Record number of disabled people in York get grants to adapt property

163 people qualified for disabled facilities grants in York last year.

This is the largest number ever recorded.

On average the cost of adaptations was £5,315.

People with disabilities can get a grant of up to £30,00 from the Council..

The types of work that can be undertaken include:

  • widen doors and install ramps
  • improve access to rooms and facilities – e.g. stair lifts or a downstairs bathroom
  • provide a heating system suitable for your needs
  • adapt heating or lighting controls to make them easier to use

Applications are means tested so some applicants are required to pay for part of the costs. Applicants are required to continue living in the adapted property for at least 5 years.

The total bill for adaptations came to over £1 million last year. However, this is much less than the equivalent cost of institutional care. The modifications allow residents to remain in their own homes even after suffering a decline in health.

The York Council also improved the speed with which it dealt with applications and the time taken to make grants.

More details for applicants can be found by clicking here

Disabled Facilities Grants

Disabled Facilities Grants – Response to FOI request

New Chief Executive for York

Mary Weastell, who is currently the Chief Executive at Selby District Council and an Assistant Chief Executive at North Yorkshire County Council, has been appointed as the City of York Council’s new Chief Executive

coat of arms YorkWe hope that she will have more success than some other recent appointees. Being relatively local should help.

Rather worryingly she has tred a familiar career path, with the Bradford Council figuring high on her CV,

Her “linked in” profile reveals that she did work in the York Council for 4 months under the Alexander regime and claims some “credit” for organisational change (which saw a virtual collapse in electronic customer service interfaces not to mention performance measures which simply disappeared from view for 4 years!). Putting that right would be a good start.

Her most urgent task though will be to re-establish the authorities reputation as a transparent organisation committed to delivering good quality street level services

  • Strategic Director (secondment from Bradford) City of York Council July 2013 – October 2013 (4 months)  Leading a Business Review and Change Programme and building the design and delivery models for customer services, commissioning and procurement, business support and policy and performance

We wish her well in tackling what will be a major step up from the activities of the much smaller Selby Council.

Current York Council consultations

Licensing variations

DrunksA consultation on a proposed review of City of York Council’s Statement of Licensing Policy has opened.

At the Licensing Committee meeting on 25 April, it was agreed to pursue North Yorkshire Police’s request to amend the local authority’s current policy. Published in 2014, it includes a ‘Special Policy’ which relates to applications for the variation of a premises licence or club premises certificates.

The police believe these variations to licensed hours or style of operation can have as much impact locally as granting a new license. To give these variations greater weight and to reflect that they can significantly change the nature of the original license conditions, the force has requested that the policy’s ‘Effects of the Special Policy’ section is changed.

This section of the policy currently reads:
5. “Application for the variation of a premises licence or club premises certificate due to a change of style of operation:

Any application for the variation of style of operation which is subject to relevant representations will be considered on its own merits having regard to the promotion of the licensing objectives

6. Application for the variation of a premises licence or club premises certificate resulting in an extension of the premises and increased capacity:

There will be a presumption to refuse such applications, where relevant representation are received and where the increase in capacity would undermine the licensing objectives unless the applicant can rebut the presumption that the granting of such a variation would undermine the licensing objectives.

7. Application to vary the hours of operation attached to a premises licence or club premises certificate:

All applications that seek to extend the licensed hours will be considered on an individual basis. No different policy will apply in this area as opposed to the rest of the city.”

The a new form of words proposed is:

5.  “The following variations are considered to be material:

• change in style of operation

• physical extension of the premises that increases capacity

• extension of hour of operation

and therefore, there will be a presumption to refuse such applications, where relevant representations are received [deleted and] unless the applicant can rebut the presumption that the granting of such a variation would undermine the licensing objectives.”

Views can be sent by email to: licensing.unit@york.gov.uk or posted to Licensing Section, City of York Council, Eco Depot, Hazel Court, York YO10 3DS.

Other current Council consultations
(more…)

York Council behind barricades over Quango critics

More reports are being published as the fall out, from the irregular payments to York officials audit report, continues.censored

The matter is up for discussion again at the next Council Executive meeting.

The Council’s constitution is being amended to permit speakers at Council meetings to criticise officials (but not to mount personal attacks on them).

