Street level public service standards – plea to York Council next Thursday.

The York Council at a meeting next week will be asked to jettison its prestige expenditure plans and return to a more sensible economic policy.

Weeds need strimming at end of Ridgeway

Weeds need strimming at end of Ridgeway

A motion being put forward by the Liberal Democrats condemns deteriorating roads, footpaths and increasing litter as well as plans to reduce de icing services in winter.

It says that Labour’s decision to scrap the “York Pride” maintenance programmes means that many areas are now strewn with weeds and detritus.

Carriageway failed in Vesper Drive

Carriageway failed in Vesper Drive

Recent rain highlighted the impact that Labours decision to end the routine cleaning of gullies (road drains) is already having.

Meanwhile a rather disingenuous motion from Labour Cllr Burton, seeks to justify the bill for York staging the start of just one Tour de France stage.

The cost to taxpayers is already in excess of £1.5 million and rising.

The Labour backed motion says that any income to the Council from the event should be allocate to improve basic service standards.

It fails however to say that the income from a few hot dog stands is unlikely to make much difference.

The cost of the repairs back log on the City’s roads and footpaths alone now stands at over £20 million.

The Liberal Democrat motion reads

Only 53 new “affordable rent” properties in pipeline for York

The Council have admitted that only 53 new properties with “affordable rents” are likely to be constructed in the City during the next 3 years.

Of these, 35 are currently under construction

YMCA building site

YMCA building site

They are located at
• YWCA site, currently under construction: 23
• Elvington rural exception site, currently under construction: 12
• White Swan, to be started 2013-4, 18.

These will be the first affordable rent homes constructed since 2010.

This compares to the (cheaper) “social housing” rent programme which has seen 297 properties completed since 2010.

This total includes the additional Council houses which were given the go ahead by the last LibDem Council administration.

NB. The Council have been criticised for not publishing its Annual Monitor Report. Some data on the Council web site is now nearly 2 years out of date. Particular interest focuses around the progress being made by the Council in providing “affordable” homes against its targets. The lack of progress is likely to be raised at the Council meeting which is taking place on 10th October

Fewer York residents apply for housing benefit help

The Council’s expenditure on discretionary housing payments has been below expected levels so far this year.

In York, the Council budgeted for payments of up to £286,409 for the current financial year.

So far only a little over £36,000 had been paid out to 209 applicants.

69 applicants were found not to qualify for the payments.

The figures – obtained in response to a Freedom of Information request – are at odds with the dire “gloom and doom” warnings issued by Labour Councillors to the media earlier in the summer.

Details of the York Councils housing benefits policy, together with an application form for DHP, can be read by clicking here

NB. Each local council is given a pot of money each year to help people who qualify for housing benefit (or similar help under universal credit) but are having trouble:

• paying their rent or

• finding enough money to pay for the start-up costs of a tenancy.

When the money for the year runs out, no more payments can be made.

The government has increased the amount of money available to help some people to adjust to cuts to benefits in recent years.

The council decides who should be given the payments, how much and how often they are paid. Discretionary housing payments (DHP) may be paid weekly or can be a lump sum. They can also be backdated.

Oliver House – £30,000 taxpayers bill for property empty for 18 months

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.

Oliver House York

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.

Houses selling well in York. Properties to rent from £300 a month.

There has been an increase in the number of properties sold in York over the last quarter.

In west York, a 1 bedroomed terraced property in Invicta Court sold for £103,000. A 2 bed semi in St Stephens Square fetched £116,000 while a 3 bedroomed semi in Thoresby Road went for £125,000. In Coeside £217,500 bought a 3 bedroomed detached.

Homes currently for sale include:

2 Bedroomed flat Helena Mews £110,000 click for more details

2 Bedroomed flat Helena Mews £110,000 click for more details

1 bed flats in Vyner House priced from £95,000

2 bed flat on St Stephens Square at £65,000

2 bed flat on Foxwood Lane for £110,000

2 Bed semi in Minter Close for £144,000

3 Bed house on Kingsway West for £135,000

• Those with a very large family might be interested in a £395,000 6/7 bedroomed property in Thanet Road

While at the other end of the price range a new 5 bedroomed property in Dalton Terrace will set you back £595,000

The cheapest property that we could find in York is a 1 Bedroomed flat in Buckingham Street currently advertised for £55,000

To Rent

Baker Street 3 bedroomed house £625 PCM click for more details

Baker Street 3 bedroomed house £625 PCM click for more details

2 bed terrace in Hanover Street is advertised at £575 pcm

3 bed in Baker Street is advertised at £625 PCM

4 Bed in Danebury Drive is advertised at £695

The cheapest (private sector) property available to rent in York at present is a 1 bedroomed end terrace in Eccles Close Rawcliffe available at £300 per month.

