Crowds add to litter problems in York

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.

Full bin at Askham Lane bus stop
Same issue at the Cornlands Road shops
Shops forecourt badly littered

Problem with leaves on Askham Grove steps reported

We’ve reported several instances where fallen leaves could resent a safety issue.

Askham Grove steps
Leaves on paths at junction of Gale Lane and Cornlands Road
Resurfacing contractors have almost reached the end of their Gale Lane job
Both sets of goal posts are back on the Westfield Park. Sadly they still haven’t been painted yet.

Wear and tear takes its toll of street furniture and access gates. Maintenance work is needed at several locations.

The access gate to the Bachelor Hill amenity area from Askham Lane – aimed at preventing access by motorcyclists – has been in need of attentions for some time
Similar picture at the Tennent Road access. We’ve reported litter in the nearby hedge
Litter also a problem on the Cornlands park
….and another gate – to the playground – where the spring closer doesn’t work. This was installed to stop dogs accessing and fouling the play area.
Tedder Road/Cornlands Road snicket. One of several which would benefit from a “deep clean” this winter

So what public service standards should we expect in each York neighbourhood?

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.

Service Level Agreement page 1

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.

Service Level Agreement page 2

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.

Little progress on estate improvements this year

 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

Council estate issues in central part of York

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

As well as Wlllow House, damaged street signs, graffiti and weed growth are issues in the Hope Street area.

Elsewhere the Groves area also has its fair share of problems

Graffiti on Groves Lane
Litter near the shops on Lowther Street
Graffiti on garage door in St Thomas’ Place
A lot of potholes are emerging. They are particularity hazardous for cyclists. This one is on March Street (and has been reported)

Bus shelter clean up welcomed

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.

Foxwood Lane shelter. No longer an Arboretum
Shelter near Otterwood Lane as tidied up
Askham Lane bus shelter, although very rusty, is now free of undergrowth

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.

Cornlands park

Street cleansing problems highlighted at meeting

Litter problems on areas like the Foxwood shops were discussed at a residents meeting yesterday. The residents were told that the street cleansing service was having difficulty in recruiting staff. Local Councillor Simon Daubeney reported that a new litter bin would be provided opposite the shops at the end of Hatfield Walk.
We’ve asked for new springs to be provided on the gates to the football pitch area on Foxwood Park. The old ones are broken allowing the gates to swing open. In turn this allows unsupervised access for dogs. Dog fouling on nearby footpaths is a continuing issue.
It’s reached the time of year when tree detritus and ripe fruit can fall in significant quantities onto some foot and cycle paths. This is potentially hazardous. We’ve reported problems on the Bellhouse Way path between Acomb Wood Drive and the Foxwood Park.
The path is also obstructed by overhanging tree branches

Action needed, Action taken

Mixed outlook on several outstanding public service issues in west York

We’ve reported a broken utility sign at the top of Grange Lane
Exposed cables have been tied to street signs in Milner Street for several weeks now.
Graffiti and litter continue to blight the Grange Lane snickets
We’ve suggested that hard core be used to make footpaths in the Grange Lane Westfield Park usable in wet weather
New record holder for the largest weed award. This 3 metre monster in Dijon Avenue next to a telegraph pole.
Loose rubbish continues to blight the rear of Front Street
Overgrown snicket on Gale Lane becoming a crime concern. We”ve asked the Ward Councillors to act.
Reported yet again litter, detritus and weeds on the Tithe Close snicket. Issue recorded by the Council as “solved” Clearly not!
Weeds flourishing on Hotham Avenue
….and Foxwood Lane
….and School Street

….But weeds cleared from Dijon Avenue garage area by Council. Now looks very tidy.

More missed bins

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.

No post recycling litter pick today (or for some time)
Many litter bins are overflowing

Litter a growing problem on some Council estates

Litter is left for weeks without being swept.

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 far.

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.

Litter levels increasing

Graffiti removed from street furniture in east York

Following action by Cllr Mark Walters, Virgin media have cleaned graffiti from many of their cabinets in east York. The above are in Tang Hall.
Unfortunately, the position in west York seems to have deteriorated with more graffiti appearing. This BT telephone kiosk in Beagle Ridge Drive is due to be removed shortly, but in the meantime it has become a target for the “artists” The Foxwood Residents Association has now formally complained about the amount of litter in the neighbourhood. They wat to see the return of “lengths-men” and dedicated estate workers, The Foxwood shops forecourt is a particular problem area.

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)