However, no explanation of the delays in uploading a full version of the video of the last Council meeting have been offered. Instead the Chief Executive – in consultation with a gang of four Group Leaders – will head a new censorship committee. 

Further refinements in governance arrangements are promised next month amidst ominous warnings that more arms length Council companies may be in the pipeline.

No improvements in transparency are offered.

The officials identified in the Audit report have agreed to repay in full the amounts they received as Directors of City of York Trading. The auditors have confirmed that no retrospective approval of the payments is therefore required.

York Council indecision on new Chief Executive?

IndecisionYork seems likely to be without a permanent replacement for its Chief Executive for at least another 6 months.

Papers published for a meeting taking place on 1st February reveal that a review of the Council’s management structure, commissioned last June, has apparently still not been concluded.

The report blames ongoing financial pressures for the delays, although the Chief Executives post  has been filled on a temporary basis (at full salary) for over 6 months.

It now appears that the report on a new structure may now be available in March. A £150,000 a year saving on salary costs is being achieved from 1st April by deleting a post dealing with “transformation and change”

Staff working in the Chief Executives Department are being transferred to other management groups suggesting that the Council may be thinking of abolishing the role of Chief Executive altogether.  

The Council will, however, now move to appoint a permanent Director of Public Health on a salary of around £100,000. 

The Council will also make a permanent appointment to the post of “City and Environmental Services”. Essentially this is the role formerly held by Bill Woolley who retired over three years ago. It is responsible for planning and transport policy.  The post will also attract a pay level of around £100,000 pa. The Council says that to minimise recruitment costs this post will be “advertised externally on City of York Council Jobs Website and promoted through the Council social media channels”.  Minimal advertising of vacancies is usually a tactic that a Council adopts when it has “someone in mind” for the post.

Recent events – including the Councils response to the flooding crisis – suggest that there is a lack of effective leadership in the authority.  Taking over 12 months to find a permanent appointment for the post which is responsible for driving the administrative side of the Council is, at best, complacent and at worst negligent.

The York Council is now desperately short of experienced management capacity.

Councillors need to act quickly and decisively to fill the void.

York Council publishes analysis of numbers made redundant

Over 100 York Council employees have suffered compulsory redundancy since April 2011.

In addition 420 have opted for voluntary redundancy.

The report – being considered by a Council committee tomorrow does not say how much the redundancies have cost taxpayers. However, after taking into account pension contributions, this is thought likely to be a 7 figure number.

Most of the redundancies occurred between May 2011 and April 2015 when Labour were in control of the local Council. Since May 2015 there have been a total of 43 redundancies, the majority of which have been voluntary.

Recent events suggest that the Council has shed too many experienced managers. As a result it struggles to cope with unusual events such as the recent floods.

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Sublime to the ridiculous?

York Council agenda hits new levels of mediocrity
York Guildhall

York Guildhall

The agenda for the next Council meeting looks like it will be a boon for the insomniac. Apart from the proposal to increase Councillors pay – which perhaps inevitably gets the prime place on the agenda – the rest is largely a jumble of random thoughts.

There are now two Leaders reports (presumably to satisfy the rival egos of the coalition partners). Neither provides any new information. Both are comprised mainly of anecdotal commentary on what third parties have achieved (York BID, Enterprise Zone etc.).

The Council’s Leader (Chris Steward) seems to be preparing the way for a “U turn” on Council subsidies for the Guildhall project and the York Central development, together with building on the Green Belt. 

His deputy (Keith Aspden) skates around the fact that, 4 months after the City offered to accommodate Syrian refugees, not a single child has arrived in the City.

The Council has changed its constitution so that written questions cannot be tabled to report authors (or any other post holder for that matter). Thus another opportunity to promote informed decision making has been lost. In its place is a limited time for verbal questions, the answers to which will be lost in a jungle of political ducking and diving.

 So what should the Council Leadership have been briefing residents on? Well there are at least three obvious, and worrying, issues:

  1. Lack of management leadership. 6 months after a temporary Chief Executive was appointed, there is still no sign of a permanent
    Caravan site  propsal for  West Offcies

    West Offices

    appointment. In turn, this means that posts further down the hierarchy remain unfilled. Some Chief Officers seem content to contribute to the anarchy by taking to the bunkers whenever residents raise (often valid) criticisms.

