York Local Plan hits political buffers


Any hope, that York’s Local Plan might be agreed for submission to an “examination in public” before the Council elections are due to take place in May seem to have disappeared today.

Big City Our City logot

Labour Councillors refused at a meeting today to remove Cllr Watt – who now sits as an Independent – from the Local Plan Working Group.

They chose to take that line after Watt agreed to back their “Big City” house building plans.

For the next couple of weeks at least, Cllr Watt would be able to attend working group meetings provided he continues to toe the Labour Party line.

The Conservatives will have only one seat on the working group (although, under proportional representation, they are legally entitled to two)

The next Local Plan meeting is not scheduled to take place until 29th January.

Little divine inspiration or common sense on show at today's meeting. click to access

Little divine inspiration or common sense on show at today’s meeting. click to access

It is to be hoped that the political groups find an accommodation before the “Urgency” committee next meets on 19th January.

Today’s ill tempered meeting will be best remembered for tit for tat accusations about individual Councillors “misbehaviour”. The allegations should more properly have been raised at the specialist “standards committee”.

The promise of the new Labour Leader, to encourage debate about issues rather than personalities, seems to have fallen flat on its face. The “part time” Labour Leader (Williams) was noticeable by his absence from today’s meeting.

Williams is new Labour Leader on York Council

Liberal Democrat spokesman Cllr Keith Aspden has reacted to news that Labour have elected a new Council Group Leader.

Cllr Williams. How long before he waves good-bye?

Cllr Williams. How long before he waves good-bye?

“I welcome Dafydd to his new role. Since 2011 the problems in the Labour Cabinet have gone deeper than the leader. Dafydd Williams has been part of this Cabinet since day one and was directly responsible for the unpopular decision to ignore the views of 2,500 local residents and close Beckfield Lane Tip in 2012.

“I hope that we will see meaningful change in his group’s policies. Key issues such as plans to close Yearsley Pool should be re-examined and the council must start listening and engaging with residents again.

“The new leader must also begin to repair the damage done by the botched Lendal Bridge trial and I urge him to support a Liberal Democrat motion to repay all the fines at December’s Full Council meeting. This will be his first test as leader and will show whether things have really changed in the Labour Group.”

York Labour in melt down

Broken rose

Another Labour Councillor has quit meaning that James Alexander’s residual party has now lost overall control of the York Council.

Currently they have 23 of the 47 seats with one vacancy to be filled in the Westfield by election on 16th October.

At least two other Labour Councillors may also resign the party whip, so the Council will be looking for a new way of doing things at least until May 2015 when “all out” elections take place.

It is not surprising that councillors, who have lived in the City for many years, have been alienated by a secretive and authoritarian style of leadership.

Couple this with some rank bad decisions (Lendal Bridge, 20 mph zones, a “Big City” Local Plan, neglect of residential areas, reckless borrowing etc. ) and you had the formulae for failure.

The York Council faces a difficult few months.

It must set a budget for an election year, try to find a consensus on a new Local Plan and deal with endemic failure in service areas such as social care.

It is difficult not to conclude that a new Leader is required.

It needs someone with experience who is untainted by the failures of the present administration but who has the skills to find a consensus.

He or she will need to establish a new structure where decisions are taken after proper consultation, where there is open discussion and where conclusions have as widely based support as possible.

It is probably not practical to return to a “committee” system for the remainder of this Council but a step forward would be for all groups to be represented on the Councils Cabinet and for “scrutiny committees” to have real power and the ability to change decisions.

Interesting days ahead.

Press and Labour Councillor in muddle over planning appeal

Westview Close

Westview Close

Yorkshire Post and York Press readers will today be wondering why a Westfield Labour Councillor was given a platform to sound off about a housing development which he obviously thought was in his ward.

As we reported several weeks ago, a planning Inspector has overturned a Council decision and has allowed a small 8 home development to be built on Westview Close.

Westview Close is actually located in the Rural West ward, adjacent to the Civil Service Sports field.

It is about 1 mile away from the Westfield Ward.

It appears that the media have provoked “local” Westfield ward Councillor Dafydd Williams to condemn the decision amidst a confused diatribe about the need to establish a “Green Belt” boundary.

We have news for him. There is a Green Belt boundary and it is protected by the government.

All that has changed over the last year, is that Labour have proposed taking greenfield sites, like the Civil Service Sports field, out of the Green Belt.

Council service satisfaction levels down as £1.4 million now allocated to pay for Tour De France start,

Public satisfaction with the way that the Labour Council is performing is dropping according to the authorities own figures.

Around 4000 residents responded to a Council survey. The percentage satisfied with the way that the Council runs things dropped from 63% to 54% in just 12 months.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

The results need to be viewed with caution given the volatility of public opinion – and the likely sample bias on a post back survey – but other polls tell a similar story.

The Council could have taken the opportunity to test public opinion on a range of controversial issues such as:

• The proposed cuts to the number of roads being gritted this winter and the planned removal of self help salt bins.

• It’s plans to expand the size of the City by 25% over the next 15 years

• Changes to bus services and its refusal to publish reliability figures

• The bungled changes to refuse collection arrangements.

• Secret “behind closed doors” decision making.

• The introduction of wide area 20 mph speed limits

• The Lendal Bridge and Coppergate traffic restrictions.

Without these figures the Council may find it difficult to understand why its reputation is suffering.

Meanwhile Labour are now admitting that York taxpayers face an enormous £1.4 million bill for hosting the second day start of the Tour De France.

That is over and above the money being taken from existing budgets such as highways resurfacing.

Put in context, the annual repayment costs on the money borrowed to fund this one day event will be over £100,000 or enough to sustain existing winter maintenance (de-icing) standards for the next 20 years.

It is probably not surprising that residents weren’t given the opportunity to comment, in the Council’s survey, on this priority.

Labour fall to 5th place in Acomb poll

Broken rose

Results of a door to door survey in the Hamilton Drive part of Acomb have seen Labour fall to their lowest ever level of support.

Asked which party they would support if there were a Council election tomorrow, only 3% said they would vote Labour.

The Conservatives and UKIP were vying for second place behind the Liberal Democrats who were favored by 40%

The poor Labour showing is put down to problems with the introduction of new waste collection arrangements and threats to reduce the amount of ice clearance undertaken in the neighbourhood.

200 homes in the area were visited by surveyors.