Labour lose some influence on Council – alternative approach proving illusive

As expected, the balance of power on many York Council committees swung away from Labour at a York Council meeting this evening.Lendal bridge notice

As required by law, the membership of scrutiny, planning and other committees will reflect the proportion of the seats held by the different parties on the Council.

The chairs of scrutiny committees will be taken by opposition Councillors.

Amongst the appointments, Andrew Waller will chair a committee that deals with Economic and City Development, Ann Reid will chair the Planning Committee and Nigel Ayre will head the influential Audit and Governance Committee.

But the key Cabinet posts will all continue to be held by Labour.

Opposition Councillors will need to work hard to hold to account a group which has failed on so many tasks over the last 3 years.

York needs a transparent, inclusive,  system which can address the many problems which have increasingly dogged York in recent months.

Time is running out.

 

Labour’s waste collection charging plans slip out

 

Green_waste_family_89__1A working group report has revealed the kind of charges that Labour Councillors want to introduce for waste collection.

As we have previously forecast, Labour intend to charge for emptying green bins but it also seems that other costs may also be passed on to customers.

The changes are likely to cover:

  • Gardening waste collection
  • Bulky waste collection
  • Clinical waste collection

Of these, by far the most controversial is likely to be turning the green bin emptying into a subscription service.

Information from 46 other local authorities suggests that 40% charge for the service (as does York now for supplementary bins).

30 of the Council’s also collect food waste. This would be a welcome enhancement of the services available in York and which would reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill (and thereby reduce landfill tax payments)

Across the country subscription charges range from £17 pa to £75 pa.

Most Councils provide a service throughout the year but reduce collection frequencies in winter (York stops collections together)

Evidence suggests that 45% of households elsewhere would pay £20 a year for an emptying service.

This falls to 5% if the charge is £50.

We doubt that many residents will even know that this option is being considered.

The new, balanced, Council may simply choose now to restrict any changes to collection arrangements to covering more of the year with green bin collections and refining the charges made for bulky waste collection.

Park and Ride compensation claim

The York Council is to seeking liquidated damages for the 5 month delay in completing the park and site and associated highways works at Poppleton.

Weeds2 Park adn Ride siteIt says that the issues will be assessed during the preparation of the final accounts for the scheme which was completed using “using a standard construction contract which includes liquidated damage clauses if the works over run beyond the contract completion date

The ongoing road works became something of a joke for residents living on the west of the city with deadline after deadline passing without completion.

The roadwork’s were temporarily lifted for the start of the Tour de France but were re-imposed shortly afterwards.

Even the Park and Ride site itself was opened 2 months before necessary landscaping work was completed.

The extent of any compensation likely to be claimed is not yet known.

Residents living near the A59 roundabout are understood to be seeking compensation from the Council for the delays and inconvenience that they suffered

Council abandon cycle hire project

bike hire

The Council’s much hyped plan to introduce a “Boris Bikes” style cycle hire scheme into York has been quietly abandoned.

The Council has realised that such a scheme would lose a lot of money.

A similar (commercial) scheme in the City 10 years ago failed after only a few months.

As was pointed out when the Council scheme was originally proposed, the lack of sustained all year round demand makes such schemes impractical.

The low cost of a new or second hand cycle is such that most regular users will chose to own a bike while tourists and visitors find that the compact nature of the city is more suited to walking.

Several cycle shops do offer hire bikes but these are mainly aimed at visitors wanting to explore the countryside around York. They involve picking up and returning the cycle to a shop.

“Day of the Triffids” – York Council fights back

day-of-the-triffids

The Council is to re-examine its contracts which cover spraying weeds on public highways.

The move, announced at the last Council meeting, comes in the wake of unprecedented levels of complaints about weed infested streets particularly in the west of the City.

At one point, even prominent City centre structures like Ouse Bridge were under attack.

Ouse Bridge 7th August 2014

Ouse Bridge 7th August 2014

It now appears that several streets – scheduled to be treated in a second wave of spraying – were missed.

During early October the Councils contractors walked the whole of the City spraying areas that needed attention.

They are also spraying round street furniture, poles etc.

The last Council meeting was told that the authority is considering letting a new spraying contract next year in conjunction with neighbouring authorities.

The Cabinet member was unable to explain why supervisory checks had not revealed – and remedied –the problem this summer.

No speed checks undertaken in Dringhouses and Woodthorpe

The last Council meeting heard confirmation that no vehicle speed checks had been completed in west York since 20 mph signs started to be put up 12 months ago.

Elsewhere checks in the Bishopthorpe Road area have revealed that average vehicle speeds have not changed since the controversial £600,000 programme was introduced there.

In the West York area several examples of unlawful signs have been reported by residents.

Green Lane speed signs 2In Green Lane the speed limit signs indicate different speed limits on each side of the road.

There have been no prosecutions in York for vehicles exceeding the 20 mph limit.

The new Council is expected to abandon wide area 20 mph limits.

Spending taxpayer’s resources on removing the sign though might be considered to be a case of throwing good money after bad.

However if – as has happened elsewhere – accident rates increase in the 20 mph areas then removal may have to be considered.

Parking income problems increase for York Council

Marygate

It looks like the installation of barriers at the Marygate car park – which cost taxpayers £100,000 – has reduced Council income by around £35,000 (20%) over the last 3 months.

Marygate-car-park-equipment-768x1024

Income from Marygate Car Park in the 13 week period from 30th June to 28th September totalled £142,000 in 2014/15.

The equivalent figure for 2013/14 was £177,000.

Those expecting the blame to be placed on faulty barriers – they have been jammed in the raised position on a number of occasions recently – will be disappointed.

The York Council says,

“There have been some minor faults which, as with all newly introduced schemes, is to be expected whilst the system beds in. These have been dealt with expeditiously with minimal disruption to the fee-paying public”. (!)

It is the latest in a series of parking management blunders since Labour took control of the Council in 2011.

Most residents have faced a 100% increase in the amount that they pay to park while the Council sold off the Haymarket car park for a fraction of its true value in the depth of the recession.

Minster Badges

In response to a question tabled by the Liberal Democrats at the last Council meeting, Labour have admitted that only 6,300 of the new £20 Minster badges have been sold so far.

Over 30,000 of the old style badges were in circulation.

Minster Badge

A Minster badge is necessary to qualify for free evening parking. It also entitles users to a discount on day time parking fees.

The relatively low take up of the badges suggests that the charging scheme may be discouraging residents from visiting and shopping in the City centre.

“Free” parking

The Labour Councillor with responsibility for car parking in York has admitted that he doesn’t know how many drivers are taking advantage of the “free” car parking available at a limited number of locations on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

More worryingly, he says that the impact of the scheme on the Councils car parking account is impossible to calculate because of other factors such as the opening of the new Park and Ride site at Poppleton.

The Council are promising to check the vehicle counters at individual car parks over the next few weeks to try to get some idea of the impact that the – very expensive – scheme is having.

Subjectively it does appear that the morning rush hour has been busier over the last couple of months with journey times increasing.

When introduced, the free parking scheme was criticised by many as encouraging more vehicles onto the road during the morning peak period.