We reported earlier in the summer that several traffic island had become overgrown. This was partly due to an accumulation of silt. It appears that the islands were not being hand-swept.
The Council is now beginning to catch up with a programme aimed at clearing the islands of detritus. Those on Foxwood Lane, for example, are now looking tidy.
A more structured approach to street cleansing is needed though as some islands, including those on the A1237, are not being routinely cleansed
Elsewhere the Foxwood Residents Association is set to discuss street cleansing standards in their neighbourhood at their monthly meeting which is being held tomorrow. Residents have questioned whether the sweeping frequencies, promised by the Council on its web site, are actually being undertaken.
The new York Council has rightly decided to plant more trees and expand the areas devoted to wildflowers with good propagation features.
More trees will help , in a modest way, to offset the losses both locally and internationally which have occurred over recent years.
The plight of bees robbed of propagating flowers in urban environments, because of increased hard surfacing and use of herbicides, is well documented.
The Council does however need to understand that such a policy is not a cheap alternative . The authority will need to plant the right species of trees to match the needs of specific locations. Too many well intended “plant a tree in 83” type schemes resulted in the wrong type of tree being planted in the wrong location.
This is particularly true in the case of highway trees (those in verges) where lack of regular maintenance has meant that many have grown the point that they interfere with passing vehicles, overhead plant or neighbouring properties. The only pruning that they get is from high sided vehicles which sooner or later impact on branches often sending them crashing down onto the highway.
High winds can have a similar effect.
The problem can be traced to an inadequate maintenance budget. This was given a modest boost in the Council most recent review.
Before planting more trees – there are plenty of spaces where new mini forests could be created in and around the City – the Council should first sort out its existing stock
For some people wildflowers are synonymous with pervasive weed growth. We have seen the neglect of highways over the summer although some lobbyists have argued that the weed growth will at least be “good for nature”.
We doubt that, with damage to paths and drains likely to pose an expensive hazard.
But there are locations where the Council could proactively plant low maintenance flowers which would greatly increase propagation opportunities.
The authority will need a proactive programme which will need to include a commitment to the long term maintenance of any planted areas.
Anyone expecting the York Council’s Executive to take decisive action, to address declining public service standards at their meeting yesterday, will have been disappointed.
Despite a plea from Independent Councillor Mark Warters that a team be set up to deal with outstanding complaints, the Councils leadership remained tight lipped.
Cllr Warters was echoing a similar call from a growing number of Liberal Democrat supporters in the City
Many residents may conclude that there is something seriously wrong at West Offices.
Not only is there no timetable for addressing outstanding issues, but communications with residents are poor while many local Councillors (not all) fail to roll their sleeves up and tackle issues directly in their wards.
The York Council is no longer a “can do” organisation. It’s become a “maybe things will get better next year” type authority.
That won’t do. Its the kind of complacent attitude that has prompted a rise in more extreme political ideologies elsewhere in the country and abroad. It needs to be reversed, and quickly.
Not everything is bad, of course. Some individual Council officials are making limited progress in improving our streets as we show here.
The Press and other local media outlets are running stories
today about excessive weed growth on paths and in drainage channels in the City.
The local Tories are criticising the Lib Dem/Green administration for the problems.
The published stories give the impression that the Tories have been actively campaigning
on the issue.
That is misleading.
Problems with the effectiveness of the weed spraying contract
became apparent in May. As the contract was relatively new, and responsible executive
members were busy changing roles post the local elections, It seemed fair to
allow a few weeks for things to settle down and for the chemical treatments to
We reported serval dozen problem areas including the
longstanding weed problem on the parapets of the Ouse Bridg,e together with a
build-up of silt on many traffic islands.
Nothing much seemed to happen. As usual with this sort of report
there was no feedback from the Council to those who had highlighted the problems.
There was still no response from Council officials. Councillors
were notified but the only response came from Mark Warters who was having problems
in his Osbaldwick ward.
6 more weeks passed and we felt we had no option but to make a formal complaint (see below). This was tabled on 15th August. It was copied to the Councils leadership.
