Lib Dems call for an extra £500,000 to be spent on York’s estate regeneration

Liberal Democrats are calling for an extra £500,000 to be spent improving the condition of housing estates in York.

Fly tipping little Green Lane garage area

Restoring pride in Council estate environment

The extra funding will be focused on tidying-up communal areas, repairs, improvements to car parking facilities, and a re-launched programme to replace draughty windows.

The move follows concerns from council tenants, falling satisfaction levels with many estate services, and missed performance targets by Labour run City of York Council.

The proposals are part of the Liberal Democrat budget amendment, which will be debated at today’s full Council meeting.

The Lib Dems are calling for an extra £3 million to be put into frontline services such as road repairs, community centres and green bin collections.

The Lib Dem housing move is funded from the council’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA) – a ring-fenced housing account which currently has a surplus of £15 million and is split from the main council budget. Rents are being increased by 2% from April.

Cllr Ann Reid, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Housing, commented:

Verge damage Bramham Road

Dealing with parking issues

“Residents have contacted us concerned about issues such as overgrown weeds, damaged fencing, broken streetlights, littering and dog fouling. Basic services have suffered since 2011 and show Labour’s continued neglect and under-investment in the city’s estates.
“We want to put an extra £500,000 in from the Housing Revenue Account to tackle these issues. This budget is raised from council rent and charges and is there to be used for tenants. There is a substantial surplus and instead of storing money away in reserves the council should be spending more on estate improvements.”

—————–

The Lib Dems would spend £250,000 ‘capital’ from the HRA on improvements to:

a) draughty windows and

b) improved car parking facilities (dropped kerbs/verge crossovers/matrix verge protection outside tenants homes and better car parking facilities in communal areas) and the resurfacing of some car parks.

plus £250,000 ‘revenue’ from the HRA on council house and estate regeneration including the following schemes: 

  • removal of weeds,
  • cutting back overgrown trees and hedges,
  • repairs to communal areas and signs (e.g. dog fouling, no ball games),
  • audit and repair of fencing.

The full Lib Dem amendment will be tabled and debated at Thursday’s Budget Council.

Last July, it was revealed that tenants were less satisfied with where they live and the estate services they receive from the council while key performance targets were missed: www.yorklibdems.org.uk/en/article/2014/0879798/york-tenants-less-satisfied-with-where-they-live-says-new-report

Universal Credit introduced in York

The Government’s Universal Credit scheme is being introduced in York by the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) from today, 16 February 2015.

The scheme is being introduced incrementally. It will only affect single working-age job seekers making a new claim for benefits at the Job Centre and who will therefore be assessed for Universal Credit.

If they require support with their rent they will no longer claim Housing Benefit from the council, as the DWP will pay their housing costs as part of the single Universal Credit payment.

However, it is important that they still make a claim for Council Tax support from the council if they are the Council Tax bill payer.

Universal Credit is a single payment that is made one monthly in arrears direct to the job seeker. In some circumstances payment of rent can be made directly to landlords, but this will be exceptional.

Residents such as those living in a refuge or living in accommodation where they receive care, support or supervision, such as a hostel, will continue to receive Housing Benefit. The scheme does not affect pensioners who are in receipt of Housing Benefit.

The council is working in partnership with organisations including the Citizens Advice Bureau and Explore York Libraries and Archives Mutual Ltd to provide support to local residents claiming Universal Credit, and to those who have problems with their personal budgets or making a claim on-line.

The number to call for this help is 01904 551556.

From 16 February, single working age job seekers can claim Universal Credit on-line from the DWP at https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit 

Government boost for brownfield housing in York

York central site among 29 nationwide to be shortlisted for financial help.

York central site

York central site

Campaigners seeking to protect York’s Green Belt have welcomed a government initiative which could accelerate the development of housing on the York Central site.

Papers released on Friday suggest that it may be designated as a “Housing Zone”

Development of the site (behind the railway station) has been stalled since the start of the recession in 2008.

In 2011 the then LibDem led Council agreed a Local Plan which would have seen 1780 dwellings built on the site which enjoys excellent transport links and a full range of services within walking distance.

Although the Labour led Council has since tried to pare down that number, the government scheme could provide a big boost.

