York Council indecision mounts

Second Council “Cabinet” meeting postponed

For the second month running the Council’s policy decision making body, the “Cabinet”, will not meet. The meeting was to have taken place on 2nd December. But now – like the meeting which was to have taken place on 4th November – it has been cancelled.

It means that no major decisions will have been taken since 7th October.

The next Cabinet meeting is not due to take place until 6th January, only a few weeks before the Councils budget has to be drawn up.

Future of empty Guildhall still unclear

Future of empty Guildhall still unclear

The indecision is being blamed on the chaotic state of the Council’s Labour group, which still has the largest number of members. Recently the Council Leader announced his resignation leading to an apparent power vacuum and crippling the decision making process.

Amongst the decisions which were due to be made were the future of the Guildhall. Labour plans a hugely expensive “digital media and arts centrefor the building but it unlikely that the new Council would agreed to the increased levels of borrowing required to fund the project. It is possible that the, relatively new, annex – which comprises mainly modern offices – may now be marketed separately.

Other agenda items, now shelved, include:

Senior Councillors have now had sufficient time (over 6 weeks) to come up with a workable way of making decisions in a balanced (hung) Council.

It had to do so in a similar situation, between 2007 and 2011, when there was little delay in dealing with issues..

It is now vital that all Parties agree to put the welfare of the City ahead of partisan political priorities.

Guildhall future still in doubt as Labour cancel key meeting

Labour Councillors have cancelled a meeting of the “Cabinet” scheduled to take place on 4th November.

York Guildhall

York Guildhall

The move came without any explanation.

The meeting had been expected to consider the future of the Guildhall – scheduled by Labour to become a controversial “digital arts and media centre”.

With the balance on the Council having changed, the project – which was originally to have been determined in June – may never now get the “go ahead”.

York residents petition

York residents petition

Both LibDem and Tory Councillors have been very critical of the Labour leadership (see petition right collected in 2012) for leaving the building largely empty and for failing to recognise the role that both the Guildhall and Mansion House should continue to have in the civic life of the City.

The Cabinet meeting was also expected to receive a report on the final costs of the Tour de France events with most eyes still on the reported six figure costs of the “Grand Departy” held at the Huntington Stadium in July.

The Council have already delayed answering a Freedom of Information request on the issue – somewhat disingenuously claiming that they had not yet assembled all the bills for the event.

The FOI request has now been re-submitted.

York Council to water down petitions action – “smile you’re on……”

The Council is being asked to abandon the right citizens currently have to hold highly paid officials to account.

A proposal to the “Audit Committee” says that senior officials should not in future have to attend a meeting to answers questions raised about their management responsibilities.

York residents petition

York residents petition

The existing petitions scheme (agreed in 2010) contains the following clause:

If your petition contains at least 500 signatures, you may ask for a senior council officer to give evidence at a public meeting about something for which the officer is responsible as part of their job. For example, your petition may ask a senior council officer to explain progress on an issue, or to explain the advice given to elected members to enable them to make a particular decision. The following senior staff can be called to account:
• Chief Executive
• Chief Finance Officer
• Monitoring Officer
• Directors of Service

A report, drafted by the Council’s monitoring officer, suggests abandoning this right.

Cabinet members also escape any requirement to explain their actions to taxpayers.

There are currently 5 live petitions running on the Councils web site.

The last Council meeting discussed a record number of petitions (7) submitted by residents and which had passed the 1000 signature threshold which guaranteed a discussion at a full Council meeting.. Most concerned the controversial aspects of Labour draft Local Plan.


The same meeting – which is taking place next Wednesday -is set to approve a “protocol” for web casting of Cabinet and Council meetings.

Sadly the report makes no reference to the costs of such a proposal nor does it indicate how many “viewers” the trial broadcasts have attracted (understood to be derisory)

Cabinet agenda WebCam

The key issue is whether a casual viewer would be able to follow what was actually taking place at a Council meeting. Even those sitting in the public gallery, with an agenda in front of them, some times struggle to work out what is going on.

The Council need to further develop the information that can be provided possibly using a split screen format. It is just possible that, if residents could see the relevant agenda item papers, together with the way that individual Councillors vote on each issue, more interest might be generated.

The trial web casting of “Cabinet” meetings has attracted very little interest. The meeting consist only of a dull procession of uninspired speeches from Labour Councillors. (It is a one party meeting).

A Council meeting offers more opportunity for debate on important issues but it will require much better organisation than has been evident on York Council governance issues over recent months.