Tenant satisfaction with Council estates in York tumbles

Dog fouling, lack of parking, rubbish and litter top concerns

Most York Council tenants continue to be satisfied with the quality of their home and the repairs and maintenance service.

Estates increasingly neglected

Estates increasingly neglected

However many remain dissatisfied with the opportunities available to influence management decisions.

And only 44% were satisfied with the final outcome of complaints that they had made.

However, the most significant result to be revealed, by the Councils annual survey of tenant’s views, comes on satisfaction levels with conditions on local estates.

The satisfaction level is down by 5%.

This comes as little surprise with many estates beginning to look neglected.

Weed growth, potholed bitmac, damaged verges and neglected communal areas all add up to an increasingly depressing environment.

The report on the survey results was taken to another behind closed doors meeting last week.
Behind closed doors logo

The report  candidly admits,

“Customers have delivered a clear message that their estate services require attention. As well as a decrease in those very satisfied or fairly satisfied, there has a 5% increase in those very dissatisfied or fairly dissatisfied (10% 2012: 15% 2013)”.

The Labour Councillor with responsibility for Housing (Simpson Laing) failed to order any action which might stop the decline.

Tenant satisfaction results click to enlarge

Tenant satisfaction results click to enlarge



Liberal Democrats force housing U-Turn in York

Public consultation papers on controversial development plans will include housing numbers after Liberal Democrat councillors forced a dramatic U-Turn tonight.

Green Belt campaign logo Labour run York Council’s ‘Draft Local Plan’ outlines proposals to build 22,000 houses on sites across York. Last month the Labour Cabinet approved a report for public consultation which earmarked further sites and recommended boundary changes on some sites identified last year.

However, the consultation papers excluded housing numbers for the new and amended sites. Liberal Democrat councillors Nigel Ayre, Ann Reid and Carol Runciman ‘called-in’ the decision for further review and at tonight’s CSMC (Corporate and Scrutiny Management Committee) meeting the cross-party committee voted to include the housing numbers.

Cllr Ann Reid, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Planning, said at the meeting:

“The principle of consultation should be that residents are given as much information as possible about the proposals being put forward. We believe that housing numbers are central to this consultation and should be published. Whether one of these sites is for 20 or 200 houses will make a huge difference to how residents view it.”

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Reid commented:

“I am pleased that common sense has prevailed and residents will now be able to see the housing numbers proposed for each site. The Labour Cabinet should never have tried to hide the housing numbers from residents in the first place. Labour’s argument that including the numbers ties the hands of developers was nonsense, especially as housing numbers were published for sites in last year’s consultation.”


£13 million surplus on York Council Housing account leads to “peer review”

One improvement, which we understand has now got the go ahead, will be aimed at dealing with parking problems on Hammerton Close

One improvement, which we understand has now got the go ahead, will be aimed at dealing with parking problems on Hammerton Close

A review of the, York Councils, Housing Business Plan is being put off until July.

The new plan was to have been revealed at a “Cabinet” meeting scheduled to take place next month.

Instead, apparently the Darlington Borough Council are to be involved in a “peer review” of Council Housing management in York. Darlington is also a Labour controlled local authority.

The delay will come as little surprise to many tenants  who have complained about lack of progress with much needed  estate improvements.  There is a long list of outstanding work including many requests for improved car parking, better security, renewal of fencing and upgrades to communal areas.

It appears that, despite the backlog of work, this years (2013/14) estate improvement budget  may not be fully utilised.

The Councils decision, not to use some of its £13 million surplus to buy additional Council homes on the open market, should be scrutinised.

NB The Council have again put off considering a report on how to deal with parking enforcement problems on Council estates.

The issue was first scheduled for consideration last autumn, but is now unclear when – or even if – the matter will be debated.

New options for tenants looking to downsize

The Council is encouraging tenants, of properties which are too large for them, to apply for new homes which will shortly become available in Clifton.

In the main, the new homes will have two bedrooms though, so offer little relief for the majority of people on the York Housing waiting list who are looking for one bedroomed properties.

An artist’s impression of the finished schemeCouncil and housing association tenants in York who are considering moving to a more manageable and affordable home, are invited to find out more about a new scheme for 23 affordable homes in the city.

Broadacres Housing Association in association with City of York Council, is holding a public information event at Clifton Green Primary School on Wednesday 12 March from 4.30-7pm.

The event will feature a new scheme to be built on the site of the former YWCA hostel in Water Lane. There, Broadacres is building 16, two-bedroom apartments for affordable rent. Priority will be given to people aged 55 and over who would benefit from moving to a smaller property.


Call to save advice sessions in Acomb

Acomb branch office closed by Labour in 2012

Acomb branch office closed by Labour in 2012

Liberal Democrat Councillor Lynn Jeffries is calling on Labour run York Council to guarantee that housing advice sessions in West York will continue despite funding cuts.

When Labour closed Acomb Housing Office in February 2012 they were forced to set-up alternative advice sessions at Foxwood and Chapelfields community centres. The weekly sessions offer residents help on housing, housing benefits and Council Tax support as well as on issues such as anti-social behaviour.

However, after Labour slashed funding to community centres the sessions are now in doubt. Cuts mean caretakers at the centres have been made redundant and therefore there is no longer a second member of staff on hand to ensure that the sessions can continue – a second staff member is needed due to lone worker regulations.


Lib Dems force windows U-Turn at Gale Farm Court

Gale Farm Court sheltered accommodation

Gale Farm Court sheltered accommodation

Residents at a sheltered housing scheme in Acomb will see old windows replaced after a Liberal Democrat campaign led to a U-turn from Labour run City of York Council.