Most housing zones are expected to be big enough for between 750 and 2,000 homes. Successful bids were submitted by councils working with developers> They were invited to bid for a share of £200 million for infrastructure and land remediation to get their ideas off the ground.

Successful zones will  have access to cheaper borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board and priority access to expert planning and technical support from the ATLAS service run by the Homes and Communities Agency.

It remains to be seen whether the York site will be one of the 10 finally chosen to benefit from the additional funding.

Since the announcement was made on 8th January there has only been stony silence from the Councils Labour “leadership”.

More details of the scheme can be read on the government web site (click)

Local Plan meeting agenda published

The Council has published a further report on the number of new homes that it believes should be built in the City over the next 20 years.

The report fails completely to offer any possibility of reaching a consensus, driven, as it is, by the now discredited “Big City” strategy devised by the last Labour administration.

Council officials need to get back to basics. History is fact and an average of around 600 additional homes is what has been produced in the City over the last few decades.

Births, deaths and house building click to enlarge

Births, deaths and house building click to enlarge

In the last two years the housing waiting list in the City has fallen from a peak of 4692 to 1344. That is the backlog in demand that needs to be accommodated and, with nearly 5000 outstanding planning permissions available in the city, volume requirements (but not necessary affordability) can be addressed.

Natural population growth (births minus deaths) have averaged around 1000 a year producing an internal demand for less than 500 additional homes each year.

As was explained a coupe of days ago, there are a vast range of opinions on what may happen over the next two decades.

It is however highly unlikely that we will see high levels of sustained economic growth over the longer term. There will be peaks and troughs

Hence a figure of between 600 and 650 additional homes per year – on average – is a reasonable and justifiable aspiration.

The sooner York Council officials recognise this and get on with planning on that basis the sooner York’s Local Plan can achieve widespread support.

New scheme announced to support the most vulnerable rough sleepers in York

On Tuesday 4 November, Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) is launching in York.

Whatever the weather this winter, and to give the most vulnerable rough sleepers safe shelter, on Tuesday 4 November,Arc Light and York Mind are launching Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) in York .

York – Number of residents accepted as homeless & numbers in temporary accommodation at year end
Year Accepted in temp. accom. at 31st March
2003/4 460 242
2004/5 424 259
2005/6 433 233
2006/7 214 207
2007/8 258 209
2008/9 208 167
2009/10 130 79
2010/11 183 94
2011/12 151 93
2012/13 146 99
2013/14 109 80
2014/15 Not available 65

(more…)

Castlegate closure to be challenged

Opposition parties on the York Council have called in for reconsideration a plan to close the Castlegate youth advice and help centre.

Castlegate centre

The meeting will take place on 31st October and the reports can be read by clicking here

The Castlegate centre provides information, support and counselling for young people aged between 16-25 in York,

Probably the main issue concerns the proposal to transfer some youth advice services to West Offices.

It is difficult to think of a less suitable location.

The building can be intimidating, reception arrangements busy (see article above) and occasionally chaotic – despite the best endeavours of staff.

It is also noisy because of the atrium design.

The Council may wish to move the service to a more affordable location but West Offices would be a poor choice.

Renting privately in York

Recognising the importance of the private rented housing market, City of York Council is about to build on its understanding of the sector through a wide-reaching consultation exercise.

The consultation will run from 17October until 21 November 2014.

The council will be seeking views of tenants, landlords, letting agents, the wider community and other interested groups. This information will help to see if the council is undertaking the right actions to support the sector and to decide what it could do in the future.
Through its housing strategies the City of York Council is committed to supporting and, where necessary, improving the sector, which makes up nearly 18 per cent of households in this growing city which has grown from 10 per cent in 2001.

To complete the questionnaire go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PCJS9VK or, please contact the council’s Housing Standards and Adaptations Team on 01904 552300 or call in West Offices for a paper copy.

York Council tenants show concerns in secret report

Only 49% now satisfied with tenants choice modernisation work

Behind closed doors logo

The annual report into satisfaction with York Council services has shown some growing concerns amongst York Council tenants.

The report was considered at yet another behind closed doors meeting last week. It pointedly makes no comment about Council house sales or the fact that – for the first time in many years – during 2013/14 sales exceeded the number of new affordable properties added to the rent pool.

