York Council moves to legitimise Local Plan decision date

Big City smallThe latest Forward Plan -which indicates when key decisions are scheduled to be taken by the York Council – has been amended to include consideration of a new Draft Local Plan.

The Council has said that it will consider which sites will be allocated for new housing when its Executive meets on 30th June.

Residents were mystified when, last week, Councillors said discussion of the changes was imminent. No item had been placed on the Forward Plan and the Executive’s own agenda – which outlines the issues that will be considered at its subsequent two meetings – was also silent on the issue.

The Council has still not said when its Local Plan Working Group will meet. The all party group has not met since 30th November 2015.  It would normally meet to discuss any draft proposals before forwarding them to the Executive for approval.

We understand that Council officials are briefing the owners of major sites in the City this month. They are being told what to expect when the Draft Plan is released next month.secret decisions

Eyes will be on major sites like Clifton Gate (between Clifton Moor and Skelton) and Whinthorpe (Between Elvington and the A64) both of which have traditionally formed part of York’s Green Belt. If either (or both) were to be slated for development then huge amounts would need to be spend on infrastructure improvements. The former would require a dualled A1237, while the later would require a new access corridor because of  existing transport congestion in the area. The source and scale of the funding required must be made clear in any Council decision.

It is little short of outrageous that vested interests will find out the fate of projects worth tens of millions of pounds before ordinary residents and taxpayers are even told when they will be able to first see the proposals.



Homeless numbers hit record low in York

The number of residents accepted in York as being “homeless” was down to 105 during the last financial year.

Homelessness peaked at 460 in 2003 and has fallen gradually each year since then.

On 31st March, 65 people were living in temporary accommodation – again an all time low.

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The figures have been published at a time when the Council will on Monday have its first public discussion on a decision made by the last Labour controlled Council to fit armrests on several City centre benches.  Initially the arm rest were welcomed particularly by the elderly and people with disabilities who found that the rests made it easier to get up from the seats.

The modification was agreed without consultation and in a “behind closed doors” decision typical of the way that the last Council did its business. It later emerged that the change was intended to prevent people lying down on the benches and had been targeted at “street drinkers”.

The new Council is right to debate the issue in public.  It is removes the armrests it will face criticism from disability campaigners. If it doesn’t,  it will be accused of targeting vulnerable homeless.

Rather more constructively the same meeting will also discuss refreshing the City’s “Homeless Strategy

NB Council house rent arrears gradually increased under the last Labour Council. The total amount owed went up from £431,231 in 2011/12 to £529,016 by the end of March 2015

Behind closed doors

York City Tradingsecret decisions

Following on from our story about the remuneration of the Directors of Quangos in York, a Tory Councillor has announced in the media that any such payments, made to Council officials who run the City of York Trading, will cease. That is the right decision, but is has apparently been made without other members of the so called shareholders committee having had a meeting to discuss the issue.

The Executive meeting last week also singularly failed to specify under what circumstances, if any, Directors of publicly owned companies would receive remuneration.

It points to endemic failings in governance processes at the York Council.

The Council should agree to put details of the meetings of all shareholder committees (which are supposed to look after the public interest) in their calendar of meetings while publishing agendas, supporting papers and meeting minutes promptly.

They should also retrospectively publish the minutes of all shareholders meetings which previously have been held in private (which might help to lift the veil on why three Labour Councillors agreed to the financial inducements in the first place).

Make it York

closed doorsAnother concern is the method of operation of another shareholders committee which seeks to govern the work of Make it York – another wholly council owned Quango.

After pressure, that committee agreed on 6th July to meet in public and publish agendas and meeting minutes. Now, only 5 working days before their meeting is scheduled to take place on 5th October, the agenda and supporting papers don’t even appear on the Council’s web site.

 It was only after a Freedom of Information request had been lodged, that residents even got to know that the meeting was planned!

Neither of the shareholders committees are identified in the formal list of Council committees

The secret life of decisions part 2

secret-meeting-safe-picThe Council continues to decide issues without publishing agendas in advance of meetings, We have condemned this practice in the past although – because the decisions area generally minor – our view is that papers should be published in advance to allow written representations to be made by residents.

Examples of recent behind closed doors decisions include (click to view details):