how the Council can best work in an open way

The Council must become a “can do” rather than a “can talk” organisation.

Still it’s a start, and a better one than was managed by the last two Council administrations.

The proposal will be discussed at a meeting taking place on 17th July

A full list of budget proposals can be read by clicking here

Full list of budget changes
Budget changes list continued

Cost of Ascot Way disabled centre soars by 37%

Council blames the “complexity” of the selected design for the increase.

A Council report published today reveals that the cost of the Centre of Excellence for Disabled Children will increase from the originally budgeted figure of £4.3 million (January 2018) to an estimated £5.9 million.

Demolition works have started at Windsor House

This comes after the Council, In April 2018, had agreed to increase the proportion of the costs which would be funded by borrowing

£1.1 million of the increased costs will come from a Health service grant with the rest being transferred from the education budget.

It appears that some features  of the building are being “value engineered” out of the design.

The centre is being built on the site of the Windsor House elderly persons home. The neighbouring Lincoln Court independent living building is also being modernised and extended at the same time.

While both projects have been welcomed, concerns have been expressed about traffic congestion and parking issues in the area.

The impact of the developments on open space and sports facilities in the neighbourhood have also been criticised.

Details of the new budget allocations are being kept secret by the Council. It is unclear what promised features in the building may now be omitted.

The meeting to consider the budget increase is taking place on 18th June.