While on most activities performance has been consistent over the years there are areas of growing concern.

  • Tenant’s choice satisfaction with modernisation work was down from 76% to only 49%.
  • Only 44% of tenants who complained said that they were satisfied with the final outcome
  • Satisfaction with the Council “listening to tenant’s views and acting on them” fell from 67% in 2012 to 62% last year
Garage areas neglected

Garage areas neglected

The biggest concern remains the condition of local estates with tenants increasingly critical of the appearance and state of repair of local neighbourhood and communal areas.

Garage areas are poorly maintained, many verges are damaged and gutters are overgrown with weeds.

The Council is apparently going to appoint a private contractor to clean the communal areas of flats leaving the estate workers to concentrate on litter removal and general maintenance. Tenant satisfaction with garden care (also contracted to the private sector) has attracted many complaints this year.

However, overall, there was some good news for the Council with 87% saying they were satisfied with the service provide down only 1% from the previous year,

York house building lags behind rest of country

Despite the economic recovery, York lagged behind the rest of the country in the number of new homes completed last year.Behind closed doors logo

A report published after a “behind closed doors” meeting held last week revealed that only 50 affordable homes were built in the City last year.

This is down from the 282 built during the last year of the Liberal Democrat led Council administration in 2010/2011.

It compares to the annual target of 790 new homes adopted by Labour Councillors following a “strategic market assessment”.

On average, 150 affordable homes had been built annually during the pervious 5 years.

Alarmingly the number of new affordable homes being added by the Council is now less than the number of Council houses being sold under “Right to Buy” legislation

Year

RTB Applications RTB Sales

11/12

20 6
12/13 88

23

13/14 77

53

The Council has failed to invest the income from RTB sales effectively

The Council has also failed to use its substantial £12.86 million housing surplus to buy empty homes on the open market, and resolutely refuses to use the “New Homes Bonus” (money provided by the government to recognise house building success) on affordable homes.

Small wonder that Labour did not want these figures to be debated in public.

The only crumb of comfort was that – in line with the rest of the country – the total number of planning applications for new homes rose from 370 units in 2012 to 1578 last year, although a significant proportion of these were for specialist student flats.

Newbury Avenue development – Hob Moor fears

New Newbury development site layout, Click for large maps

New Newbury development site layout, Click for large maps

A new layout plan for the controversial 9 flat development on the garage area off Newbury Avenue has been published.

It is unlikely that many residents will have seen the plan as objectors have not been alerted to the changes.

The new layout increases the number of parking spaces to be provided to 16 with an additional 5 to be located on vacant land at the Newbury Drive/Windsor Garth junction.

This is the junction which is subject to ponding after heavy rain.

Unfortunately at the same time the Council has said that it won’t be acting quickly to deal with the lack of proper parking opposite Carlton House. Vehicles parking on the bend have caused the bus to mount the footpath on several occasions. It had been hoped that individual driveways for the house would have been provided across the green area with more parking for residents being constructed to the rear of the flats.

Poor drainage already a problem in Windsor Garth

Poor drainage already a problem in Windsor Garth

There is no news on where the occupants of the garages will park in future. It had been suggested that the Council should provide dropped kerbs/verge crossovers where the 24 garage occupants wanted to construct an alternative parking space in their gardens. This idea has not yet been taken forward.

The background papers for the development can be accessed by clicking here

The 3 storey buildings will prove eight 2 bedroomed flats and one single bedroomed unit. Access to each will be by an external walkway.

There are some big questions on drainage arrangements which are yet to be satisfactorily answered.

A report from the Councils protection unit concluded “Therefore, there is a plausible possibility that residual contaminants may be present onsite”. This arises from its former use as a waste disposal site in the 1950’s.

In a later objection the Unit expresses concern about methane gas levels in the area and says,

The soil sampling results identified elevated levels of lead, PAHs, arsenic and vanadium. Remedial work is therefore required, in order to ensure that the site is safe and suitable for its proposed use, and a remediation scheme must be submitted for our approval in due course”.

The ground conditions mean that piling will be required in the construction process.

It is expected that the application will be determined at a meeting which is scheduled to take place on 8th October.