York Council breaks even, but only after calling on £1.9 million from reserves

The York Council exceeded its expenditure budget during the last financial year by nearly £2 million..

Road repair programme failed last year

It was able to fill the gap by drawing on £1/2 million from its contingency allocation. It also raided its reserves to find an additional £1.4 million which it had previously earmarked for pay and pensioners liabilities. The final £309,000, held to repay unlawfully issued fines connected to the Lendal Bridge closure, was also utilised.

While this juggling of funds allowed the authority to emerge with a £128,000 surplus on its 2019/20 £123 million budget, the moves camouflaged large overspends on Education and Social Care. Promised efficiencies there failed to materialise.

The £1.5 million overspend by the Education department will no doubt result in a renewed focus on inessential expenditure. One trenchant “citizen auditor” has reported finding that the department apparently spent £10,000 renting rooms at a luxury hotel and golf complex in Humberside last year. The nature of the activity is being investigated.

Clearly the Council will now need to clamp down on anything other than essential expenditure.

The Council faces a new multi-million pound shortfall on its income this year as a result of the Coronavirus epidemic. It will not be able to call on the above reserves again but does have a buffer provided by the £7.4 million held in general reserves.

A meeting to discuss the report takes place on Thursday

Quality of Public Services in York

The Council has also released some information on public service quality. Unfortunately, many of the figures are not up to date. There is likely to be some cynicism about some of the results with only 20% of road surfaces in the City classified as “poor” or “very poor” by Council officials!

York Council performance indicators

That was the week that was in photos

Good to see some patching work on the Herman Walk carriageway. Like the roads in the rest of the area a lot more work is needed if they are to be brought up to an acceptable standard.
Disappointing to see the safety barriers disassembled on Chesneys Field. They were put there to stop children using the play equipment at the height of the Coronavirus crisis. The Council now needs to decide whether it is going to continue to try to stop the equipment – which is not fenced off normally – being used or simply remove the equipment. Perhaps a reminder sign about hygiene could be put up?
Two shopping trolleys have made a break for freedom. One was last seen on Gale Lane while a second had made it as far as Cornlands Road. Both have been reported
& the wetter weather has seen weeds growing more quickly in gutters. We’ve reported those in The Reeves. We are about due to see the next round of weed treatment

Ward highway improvements list published – nothing for Westfield?

It looks like the Westfield area has been snubbed in the latest highways maintenance budget allocations.

In another “behind closed doors” decision, tens of thousands of pounds, from “delegated” ward budgets, has been allocated for highway and footpath repairs plus some other work  like new parking laybys.

Areas benefiting are Bishopthorpe, Clifton, Copmanthorpe, Dringhouses, Fishergate, Guildhall,  Heslington, Heworth, Hull Road, Holgate, Huntington, Micklegate and Rural West.

One of the roads omitted from repair programme

The absence of Westfield from the list is doubly surprising.

Some local roads are in an appalling condition.

Local Councillors were given lists of problem locations over 6 months ago.

Poor weather in the intervening period has seen some surfaces – such as those on the Morrell Court access road – deteriorate quite markedly.

The report to the decision meeting gives details of how much money is available for local ward Councillors to manage.

It also explains the assessment process.

The Ward Highways Capital Scheme is a four-year programme formed from £250k p.a. of capital resources set aside from the main Highways Capital Programme. It is designed to allow wards to bring forward schemes that are important to local residents but would struggle to be prioritised as part of the main capital programme. A nominal allocation is made to each ward on a population basis. Wards are able to aggregate their allocation by carrying over / bringing forward annual allocations in order to undertake more substantial schemes.

The programme was enhanced in 19/20 through the allocation of the following one-off amounts to it:

  • £500k to use for highways improvements in respect of Roads and Footways
  • £500k to use for Walking and Cycling improvements

(NB. Details of how the walking and cycling budget is being spent were published a couple of weeks ago. Yet again no projects in the Westfield area were agreed).

