York Council to censor residents internet access

The York Council has blocked residents from accessing what it considers to be unsavoury internet sites.

These are not the sites that you might expect.

The move is not aimed at hard core porn, gamblng or terrorism sites.

The Council has taken the steps to block residents from accessing “payday” loan web sites.

In a media release it says, “In a bid to protect residents from payday loans websites and the risks of spiralling debt from high interest providers, City of York Council has blocked these companies from its staff and public wi-fi and computers and is encouraging use of more reputable financial solutions.

Computers for customer use at all City of York Council libraries and Explore centres and at West Offices now do not give access to payday lender sites, “some of which charge exorbitant interest rates”.

Pay day loans

The Council has not published a list of the companies that it considers to be exploitive.

In addition, the council’s extensive free wi-fi provision is blocking these sites at its libraries and West Offices, at Energise and in the city centre around St Helen’s Square and along Coney Street.

Instead, York’s libraries are going to “support promoting of local credit unions which support savers and borrowers who have difficulty accessing high street banking options“.

The North Yorkshire Credit Union, however, went bust last year and its replacement is only just finding its feet in the City.

“In March, the council launched the free ‘Small Changes’ booklet on how to manage money and make it go further. Published in association with York Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and Aviva, it includes tips on budgeting, ways to cut costs, savings and insurance essentials and hints on how to avoid getting into debt. Also, there are lots of ideas on how to enjoy life in York without having to spend too much money, including low cost family days out, free events and courses”.

As usual there was no consultation with users before the Council took the decision (behind closed doors) to censor the internet access available to its citizens.

Many, while sharing the Council concern about unscrupulous lenders, may consider the step to be an unfortunate precedent; bordering on an infringement of civil liberties.

There is a fine line to be drawn between a genuine wish to ensure that consumers are protected and a patronising, nanny Council, approach.

Future of National Railway Museum under discussion

Railway Museum York

The Press have launched a petition aimed at preventing the NRM from “closing”.

Its future – together with other museums – is under review as part of the government’s attempts to balance the nations books

We think that it is much more likely that the Museum will reintroduce admission charges.

Virtually every other major attraction in the City (and indeed the world) – with the exception of the York Art Gallery which is closed for refurbishment at present – charges visitors, with the Minsters fee of £10 for an adult being about the norm.

Whether York residents would continue to enjoy free admission on production of a YorCard might be more open to question.

The Press petition can be downloaded here

Residents unhappy with York Council’s ice and snow clearance policies

30 days hath September, April, June and November all the rest have 31 save February which has 28 and January which has 80 (and rising)

Damaged salt bin Cornlands Road

Damaged salt bin Cornlands Road

Residents responding to a survey carried out in the Westfield ward, have criticised the York Councils winter maintenance performance.

57% were disappointed with icy weather arrangements.

An overwhelming 97% felt that the Council should top up all salt bins at the beginning of winter.

This winter – for the first time- the Council only filled some of the local salt bins and had to be forced by public opinion to fill the rest around the middle of January.

Unfortunately the bins had been left out over the summer period and many had been damaged. Lids were missing from some of them while many of the rest had become informal litter bins.

We believe that the Council should recover all the bins this summer and repair them.

Then they should make sure that they are out on the streets again, and full, before the icy winter weather starts.

Horses United 1 Dog & Cat Rovers 0

horse dog

Coming soon after the Council announced that it would be scrapping the specialist animal welfare (formerly dog warden) officer patrols, it has decided to appoint a “horse bailiff”.

The move comes after numerous complaints about horses straying onto private land and being the cause of several road traffic accidents.

The Cabinet is set to approve a “protocol” next week

The plan will cost Council tax payers £40,000 a year to implement

Good idea from Jo Ro Housing in York – Tenancy swap “drop in” today

With the empty bedroom subsidy about to end, it is good to see the Joseph Rowntree Housing Association taking positive steps to encourage residents to move into accommodation of a size that meets their needs.

They are holding a property swap event today (Friday 22 March 2013) between 3pm and 5pm at The Folk Hall, New Earswick. You don’t have to be a Jo Ro tenant to attend. More details here.

This is the kind of initiative that the York Council should be taking (instead of grumbling darkly about an imaginary “bedroom tax”!)

Shame that the event hasn’t been better publicised though. It’s more important than some stories that make the press!

clcik to enlarge

clcik to enlarge

Labour back down on Green Bin Tax – but second bins will cost £35 to empty!

The Liberal Democrat campaign to stop Labour introducing a charge for emptying green bins has been successful.

A report to the Councils Cabinet says that there will be no charge for emptying one bin at each property.

Green bin petition

However the service will not be available between November and March (when less than 17% of green waste is collected). The Council hopes to save around £67,000 by discontinuing this part of the service.

A survey undertaken by the Council revealed that only 14.5% support a charge. That compares to 96% who responded to our survey in the Westfield area who were opposed to a charge.

There are over 5000 additional green bins in use at properties with large gardens. The Council hopes that around 3500 residents will pay £35 a year to have these second bins emptied.

The majority of respondents to the Councils survey supported having a combined food and green waste collection. In other parts of the country this has reduced landfill volumes by 15% and officers are to look further at how this could be introduced in York.

The Council is also to close the Towthorpe recycling centre on one day a week. It appears that they have still not learnt the lesson that closing the Beckfield Lane centre should have taught them (inconvenience means increased landfill volumes).

The Council claim that their online/telephone survey attracted about 1000 responses.

It was attacked as misleading as it failed to explain that changes to the current arrangements would have been unnecessary if the Council had decided to scrap some of its more extravagant plans like establishing an “arts barge” on the Ouse.

Indecision grips York Council on Voluntary Sector and Manor School

One of the revealing things about the York Councils list of upcoming decisions relates to the number of issues which keep getting “put off”.

Current record goes to Manor school who have been seeking to lease an additional area of playing field from the Council.

The decision has now been delayed on 6 occasions!

Only slightly less worrying is a plan for developing a “thriving voluntary sector”.

The origins of this item are lost in the mists of time but it was due to be discussed last November then slipped to December and then March.

It is unlikely now to see the light of day before June.

Small wonder then that the Council for Voluntary Service chief in York has recently quit.

Ashbourne Way snicket closure to be discussed

The Council is to consider, on 18th April, a petition which asks for the night time closure of the snickets leading off Ashbourne Way

The snickets are well used during the day, not least by children attending the Woodthorpe School.

Night time closures have been tried before – notably in the nearby Carrfield/Foxton/Chantry Close area – where, in 2009, a similar plan was abandoned following objections by local residents.

Schemes of this sort now tend to rely on mechanisms which automatically lock and unlock a gate at a particular time. None have worked successfully in York other than perhaps that located at the rear entrance to the railway station, from Lowther Terrace, although there the access is part of the cycle network.

Such heavy duty gates are expensive to install and maintain.

Council officials have previously ruled out on cost grounds using staff to lock this type of gate while the use of volunteers has been ruled out on reliability grounds.

The meeting on 18th is likely to be asked only to consider whether the request should be put out for more general consultation.

Complaints about blocked drainage gullies up by 43% in York

Blocked gulley complaints.  Click to enlarge

Blocked gulley complaints.
Click to enlarge

The Labour Councils decision to reduce the routine cleaning of gullies in much of the City has proved to be a false economy.

During 2012, 649 complaints were received by the Council from residents who were concerned about carriageway and footpath flooding.

Block gullies were blamed.

Special cleans had to be arranged on 201 occasions.