  2. The absence of KPI data on street level services is a disgrace. In their absence none of the post holders at the York Council can be judged on their effectiveness.
  3. The “front office” (the first point of contact for residents) is slow to respond and occasionally chaotic. The responsible Executive member (Council Leader) really needs to explain why a – deeply flawed – “on line”  issue handling system was launched two months ago without proper testing.

Elsewhere on the agenda there are four motions. All fall into the pious hand ringing category. Passing them will make little difference to York residents as the levers for change are held by third parties (with the possible exception of a proposal on elderly people’s isolation).

Still the new Council – although shy about the urgency of decision making – is still better than the one it replaced. By this time in 2011 there had been a covert attempt to sell off the Union Terrace car park while adding £20 million to the taxpayers debt burden.  

So perhaps indecision is better than hyper-decision making!

2.6 million visits to York Council web site

The Councils web site had over 2.6 million visits during the last year.

The bounce rate (the proportion of visitors who read only one page before leaving) was around 50%.

Perhaps surprisingly the majority of visitors were using desktop PCs.

By way of comparison, a website like this one receives around 40,000 visits each year with a bounce rate of around 70%.  Not surprisingly over 40% of our visitors are located in York. Most of our visitors are aged under 35 and are split almost equally between male and female.

Web site hits 2014 15

Democracy at the York Council

THURAISINGHAM PBK(244x172)The Council’s Executive is due to considered how to encourage more pre-decision policy debate when it meets on Thursday.

The report can be read by clicking here.

The proposed system seems to be more complicated than we might have hoped for!!

Although the new process is a step away from “behind closed doors” decision making, it pointedly fails to reinforce the rights of residents to have a timely opportunity to make representations to elected members. One welcome change is that the Councils “Forward Plan” will be updated each week although in the past there have been occasions when agenda items have been mis-recorded on this plan.  

At present there remains no requirement for advanced notice to be given of decisions which are likely taken by officers using delegated powers.

Meanwhile a five Councillor “E-Democracy” task group is due to meet tomorrow. They have courageously decided to fully exploit the outer limits of technological  innovation  – by catching a bus for a face to face meeting at West Offices!

Appointments to new York Council Executive announced

The new coalition which will run the York Council, for the next few years has announced the appointments that it will make to its new “Executive” committee. The “Executive” replaces Labours pretentiously titled “Cabinet”.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The new body will be able to rely on some experienced Councillors with Andrew Waller, Ian Gillies and Carol Runciman all getting portfolios. The latter picks up the social care responsibility which proved to be beyond the capabilities of several Labour members who have preceded her in recent years.

Others with several years of experience include Nigel Ayre, Jenny Brooks and Keith Aspden

Tory Chris Steward becomes the second Council Leader, after James Alexander, to take up the role with less than 4 years experience under his belt. The short-lived Alexander regime was famous for impulsive, somewhat shallow, decision making – let’s hope we don’t see a repetition.

Biggest surprise is the appointment of David Carr to the Council Housing portfolio. Little known outside Copmanthorpe, David Carr has only been a member of the Council for 2 weeks. He will take over a Housing department which has recently been heavily criticised for stopping skip visits to several estates, delaying the installation of new windows at an elderly persons sheltered housing site and refusing to allow tenants to spend improvement monies on facilities which have enjoyed support for many years.

Many estates are now in need of major regeneration works. It remains to be seen whether a rookie Councillor will be able to get a grip on a Department which has run up a budget surplus of £15 million

All the Executive posts have been regarded as full time by successive independent remuneration panels. This presents a major sacrifice for the three Councillors who currently hold down full time the jobs outside the Council  (Steward, Aspden and Ayre). Giving up a secure job to take up, what may prove to be, a temporary post is a major step and one that the last Council Leader – Williams – was not prepared to take (with some foresight as it turned out).

The decision is made more difficult by the new coalition’s decision to reduce individual  Executive “pay” from £21,892 a year to £18,217 to stay within the existing budget. Whether they will be able to do this without reference to an independent review panel remains to be seen.

It seems that the pay grades of Leader (£31,712 and Deputy Leader (£24,704) will remain the same.

Still the major interest for residents will be the new structures which we are promised will give everyone access to more information and the opportunity to influence decisions. We expect proposals to be tabled within the next few days.

A copy of the Executive portfolio responsibilities can be downloaded by clicking here