Its not just the transport systems that have been under pressure in York this weekend.
People have been pointing to issues with street cleansing in the City centre. Can’t be easy for Council staff and the BID team to keep on top of the problems with such high volumes of pedestrians around (not to mention the security zones).
Even in suburban areas we’ve been finding examples of full bins and badly littered streets. All have been reported for Council attention.
One interesting side effect of the Council report, on improving graffiti removal processes across the City, has been the re-publication of the Service Level Agreement (SLA) or “Customer Contract” for Council estates. The agreement was last reviewed in 2013 and is one of several SLAs which were agreed for different public service areas across the City.
All references to them were removed from the Council web site several years ago.
The SLAs have never formally been abandoned by the Council, but even a casual glance at some of the requirements (above), reveals failings.
The Council promises to “Publicise the dates of estate inspections on our website” & “conduct an estate inspection every three months and to show you (the tenant) the actions identified and progress with it on our web site”
Tenants will search
in vain for such information on the Councils web site.
The Council no longer even publishes the agendas & minutes of resident’s association meetings on its site. Lack of support from the Council, means that many of the listed residents associations have ceased to function.
Although the Council promises to “remove dumped rubbish within 7 days”, proactive cleansing no longer routinely takes place. A mobile “estate worker” reacts only to reported issues. This may explain the lamentable drop off in street cleansing standards in some estates this summer.
Customer satisfaction and KPI stats are not published at an
estate level. Most are not routinely shared with residents’ associations.
Good environmental standards on estates require a lot more
than litter removal, of course. Many complaints relate to poorly maintained roads,
street furniture and anti-social behaviour.
Even when problems like overgrown trees and hedges are
identified as an issue the Council fails to take effective action.
In Foxwood a list of streets
where hedges needed cutting back from public footpaths was identified 6 months ago.
The estate improvement budget was identified as a source of resources with
action to be taken over the winter period, but the work has, apparently, yet to
be authorised by ward Councillors.
The Council should review and republish all its SLAs. Performance against target should be reported frankly and regularly at least on social media channels.
That fresh approach needs to start now.It will need the committed and public support of senior managers and executive Councillors
Generally public service standards on Council housing estates in the centre of the City have been better than those experienced in the suburbs.
This is probably because core services (highway maintenance, street cleansing, grass cutting, graffiti removal etc) are more in the public eye. Consequently issues are more likely to be reported.
However there are exceptions. There is emerging evidence that service level agreement standards are not being met.
The Hope Street/Long Close Lane area has its fair share of issues. Principal among them is of course the long term empty Willow House building. Lack of progress by the Council in selling the building – which could provide housing for dozens of people – is shameful
Elsewhere the Groves area also has its fair share of problems
We reported last week that several of the Council owned bus shelters in west York were looking shabby. Some were overgrown with weeds and undergrowth.
We are pleased to report that, following our highlighting the issue to the York Council , some of the shelters have been tidied up. Undergrowth has been cut back from the shelters making them much more user friendly.
However the work undertaken has also served to emphasise how much these shelters need a coat of paint and other refurbishment.
Many are now rusting quite badly.
We were also pleased to see for the first time for some time today that the Cornlands Park was largely free of litter.
There seems to be a slow improvement in some public service standards in the City following a disappointing summer.
Council needs to “come clean” about the extent of its resourcing problems
Another day and another raft of missed bin collections.
Mostly the failures are down to inadequate staffing, unreliable vehicles and full lorries.
Yet the Council has so far failed to say when replacement vehicles will arrive in the city.
…and there is a growing suspicion that other services are being depleted in a desperate attempt to plug the gaps in the waste collection service. One estate still has litter strewn around from collections which took place weeks ago.
Keeping estates clean and tidy until recently was the responsibility of estate workers. There was one in each major neighbourhood. They were sometimes styled as estate “handymen” and part of their duties was to repair minor items of street furniture. They were funded from rents.
They helped to keep neighbourhoods in good condition and would
often be seen in the area proactively dealing with issues.
The Council recently decided to get rid of the role with responsibilities
transferred to a mobile team. Since the
change, there has been a noticeable drop in standards. This seems mainly to be due
to the fact that, rather than routinely patrol areas looking to address issues before
they were widely noticed, the new approach is mainly “reactive”.
That is the staff respond to complaints.
Many will remember fondly the last decade when the Council, for
a time, employed “lengthsmen” to give local roads that extra bit of care. They achieved
more in improving standards than mechanical sweeping alone could provide.
That sadly also is a now thing of the past.
The drop in standards has been an increasing concern for residents
associations. The issue has been drawn to the attention of Executive Councillors
who have responsibility for service quality. There has been little response so
Unless the Council publishes an acceptable service standard contract
for activities like these – the core of its work as a public authority – then
it is likely that volunteer efforts will tail off.
That would be a great shame as whole communities would suffer.
With shorter days, the reliability of street lighting will once again become a priority. No doubt local Councillors will be undertaking a sweep of their wards checking for faults. Residents also may want to report issues. Generally faulty bulbs are replaced quickly if reported via the Councils “on line” site https://www.york.gov.uk/reportproblems (click)