Cleaner York report published

York Council looks like it will soon get to grips with improving cleanliness standards in the City.
Manual sweeping in the Acomb ward click to enlarge

Manual sweeping in the Acomb ward click to enlarge

A report, to be considered on 25th January, makes several recommendations, although the most significant may be that the management of street cleaning will be devolved to local Ward Committees.

The report does, however, say that the funds available for cleaning will be reduced.

The report says, “Cleansing will take place with a minimum frequency of quarterly and a maximum of daily, depending on the location. Although in some locations there will be a reduction in the frequency of visits by a large mechanical road sweeper the new schedules will allow the vehicle to be driven more slowly which will ensure improved removal of detritus. This will not only improve cleanliness standards but also remove the matter in which weeds are able to grow”.

Mechanical sweeping in the Acomb Ward click to view

Mechanical sweeping in the Acomb Ward click to view

The report notably fails to say what standards will apply to sub-urban shopping areas, public spaces and communal areas on estates. These are often the places which have the biggest litter problems

Litter and Poop scoop bins

The report makes a welcome proposal to increase the number of litter bins. The number of litter reports started to increase when the last Council removed several bins. (They responded by stopping the publication of statistics showing the number of complaints being received – see below).

Combined litter and poop scoop bins

Combined litter and poop scoop bins

The Council will also move over to combined litter/poop scoop bins. These are emptied by the same operative and end up in landfill.


Despite fly tipping costing the Council £69,000 to remove in 2014, only £2248 was recovered from fines. During the same year, 8 fixed penalty notices were issued for litter dropping and dog fouling.

Reporting problems

The Council is promising that its much delayed on line issue reporting system will finally become available in the summer.

It means that the current – dysfunctional – “report it “system and the outdated “Smarter York” app will be scrapped. The latter, introduced  in a hurry in 2011 by a new Council administration, lacked the convenience and flexibility of commercial systems such as “Fix my Street”. The Smarter York app is currently costing the Council over £12,000 a year to maintain with use having dwindled to less than 4 a week.

We will see; but the Councils promise to soft launch the system, before promoting its use, is a welcome step forward.

The Council is also promising to launch a “One Planet” App which will allow residents to advertise surplus items for “exchange”. We assume that they mean what effectively would be a version of Freecycle.  The system would also “receive alerts regarding which type of waste to present on which week and a scanning facility to indicate if an item is recyclable based on York’s collection policy”.

Performance indicators

Attached to the report is a welcome glimpse of the performance indicators  “lost to view” a few years ago.

They aren’t complete but their publication is a welcome step forward by the current coalition administration (see below)
Performance indicators

More haste, less speed – New Council issue reporting system is flawed

The York Council has gone ahead and launched a replacement for the “report it” system which it abandoned 3 years ago. The older system had worked well for over 8 years but was, apparently, a victim of the move to West Offices.

click to access Council forms

click to access Council forms

A Smarter York “App” was introduced but it lacked the functionality and flexibility of the old system. It gradually fell into disuse.

About 2 years ago the Council promised a system based on individual “customer accounts” and this was to have been launched in the spring.

However nothing materialised.

Now the Council has rushed out a minimalist reporting system for neighbourhood reports. It is intended to cover issues like  street light faults, cleansing issues, footpath fouling, road/pavement defects, overgrown trees and problems with street furniture.

Unfortunately the system has not been properly tested with users and already a list of “bugs” has emerged.

These include:

  • The system does not have an “App” which would allow it to run on smart phones.
  • The system doesn’t provide a complainant with an Emailed (or any other copy) of the issue that they raised
  • There is no way of associating the issue number with a specific complaint
  • There is no publicly accessible record of issues raised. This facility was available on the Smarter York system and is fundamental to the “Fix My Street” system. Consequently the likelihood of duplicate reports increases.
  • The type of issue that can be reported is limited. Problems with defects on play equipment aren’t covered, for example.

These issues need to be resolved before the system is promoted by the Council. In the meantime, “Fix My Street” offers users much greater functionality and reassurance.

Seems to be a case of good intentions but poor delivery by the York Council on this one




York Council set to abandon “Smarter York” issue reporting system

Following technology problems, the York Council is planning to abandon its “Smarter York” mobile based issue reporting system.

Labour Councillors promoting the Smarter York "App" in London   3 years ago.

Labour Councillors promoting the Smarter York “App” in London 3 years ago.

About 30 issues a month were being reported using the system.

However, for several months, computer faults prevented users viewing the progress made on the issues that they raised.