Gale Farm Court, on Front Street in Acomb, looked set to miss out on the drafty window replacement programme – which was orginally brought in by the Liberal Democrats in February 2011. When Labour took power in May 2011 they continued the scheme, but in June 2013 it was confirmed by council officers that Gale Fram Court would not be included and any upgrades there would be a “wasting money”.

However, after complaints from residents and a campign from Lib Dem Westfield Councillor Lynn Jeffries, council staff have confirmed that work could start to install replacement windows at the site as early as this summer.

Cllr Jeffries commented:

“I am delighted that sheltered housing tenants at Gale Farm Court will now get the replacement windows. Many of the exisitng windows are in a poor state – letting in too much noise, cold and wet and letting out too much heat. I even know residents who have had slugs coming into their flat as a result of the old windows.

“Given this it was hugely disappointing that Gale Farm Court was not on the programme for window replacements last year. However, I have repeatedly raised the issue with council officers and at public meetings and I am pleased to see that action is going to be taken hopefully as early as this summer. Residents at Gale Farm should certainly not be expected to endure another winter with the existing windows.”

NB The February 2011 Lib Dem budget included £700,000 for investment in insulation and replacement of draughty windows in council owned properties. The programme aimed to ensure that residents benefited from warmer homes and lower fuel bills.

More information on the scheme can be found here: http://www.york.gov.uk/info/200486/council_tenant_repairs_and_modernisation/1075/major_improvements_and_maintenance/8

Long delays on York Council house building programme

Newbury Avenue garage block where labour plan to builds flats

Newbury Avenue garage block where labour plan to builds flats

The York Council has slipped its Council house building programme by 12 months.

It had originally intended to build around 50 new homes before the end of 2014 with much of the work being completed before March.

The schemes are now being delayed with only the Beckfield Lane site likely to start in the late spring.

Having obtained planning permission for the former recycling centre site the Council is now seeking tenders for the work.

Another 5 schemes, including the controversial Newbury Avenue garage development, may be put before the planning committee next month.

There are over 2000 people on the waiting list for Council homes in the City

Tenancy fraud clampdown in York

Council’s and social landlords in the region are encouraging people to report tenancy fraud as part of a regional Tenancy Fraud Awareness Week 2014.

Council’s and social landlords in the region are encouraging people to report tenancy fraud as part of a regional Tenancy Fraud Awareness Week 2014.

Tenancy Fraud Awareness Week 2014 runs between Monday 3 and Sunday 9 February, and social housing providers and fraud busting-agencies across the region are encouraging members of the public to report any suspicions of tenancy fraud.

With tenancy fraud now a criminal offence following the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013, this latest campaign builds on an anti-Housing Fraud campaign launched in August 2013 by City of York Council and its counter fraud specialist partner Veritau.


York Council hoarding £2.7 million intended for public service improvements?

Contributions made by developers for affordable housing, transport, leisure and schools improvements.

The vast majority of the payments made to the York Council by builders – to offset the impact that new developments have on the demand for public services – has not been spent by the Council.

Not only have projects which would increase public service capacity not been identified there is not record of the current administration having even discussed its plans for the cash mountain.

The amounts collected include several hundred thousand pounds as contributions towards the provision of ”affordable” housing. These are commuted sums paid when a developer is unable to provide cheaper accommodation “on site”.

House building, Norfolk

Quite why the Council has simply not bought properties on the open market with this money is a mystery. It would be the quickest way of accommodating several dozen people who are currently living in poor quality accommodation.

The unused ”receipts” have led some developers to call for a “refund”.  They point out, with some justification, that if their developments had caused an increase in demand for public services, then such demand must have been satisfied when the properties were occupied.

Banking the money for over 5 years suggests that the S106 system is simply being used as an additional “tax” on development. In part it may explain the low house building numbers in the City over the last 3 years.

click to access source file

click to access source file

Now they plan to demand that the monies are returned to them.

The figures were obtained under a Freedom of Information request.

A spreadsheet showing what payments have been made and how (some) of the money has been used, can be found by clicking here.

The paper does not include some of the largest S106 payments such as that scheduled to be used to build the “Community Stadium” at Monks Cross.

Housing figures to be questioned as Tories try to “sack” Cabinet member


Two questions have been tabled for Thursdays York Council meeting, which may shed some light on the demand for affordable housing in York.

The questions spring from the decision to remove over half the applicants who were registered on the waiting list in September.

The impact of this major decision – which was taken behind closed doors – will be questioned by Liberal Democrat Councillor Ann Reid.

She has tabled the following question,

“Does the decision to remove 2400 applicants from the Housing Waiting List, which means there are now officially fewer residents in housing need, mean there will be lower affordable house building targets?”

Last week the government announced that developers would, in future, not have to provide a fixed number of affordable units on developments of 10 homes or less.

In addition, Councils will be able to borrow money to acquire more social housing.

The Labour Leadership’s claim, that the additional homes that they plan to build in and around the City over the next 15 years would be occupied by local residents, is also being challenged.

The following question has been tabled.

“What proportion of the 22,000 additional homes that the Cabinet Member feels should be built during the next 15 years under Labour’s Local Plan proposals, does she believe will be occupied by York residents and their families and how many by inward migration?”

Meanwhile Conservative Councillors are trying to force the resignation from the Cabinet of Cllr Tracey Simpson Laing.

Acomb Council branch office closed by Councillor Simpson Laing

Acomb Council branch office closed by Councillor Simpson Laing

They have put down a motion of “no confidence“, but cite only the Councillors failure to provide additional affordable homes in the City.

While housing building rates over the last 3 years have been disappointing, and the failure of the Council to buy on the open market to supplement the rented stock lamentable, the more serious shortcomings of the present administration are in danger of being overlooked.

Labour only have themselves to blame though, as they tried a similar “no confidence” stunt in 2008.