An official replied on 21st August blaming the weather for the problems.
The complaint was escalated on 22nd August and we await a further response.
The Council’s leadership did announce yesterday (Wednesday) that they would conduct a review of weed control processes at a meeting which will be held in October. What happens in the interim remains unclear.
We are quite clear that a blitz on weeds and overgrown hedges, using mechanical removal methods, is needed urgently.
One other aspect that needs to be clarified is the responsibility for keeping former trunk roads like the A59 clear. Highways England confirmed that it was down to local authorities to deal with these highways. Yet the Council’s current weed control contract seems to exclude these roads (they have certainly not been sprayed).
Ironically a review of performance indicators, being considered by the Councils Executive later today, pointedly puts no focus on the appearance of the City’s streets.
While the Tories are being opportunistic in highlighting the current weed problems, they might have a point if a Council, committed at the recent election to raising street level public service standards, failed to address quickly and effectively significant failures when they have been identified.
York’s licensing committee will again consider the vexed question of UBER private hire vehicles operating in York when they meet next week.
A decision on what, if any, action should be taken is due to be taken by the Councils Executive on 26th September.
The Council has now published a formal legal opinion on whether UBER vehicles, registered with other local authorities can legally accept bookings in York. The council’s position is that, provided the three licences required in relation to a private hire vehicle (operator, driver and vehicle) have all been issued by the same authority, then the private hire vehicle can undertake journeys anywhere in England and Wales. This opinion can be read by clicking here
The meeting report reveals that national legislation is
planned which will aim to clear up the confusion about what private hire
vehicles can and can’t do and where.
In the meantime, officials are recommending that there is no
change to the Councils existing policies.
We have sympathy for both sides in this argument. The local
trade may be partly motivated by protectionism. But passenger safety is of
paramount importance and standards do appear to vary across the region.
This seems to us like a suitable case on which the West
Yorkshire Combined Authority (which includes York) could take a lead.
On the other hand, in a modern world, being able to summon a
private hire vehicle using a smartphone app seems like a “no brainer”. If the App
tells you what the vehicle will be, when it will arrive, who will be driving it
and how much the journey will cost, then all to the good.
The York licencing department does need to crack down on unlawful
pick-ups and prevent private hire vehicles (from all companies) from “lurking”
near taxi ranks and in busy areas.
That would be the best use of resources and Council officials
A report to a meeting taking place this week reveals that in
quarter 1 (April – June 2019) “within the Shared Ownership Scheme, the Council
has acquired one property and sold equity shares in three properties”.
The target is to purchase 23 properties by the end of 2019/20 and sell the same amount.
“Capital receipts from the equity sales are to be reinvested
into the shared ownership programme, as such the budget is to be increased by
£289k at quarter 1 and the same amount is to be re-profiled to 2020/21 for
The report comes a few days after it was revealed that the
Council has completed only 10 shared ownership deals in the 3 years leading up
to April 2019
This week’s report fails to identify any open market
purchase of properties which could be added to the Council Housing pool.
The number of requests for information sent to the York Council
last year hit a record high.
2068 Freedom of Information (FOI) and Environment Information
Regulation (EIR) requests were lodged with the Council.
The applications were submitted using several different methods.
Some were simply Emailed to the Councils dedicated FOI email address (email@example.com.) Such requests generated an automatic receipt.
Others used the independent web site “What do they know”. The monitoring of applications made from this site are semi automatic.
The Council also has its own “on line” recording system. This can be used by clicking this link At the moment this system, unlike “what do they know”, doesn’t provide users with a copy of their request nor does it produce a receipt even if a contact email address is provided. Users must make a note of a reference number which briefly appears on screen.
The Council claims that
last year it answered 91% of requests for information within the target 20-day turn-round
Many of the requests do generate a further review as the Council fails to fully, or even partially, answer the information requests.
We think that if the Council was more open in its processes the
cost of dealing with ad hoc requests for information would be greatly reduced.
NB. There has been no response from the York Council to a request for an explanation of why it ceased updating its FOI response listslast summer.