The Council says the aim is to use this funding flexibly to meet the needs of wards whilst taking account of all relevant legislation and statutory guidance as highways are heavily regulated environments.

The following process is used to identify schemes:

  • Community Involvement Officers liaise with ward councillors, residents and key partners to identify potential schemes
  • The Highways team bring forward condition surveys, customer requests, and safety audits for consideration by wards to help inform their decision-making together with information showing the roads in the ward that are to be repaired through the main capital programme
  • Ideas are taken to a ward walk-about for initial consideration followed, where appropriate, by detailed feasibility work and any appropriate community / statutory consultation
  • The Highways team then form the prioritised ideas as far as possible into a coherent capital programme”

Wards not receiving an allocation were Acomb, Haxby, Heworth Without, Hull Road, Holgate and Westfield.

The list of improvements that have been agreed can be viewed by clicking here

Taking a pride in local neighbourhoods

As “normality” returns to our streets we are looking to the authorities to demonstrate that they have a plan which will see an increase in social pride in local neighbourhoods.

The Councils much hyped “health hubs” are winding down as the premises they occupy – such as libraries – are made ready for a return to their normal uses.

The longer established neighbourhood hubs have yet to reopen although the extended summer holidays mean that demand for their services is greater than ever. Informal meeting places would provide a welcome relief from social isolation particularly for those who have endured lock-down on their own. They are also a potential valuable resource for families during the extended school break.

Many of the venues for these hubs remain closed with no published plans for them to reopen when social distancing rules allow.

Perhaps surprisingly the York Council has yet to address other tensions which are likely to increase as more people are out and about. There is no room on the agenda for community safety at today’s first COVID “Board” meeting. Yet anti social behaviour is already increasing in some estates as lock-down is eased.

Still too much fly tipping despite amenity sites having reopened
Pleased to see that the unused telephone kiosk at the Foxwood shops has finally been removed. Hopefully the Council will get this prominent empty bungalow repaired and re–let quickly now
Still too much self inflicted grief. Graffiti on local junction boxes needs to be cleaned off
Grass has now established itself on the area near the new Osprey Close land drain.
Still waiting for hardcore to be put down on the path to ensure that it remains useable in wet weather
Continuing battle to get road repaired. It appears that the funding delegated to ward has not been utilised. Carriageway surfaces are likely to disintegrate when icy weather arrives.
Some good news with the cul de sac on Kingsway West now swept of detritus.
Ongoing problems reported on the “Save Lowfields Playing Field” Facebook page. Main issues relate to early morning noise, dust and further damage to verges in the Dijon Avenue area. (The latter thought to be connected with BT “Open World” works).

Road repairs promised, Foxwood residents key workers tribute

Dringhouses Councillor Stephen Fenton tells us that the Council have agreed to fill in the potholes on the Askham Lane approach to the A1237 roundabout. Last week the highways department claimed there was no need for any work!
Foxwood Residents Association gardeners (Foxgloves) have unveiled a tribute to key workers in the communal garden at the community centre.
Residents are being asked to check that boundary hedges are not intruding onto public footpaths
Thorn hedge branches which are impeding the Tedder Road – Cornlands Road snicket have been reported for a second time.
Bulky waste removal service recommences tomorrow (Monday). Details on Council web site.

More issues reported for attention in west York

Quick work by York Council this morning in getting part of the Moor Lane carriageway surface dressed.
Adjacent to the Moor lane works, the badly worn carriageway on Askham Lane still needs repair
Leaf detritus in the Askham Richard drainage gulleys have been reported for sweeping
The York Council has accepted responsibility for sweeping the A64 cycle path near its junction with the A1237
We’ve asked again for the Tedder Road/Cornlands Road snicket to be given a “deep clean”. Dog fouling a problem with hedges also beginning to obstruct the path ”