Now, lack of confidence in the system, has seen fewer than 1 report a week recently being posted with most seemingly being recorded by Council officials

The system has been heavily criticised over the last couple of years.

The alternative, internet based, “report it” on line system was also abandoned by the Council when it moved offices a couple of years ago

Now the Council is saying that it will discontinue the Smarter York service when a new “customer relationship management system” is introduced.

This is the system that should have been ready in May.

 No explanation for the delayed introduction has been provided by the Council and no forecast of when residents will be able to use it has been provided.

We continue to find that proprietary systems like “Fix My Street” are much more user friendly than the alternatives authored by local authorities.

Smarter York not so bright!

Residents will be wondering what they have to do to report issues to the York Council……….. let alone get some action.

Ridgeway footpaths need repair. Try reporting them to "Smarter York"

Ridgeway footpaths need repair. Try reporting them to “Smarter York”

The flagship “Smarter York” web site is largely dysfunctional.

Only a handful of issue types (mainly litter and graffiti) can be reported using it.

Not surprisingly, very few residents now bother to use the facility which was developed at considerable expense to taxpayers,.

Those expecting to be able to report potholes , overgrown hedges, unkempt verges etc via the Councils web site will also be disappointed. That facility has also been withdrawn.

Users of services like “My Council” will be able to record problems. But acknowledgements are often delayed and complaint reference numbers haven’t been issued for several months now, following major systems failures.

Residents can Email the Councils “Customer Contact Centre” but responses are often delayed.

So most residents with an issue will now call the Contact Centre by telephone (01904) 551550.

That is the most expensive way for the Council to receive and process issues, adding to the spiral of debt and decline which so sadly typifies the performance of the Labour administration.



More and more residents contacting the York Council as Smarter York “App” fails

Lunched amidst a blaze of publicity 18 months ago an “App”, that was supposed to transform the way that residents communicate with the Council, has flopped.

Council Leaders in London looking for an "App" 2 years ago.

Council Leaders in London looking for an “App” 2 years ago.

The Smarter York mobile phone “App” allowed residents to report an incident – including a photo – straight into the Councils contact handing system. The “App” cost £8000 to develop.

It ran into problems with the Data Protection Act in October of last year

Now figures released by the Council have revealed that only 200 reports were made using the “App” between April and September 2013.

That is only 0.07% of the total number of contacts from York residents.

Last year 321 residents used the system during the equivalent period.

Many of the reports are understood to have been made by Council staff during the course of their normal duties.

During the same 6 month period, other residents used the following channels to contact the Council.

  • Telephone 183,385 (2012 – 140,851)
  • Personal visit 60,841 (36,528)
  • Email: 32,106 (22,034)
  • “Do it on line” (council web site) – 7848 (7778)

The figures show a 37% increase in the number of customers contacting the York Council this year.

This will be deeply worrying for the Council, Leadership who anticipated that changing customer preferences would see a big shift to using electronic means to contact the Council.

Electronic transactions cost a fraction of the expense incurred in dealing with personal callers.

The whole business case for the new Council HQ was based on assumption that heavy investment in state of the art IT facilities would reduce day to day running costs for the Council.

This appears, so far, not to be the case.

The period covered was a time when residents were besieging the Council with complaints about revised bin emptying arrangements and new traffic restrictions in the City centre.

Meanwhile the Smarter York App needs to be upgraded to cover more public service areas.

In that respect at least, it has fallen far behind proprietary web based reporting tools such as “My Council”  and “Fix my Street”.

York Council loses dozens of complaints

My Council

At least 50 reports about failing public service standards in York have not been actioned by the Council over the last couple of months.

The Council has claimed that reports submitted via the popular “My Council” Mobile app were not processed because they were indecipherable when uploaded to the Council.

Rather than get to the bottom of the problem, the reports were ignored.

Now an administrator for the “My Council” web provider ( has stepped in and offered to sort out the difficulties.

More and more people are using web sites like “My Council”, Fix my Street  , and Fill that hole”  to report issues.

This is to the advantage of Councils because the costs of processing issues electronically are much less than hard copy mail, personal callers or telephone communications.

However this case is likely to damage the credibility of the system in some residents eyes.

The Councils own mobile app (Smarter York) allows only a very small number of issues to be reported and user numbers have been disappointing.

The “Report it” section of the Council web site is cumbersome and has similar limitations.

The Council has been asked to sort out its data interface problems, ensure that reports blocked over the last couple of months are now entered onto its systems and to make efforts to contact those residents who may be unaware that issues that they have reported have not been actioned.

The industry generally needs to do more work on interface issues.

Councils in other parts of the country may be affected by incompatibility issues