“During the year there was a case where the council’s handling of a particular complaint was extremely poor”
More evidence, that the York Council had become seriously dysfunctional by the end of last year, has been provided in the annual report from the Local Government Ombudsman
The organisation received 91 complaints about the York Council during the year ending March 2015.
Of thes,e 10 were upheld with 35 referred back to the Council for local resolution
The majority of the complaints concerned planning, transport, benefits, adult social care and environmental issues.
One case prompted the Ombudsman to label the Councils response as “extremely poor”
The report says that it took “emails, phone calls and finally two threats of a public interest report (sent by special delivery) to see any action taken”.
The complaint related to social care and the York Council, having accepted it was at fault in December 2013, took until October 2014 to remedy the complaint.
The Ombudsman’s letter was sent to the York Council on 18th June 2015 but has not yet been scheduled for cosideration by any of its committees.
There is likely. in the future, to be a single Ombudsman’s office covering all public administration organisations.
Hopefully the new organisation will also have a role in relation to the growing number of Quangos being established in York and elsewhere. Residents, who at least partly fund organisations like “Make it York”, York Museums Trust and York Libraries, need to have a route to independent arbitration if they are unable to get a local resolution for a problem.
Freedom of Information legislation should also apply to those types of organisation.
It could be early autumn before new all party committees get the chance to debate the York Council’s upcoming policy plans.
A report being considered on 13th July proposes a return to a form of Executive Member advisory panel (EMAP) which was in use in York during the early part of the last decade. These meetings involve Councillors from all parties and are held in public. To aid planning, meetings occupied a scheduled day each month and were cancelled if there was no business to consider.
Introduced by the Liberal Democrats when they took power, EMAPs sought to widen discussion on policies which affected the City. The sessions were abandoned in 2008 when Labour – who were the main opposition in a balanced Council at the time – refused to participate saying that they preferred the (confrontational) option of “calling in” some proposals for review.
Under the new arrangements, so called “Officer in Consultation” decision meetings are also to be scrapped. These were the meetings which prompted the “behind closed doors” criticisms of the old Council.
Instead these decisions will be taken at an open Executive member meeting.
Of course, how the system works in practice remains to be seen. It’s success rests heavily on future decisions being correctly identified on the Councils “Forward Plan” although this will – rightly – become a “rolling“ programme in future
The new system doesn’t address the issue of Council officials taking decisions exploiting their delegated powers. This has been a particular problem in the Housing department where some wide reaching decisions – including one which saw visits by skips abandoned on some estates – have been taken without even, apparently, the knowledge of Councillors.
Similar issues arise with the growth of third party agencies such as the trusts and companies which now run our museums, libraries and economic development activities.
Thought also now needs to be given as to how residents can feel more involved in the decision process. Extended use of social media channels seems to be an obvious further refinement
Still the report is a step in the right direction.
Hopefully the new arrangements will start in September after the Council’s August recess.
Conservative and Liberal Democrats have revealed the full details of the new joint Executive set to run City of York Council.
The Executive will be made up of 4 Conservatives and 4 Lib Dems, with Conservative Cllr Chris Steward as Council Leader and Lib Dem Cllr Keith Aspden as Deputy Leader.
Click to enlarge
Responsibility for redrawing York’s Local Plan will sit jointly with the Leader and Deputy Leader.
The 8 Executive Members will take a reduction in allowances compared to the outgoing 6 Labour members to ensure that there is no overall increase in costs. Labour and Green leaders will be invited to attend and speak at executive meetings which will run in conjunction with new cross-party ‘policy and scrutiny’ committees.
Cllr Keith Aspden, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, commented:
“This is an experienced joint administration which is committed to delivering for residents and bringing about real change at the council. In the specific Lib Dem portfolio areas we will focus on increasing recycling, delivering the Community Stadium whilst keeping Yearsley Pool open, as well as sorting out the mess left behind by Labour in adult social care. In my portfolio, my priority will be to devolve budgets and power to local communities through revised Ward Committees. We will also work jointly to ensure that a revised Local Plan protects York’s green belt.”
Cllr Chris Steward, Conservative Group Leader, commented:
“Our four Executive Members – for Education, Housing, Transport and Planning, with myself at Finance and Performance, represent a blend of three experienced and one new councillor. Most importantly, all four have had substantial experience in a variety of roles in both the private and public sectors outside of the council bubble. All four will bring seasoned critical skills to their new roles and will be able to take a measured approach to the issues facing York. This is particularly crucial for our administration’s determination to move forward on a Local Plan which will represent a realistic balance between the new housing York needs and the preservation of York’s green belt and the distinctive character of its villages and neighbourhoods; for a transport and planning system which works with, not against, residents; and to return York to a sustainable financial footing without excess borrowing. I am very pleased with both administration partners’ Executive choices.”
A copy of the Executive portfolio responsibilities can be downloaded by clicking here