Hyper Hub recharging point plan for York

City of York Council’s Executive will be asked to agree to progress plans to develop rapid charging points – known as Hyper Hubs – for electric vehicles at two locations in the city.

A report that will be considered at a meeting on Monday 18 March explains that the council’s bid for a European Regional Development Fund grant towards the cost of the project has been successful, and also seeks agreement for the initial consultation phase of the project to begin in May.

If the go-ahead is given, Hyper Hubs will be developed adjacent to the Monks Cross and Poppleton Bar Park & Ride sites. The Hyper Hubs will combine solar energy harvesting and storage with electric vehicle charging points, reducing the reliance of electric vehicles on the UK electricity grid and, at the same time, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

A solar canopy would be erected over approximately 100 car parking spaces, with an energy storage facility located nearby. There would be a number of rapid charging points for use by private car owners, taxi drivers and business users. Depending on the vehicle, a charge could take as little as 15 to 20 minutes.

If approved, the £1.5 million cost of the project will be met using £800,000 of Go Ultra Low funding from the Office of Low Emission Vehicles and £700,000 of European Regional Development Funding. The council is also working to deliver a Hyper Hub with York Hospital.

To find out more about the report, or to attend the Executive meeting, visit: https://democracy.york.gov.uk/ieListMeetings.aspx?CommitteeId=733

Art Gallery charges – decision in September

The Councils new more democratic decision makers decided last night that more information was needed before they could “clarify” the terms of its building lease to the York Museums Trust.

After an all party debate the responsible Executive member nodded through a proposal to defer the decision.

The YMT had planned to introduce admission charges at its new Art Gallery when it opens at the weekend. It is still able to do so, although the terms of the lease require it to provide free entry for York residents.

The Museums Trust will need to act promptly now to deal with the confusion as they are actively marketing an alternative (to the Councils Yorkcard) season ticket.

It is a shame that so far more formal records of meetings, which took place in the spring between the then Labour leadership of the Council and the Museums Trust, have not been published. Expectations on all sides might then have been clearer.  Incredibly some Labour Councillors are now claiming to be opposed to charging even though they – together with Green Party Councillors – voted through the cuts in subsidy in March – the decision which prompted the YMT move.

The Council has little in the way of moral high ground to retreat to on the principle of charging. It charged for Art Gallery admission when it directly managed the facility up until the middle of the last decade (when the Council was also mostly under Labour control).

Museum charges

Charges have always been levied at the Castle Museum (£10) and Yorkshire Museum (£7-50p).  There are no lease restrictions on the latter.

Children are entitled to free admission

As we have said previously, the Councils Executive member simply could not make a decision, on easing the restriction included in the lease,  without being clear about the impact on the Trusts business plan and without a public debate about all the options available.

There is also the wider issue of public access to the plans and results of York’s burgeoning number of QUANGOS. Others (libraries, economic development) depend even more heavily than the YMT, on taxpayers subsidies to keep them afloat. None publish details of their management meetings.

That charging decision will now be made at an Executive meeting taking place in 24th September

 What might happen, if the Council and YMT are not able to agree a compromise, is a moot point.

 If the Trust simply ignored the restrictive covenant clause, then the Council might ultimately terminate the lease. As the Council no longer has the capacity or expertise to run the gallery and museums, that could lead to their closure.

A legal wrangle about the enforceability of the lease clause could sap the resources of both organisations.

On the other hand, if the Trust demands money, to make up any shortfall in its income resulting from a decision to continue to allow YorkCard holders free admission, then the cash strapped Council would be unable to provide it.

Some compromise is required and quickly now.

Return of democratic debate in York?

Today sees the York Council take a faltering step back towards the kind of all party consideration of proposals not seen since 2008, when the Executive Advisory system was scrapped.

An all party meeting will consider whether to relax an agreement with the York Museums Trust (YMT) which gives Yorkcard holders free access to their galleries.

YMT charging report extract July 2015

As we said, when the report was published, we believe that important background information has been omitted from the report. Not least this would include estimates of the numbers of customers who might be effected by any changed arrangements together with the business plan assumptions being made by the Trust.

However this may simply reflect the dangers of outsourcing public services to quasi independent trusts and social enterprise bodies. Such bodies are able to source additional funding streams but transparency suffers. These may be similar problems with the arrangements now in place for the management of the libraries and economic development in the City (Make it York).

At the moment, the YMT provides an annual report to the Council and is subject to public questioning about their performance and plans. The last session took place on 22nd June

Today the proposal is that the Council clarify with the YMT that they can charge a discounted admission price to YorkCard holders. This would not require an amendment to the lease of the museum buildings (and consequently is not a “key” decision in Council terms). Any decision on charging levels would effectively be made by the YMT.

If the Council committee recommends that an estimated additional £400,000 subsidy be provided to “buy off” the charging plans (by reinstating historic levels of financial support) the Executive member does not have the powers to endorse such a proposal. It would become a “key” decision requiring a budget amendment and would have to be referred, via the Councils Executive, to the next full Council meeting (on 8th October).

Whether the YMT could sustain its operations in the interim might be a matter of conjecture. The new Art Gallery is due to open at the weekend. They would no doubt point out that 9 months had elapsed between the (then Labour controlled) Council making a decision to cut the subsidy and the Council addressing the consequences of its actions.

NB. When the Art Gallery was under direct Council control (until the middle of the last decade) an entry charge was levied. Admission numbers were low.

Green bin tax – Labour will not rule it out.

The last York Council meeting heard that Labour Councillors are still actively considering introducing a Green Bin Surcharge.

Andrew Waller is opposing more green bin charges

Andrew Waller is opposing more green bin charges

As previously reported, this new charge would apply to all green bins not just the supplementary bin charge introduced last year.

Most residents feel that the “winter break” for green bin emptying comes too early in the season. Many homes now have only one more bin emptying day before the service is suspended at the beginning of November.

Like last year, leaf fall has only just begun and adding this source of compostable material to grey bins will do little to improve York’s – now relatively poor – recycling rates.

York first in Yorkshire to get rapid car charging points

York is the first city in Yorkshire to  run rapid car charging points. The rapid charging points can fill a car from flat to 80 per cent charged in just 20 minutes using high power 50kW chargers.

Charging points

Charging points

The rapid chargers will work by using either a swipe card or by downloading a free app, both of which are available from  ‘Charge Your Car’. The charging points are located at the Sports Village and Poppleton Bar (outside electric bus operating hours). They will also support the use of electric buses and taxis in the city.