After nearly two years of indecision, the York Council is being recommended next week to put Oliver House (the former elderly person’s home at the end of Priory Street) on the open market.
The building has been empty since the home was closed in April 2012.
The prime site is expected to bring in substantial offers from residential developers. The Council has budgeted to receive £450,000 from the sale of the site.
In reality the sale is likely to produce a much higher figure.
Any new homes provided there would reduce the pressure to build on greenfield land and would provide the Council with a useful capital receipt. It would help to offset the huge increase in debts accumulated by the present Labour administration.
The Council had been dithering over proposals to lease Oliver House to voluntary groups which are currently located in Holgate Villas. The Council spent £15,000 on a feasibility study for the conversion of the building. It revealed that the costs of converting the building could be as much as £1 million.
Additionally it has been costing the Council £30,000 a year to keep the building empty.
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Local residents – led by Liberal Democrats – had expressed increasing concerns about the buildings future
Many pointed out that the voluntary groups involved did not need a prime site location and that it would make more sense for the Council to ensure that they had alternative rented accommodation available.
There is still a lot of unoccupied office space in the City.
It was hoped that suitable buildings might be identified in sub-urban locations which were in need of regeneration. Acomb, for example, has never recovered from the Councils decision to close its office in the Front Street area.
However, it now seems that the Council is restricting its office search to the city centre. Two possible locations are being evaluated
The office building is likely to include other uses and will be dubbed a “Health and Social Care Hub”. The Council is looking to replace it in 2 or 3 years time with a purpose designed facility. The NHS will make a financial contribution to this new “one stop shop” style centre.
The costs of the commercial office lease are expected to be covered by the rents paid by the tenants.
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The York Council is saying that it is not paying for the web site which provides Eaccess to some services for disabled residents.
However it may have to contribute £15,000 a year to maintain the site which lists a mixture of public and private sector service suppliers.
The “shop4support” web site became available earlier in the year but has received little publicity. It bears the City of York Council logo.
Lib Dem Councillor Lynn Jeffries asked at the last Council meeting “how the Cabinet member was ensuring that the information contained on the website is accurate, accessible, comprehensive and up to date?”
No detailed response was provided other than to say that the “family Information service” is responsible for the content.
It remains unclear how decisions are made on which organisations to advertise on the site.
The web site is apparently to be formally launched later in the year
The Care quality Commission has published a worrying report on conditions at a local care home.
A copy of the full report can be downloaded by clicking here
The inspector’s summary reads
We had previously received concerns about the home with regard to staffing levels and the administration of medication. We followed those concerns up as part of our inspection. The home had a high level of staff vacancies this meant that approximately 60% of the current staff were provided by an agency or the providers own staff were completing overtime. We found that this had a major impact on the consistency and quality of care and support people received.
People told us that care was improving and some of the staff were excellent. Others expressed concern and did not feel confident that the care they were receiving was good enough. We saw staff responding to people in a kind and patient manner but we also saw some circumstances which demonstrated a lack of respect for people’s privacy and dignity. Some people had consented to their care and treatment.
However, on Ebor unit, we saw few attempts to offer people choice about the care and support they experienced. Some people were not given a choice of meal and were not supported with dignity. Recording and administering of medication were unsafe which meant people were at risk of not receiving their medication as prescribed.
Information contained in people’s care records was inconsistent; which increased the risk for people not receiving care according to their needs and wishes. Poor auditing and record keeping meant that people’s health and safety was being placed at unnecessary risk of harm.
It has become clear why the Council’s leadership were so reluctant to answer questions about the future of the former elderly person’s home at Oliver House in Bishophill at the last council meeting.
A Freedom of Information response has revealed that the building is costing taxpayers nearly £2000 a month to keep empty.
The building has been unused since April 2012.
The only “occupants” are a firm called “ad hoc property management” who – in return for access – offer a “free” security service.
No rent or other income has been received for the property.
Discussions with the York CVS, which might have led to the building being sold to them, started in May 2012. They stalled several months ago.
The value of the prime site has been put at over £1 million with offers having apparently already been made, to the Council, by housing developers.
The Council has spent £30,000 over the last 18 months paying rates and on maintaining the empty property.
There are currently over 4500 people on the waiting list for social accommodation in the City. Many of these require single person accommodation
NB. The Guildhall has also now been empty for 8 months and is costing Council taxpayers around £160,000 a year in maintenance, rates and other costs.
The York Council is refusing to say when the former elderly person’s home at Oliver House will be brought back into use. The last residents moved out in April 2012.
Freedom of Information questions
Oliver House is located at the end of Priory Street in a prime City centre location near the Bar Walls. It has been valued at over £1 million.
Labour Councillors have refused to explain why the home has not been brought back into use.
It appears that the only occupants were a “secured by occupation” group who – in return for free accommodation – provide a security presence at the site.
York CVS announced in October 2012 an ambitious £1 million plan to house “22 charities” in the building. Media report
The planning application for the project was approved in February. The cost to remodel the building had by then increased to £1.3 million with most apparently to come from ”loans, grants and local businesses”.
It was unclear who would pay for the running costs of the project.
Despite being asked for an explanation of the delays at two successive Council meetings, Labour Councillors have remained tight lipped.
Now a Freedom of Information request has been submitted to the Council. This will force the Authority to reveal its plans within the next 4 weeks.
With over half the people registered on the housing waiting list requiring single bedroomed accommodation, many residents are puzzled why prime sites like these are not being scheduled for residential use ahead of green field sites.
To leave a building like this empty for over 18 months, and apparently with no prospect of occupation for at least another year, is shameful.