That was the week that was in photos

Unusual to see full bottles dumped next to the bottle bank at Acomb Car park!
Sadly still some dumping next to the bins. it has been suggested that the larger amenity sites like Hazel Court should reopen to residents. They have remained open for the disposal of trade waste. With green and bulky waste collection suspended, this would make sense provided social distancing can be maintained. We think that use levels could be controlled if specific days were allocated to individual neighbourhoods – possibly using a colour codes system. Real time “on line” monitoring of queue lengths – also suggested for supermarkets – would also help.
We’ve reported the full litter bin (and dumping) at the Acomb Car park
On the other side of the City, local Councillor Mark Warters has brokered an agreement with B & Q (which has now re-opened) aimed at avoiding HGVs blocking the access road. They will in future move straight into the delivery yard.
Elsewhere the recent mix of rain and sunshine has resulted in a rapid growth in weeds and hedges. Some are now blocking paths
Snicket still accessible on Wetherby Road but has been a problem in the past
Nettle growth at the entrance to the Westfield park has caused problems in the past. It should be on the new weed control programme but there is no evidence of “die back”
Nettles can also be a hazard when they reduce the width of public footpaths
We’ve asked for detritus to be swept from the Chesney Field snicket …..
& from the drainage gulleys in The Green area
An accumulation of litter on this snicket in Foxwood. Generally, though, the estate has been much cleaner recently.
The section of Gale Lane from St Stephens Road to Foxwood Lane which will be resurfaced this year.
Unfortunately there are many potholed carriageways which don’t appear in the Councils programme. This one is in Foxwood.
….and still no action to repair the poor road surface on Lowfields Drive
Uneven footpaths in Chapelfields have also not made it into the Councils repair programme
There was some hope that the budget delegated to wards specifically for improvements for pedestrians would lead to hard core being put down on part of the Grange Lane park access path. No programme of work has been published by the Council although the funding has been available for nearly a year now.
Damaged fence on Lowfields Drive reported
Finally we hope that the local Councillors will get round to publishing a neighbourhood list of takeaways which are continuing to provide a delivery service for the local community. Many have gone to great lengths to observe “social distancing” guidelines. We need these local businesses to survive the current lock-down difficulties. They deserve the support of the Council and local residents. At the very least the Council should maintain an up to date list of the food delivery services available within each local community. The list should be publicised on local noticeboards and on social media. Ideally it should be included on a leaflet delivered to each home. (The leaflet that the Council recently delivered only included about 20% of the suppliers still operating in the Acomb/Foxwood/Woodthorpe area).
We are compiling our own list which we hope to publish here next week.

Good work by Highways England

Highways England removed the carcass of the dead badger from the A64 yesterday. The response was very swift.

The dead badger removed from the A64. There is a continuing debate about where responsibility rests for cleansing the cycle path along the A64 and on into York. Currently there is a lot detritus on it in places which restricts its width.
On Moor Lane in Dringhouses, the Council has removed the cats eyes from the highway prior to resurfacing on Sunday. The surface dressing process – which arrests wear on the road surface -, will involve one way working so some delays can be expected. Alternative routes are unlikely to be busy.
The Council have agreed to cut back the branches from the tree that is blocking the Thanet Road cycle path. They say they will do so when labour becomes available.
The York Council has promised to repair a section of carriageway on Bradley Lane near Rufforth

York Council trying to maintain public service standards

Good to see at least some public services continuing in York. Verges and open spaces are being cut today in west York. This will be appreciated by the many additional users who are using parks and other spaces for their daily exercise.

Also the pot hole filling team has been at work with long standing hazards on Foxwood Lane patched this week. This should make cycling safer.

Still a lot of catching up to do though and the highways side.

Some of the potholes on Foxwood Lane have been levelled.

Catching up with maintenance work

We’ve been out and about checking on public service standards in west York in the wake of the recent storms. These are some of this weeks reports

The Council have promised a thorough review of the snickets in the area. The residents association is currently conducting an audit of standards. In several there are problems with worn paths, weeds, litter, dumping and damaged boundary fencing. During the summer months, anti social behaviour is an issue in some while other s are obstructed by trees and hedges.

Hopefully these issues will all be addressed later it the year.