More Council services scrapped in west York

We understand that the Council is planning to stop the weekly housing benefit advice sessions that they had been running at the Chapelfields Community centre.

Acomb Council Office - closed in February 2012.

Acomb Council Office – closed in February 2012.

The service was one of those introduced to replace the “face to face” adv ice service which was lost when the Council’s Acomb Office closed 18 months ago.

Each Thursday morning the Council promised a “Housing advice, Council Tax Support and Housing Benefits service: 9am – 12 noon

It was one of five advice points were established last year, but now only the one at the Gateway centre (the most popular) will continue in Acomb.

Ironically this building is within 50 yards of the former Acomb Office.

Originally the intention had been to locate advice, and headquarter estate managers and community workers, at the Acomb Explore Library but this plan was scrapped when Labour took control of the Council in 2011.

Now Acomb residents face a long trek to the Council HQ in Toft Green. A telephone link may continue to be available at the Community Centre, but as many callers know, such services are inaccessible for some. We understand that the estate manager will still be present at the centre on Thursday mornings

NB. Callers to the main Council switchboard this week are reporting delays of up to 10 minutes before connection.

Labour still peddle 25% City growth as Walmgate scheme produces “361 housing units”

Prominent Labour Councillor Tracey Simpson Laing has announced today that Labour is still going for housing growth of over 20,000 during the next 15 years.

She claims that the figure – published in a draft Local Plan which went out for public consultation during the summer – is necessary to meet “demand in York over the next 15 years”.

Derwenthorpe development

Derwenthorpe development

Residents had expected that the Council would carefully consider the responses from the Local Plan consultation before deciding whether this figure was indeed necessary.

Many residents have said that they do not want the City to expand by 25% in such a short timescale.

Others have pointed out that there will be insufficient jobs to sustain such growth while large areas of the City and surrounding countryside would be blighted.

In a separate development the Council has confirmed that the student housing development, on The Press site on Walmgate, which received planning permission last month, will produce 361 housing units against the total annual target of between 800 (old Local Plan target) and 1200 homes (Labours new target). Most will be 2 person flats.

As the accommodation is tied, none of the units will contribute directly towards providing more affordable accommodation in the City.

Council House rent arrears up 20% – number of evictions up

The value of Council tenants rent arrears has increased over the last 2 years.

Freedom of information response click to enlarge

Freedom of information response click to enlarge

The amount owed has risen from £622,763 in June 2011 to £741,570 this year.

3159 tenants are now in arrears

The number of evictions for arrears has also doubled (but only to a relatively modest 14)

42 people presented themselves to the Council last year as “homeless”.

23 of them were subsequently accepted by the Council as homeless.

The figures were revealed through a Freedom of Information request.

There is no record of the council having discussed these worrying trends

New initiative tackles housing fraud across North Yorkshire

An initiative to tackle housing fraud across North Yorkshire is being launched by a regional alliance led by Veritau.

In the past two years Veritau, a company owned by City of York Council and North Yorkshire County Council which investigates fraud within the public sector, has freed over 40 misused properties allowing them to be legitimately let. In addition Veritau has provided information to prevent 15 false applications for housing to City of York Council.

Veritau and City of York Council have now joined forces with eight other social housing providers within North Yorkshire to create an anti-housing fraud alliance. The partners are Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, Richmondshire District Council, Broadacres Housing Association, Harrogate Borough Council, Yorkshire Housing, Craven District Council, York Housing Association, and Selby District Council.

This partnership initiative focuses on identifying and prosecuting people who lie about their circumstances in order to obtain a property; tenants who unlawfully sublet their property; tenants who stop living at their property and people who provide false information to gain a property through succession rights.

Council housing sites – Freedom of Information request now reveals the sites that were considered.

When the Council announced its preferred list of locations for new Council houses 5 months ago, it refused to reveal which other possible locations had been considered.

Now a Freedom of Information request by Cllr Ann Reid has forced the Council to reveal the identity of the sites.

Green Lane garage site

Green Lane garage site

The sites under consideration were:
Green Lane garages (Westfield Ward)

Viking Road garages (Acomb Ward)

Infill land on Maple Avenue. (Bishopthorpe Ward)

Infill land to the rear of 21 – 51 Fossway (Heworth Ward)

The sites eventually selected were

Fenwick Street 9 Apartments
York Road, Haxby 4 Houses
Beckfield Lane 27 (Houses & Apartments)
Chaloners Road (Garage Court) 11 Apartments (possibly 8)
Hewley Avenue (Garage Court) 6 Apartments
Newbury Avenue (Garage Court) 9 Apartments

The Planning committee will consider the Beckfield Lane application next week. Thursday, 5th September, 2013 2.00 pm George Hudson Board Room – 1st Floor West Offices (F045)

Details here.

The application includes 9 “affordable” houses and 9 “affordable” flats. In total 27 units will be built there. There have been several objections to the plans