Clifton Green Primary school gets solar panels

Clifton Green Primary School in York is now proudly sporting 380 solar panels on its roof, helping to significantly reduce the school’s energy costs

The ‘new roof’ has been delivered thanks to partners including City of York Council, York Community Energy and Solar for Schools.

The solar panels are expected to generate enough electricity to power 40 houses and will supply around half the school’s total energy need each year, going some way to mitigate the effect of recent energy price rises.

Wither democracy in York?

Later today the York Council – advised by a pre-Executive meeting – will decide whether to pursue an “elected Mayor style of governance for the City and North Yorkshire.

Public consultation on the proposals is promised but it is already clear that residents are unlikely to be given a simple choice of whether or not to proceed with the change.

Instead, questions will rotate around the administrative minutia of the change. No commitment is given in the proposals to decision meetings being held in public and webcast. The costs of adding in this additional tier of government are glossed over.

The Mayoral system depends on the kind of personality politics exemplified by the former TV actress who now runs West Yorkshire via it seems an endless stream of shallow soundbite interviews.

Former Labour MPs like Burnham in Manchester have become Mayors in an attempt to bolster their political careers.

This drift from transparent democracy and debate unifies the Labour and Conservative parties. Both favour the elected dictatorship model with the Tories – even in their current shambolic state – favourites to win the North Yorkshire seat. The elections will use the discredited “first past the post” voting system.

Nor, at the moment, are the LibDems an obvious alternative. By complicity or neglect, they have overseen a decline in openness at the York City Council level.

  • Freedom of information responses are no longer published on the Council website
  • Many FOI requests remain outstanding for far longer than the legal limit
  • Written questions (and answers) at Council meetings have been abandoned
  • A promise to move to a committee system of decision making has been shelved
  • Grants to residents’ associations have been slashed and the tenants federation disbanded
  • Meetings have been postponed at short notice without any adequate explanation
  • Ward committees don’t hold public meetings and voters no longer are consulted on the priorities for locally held budgets
  • Senior managers fail to “walk the job” with many seemingly avoiding any contact with service users
  • Performance stats, when published, are often out of date
  • No one accepts responsibility for declining public service standards or projects which have gone way over budget
  • QUANGOs proliferate and some Executive Councillors seem more concerned about the views of noisy pressure groups rather than taxpayers as a whole.

So some reform is required. But electing an all-powerful Mayor – wherever he or she locates their office – will simply make the feeling of alienation worse. It will provide a breeding ground for extremists to flourish

At least one Councillor is expected to boycott today’s meetings.

Whether those who support the drift from democracy can retain their Council seats at the next Mays Council elections may tell us more about which changes voters favour regarding local governance arrangments.

NB. A new – supposedly independent – “Monitoring Officer” at the York Council has apparently taken to corresponding with Councillors using an encrypted messaging system. More evidence of a campaign to prevent taxpayers from knowing what is going on behind closed doors?

Mixed picture on York Council house waiting list – 937 households affected

`A Council report on the waiting list for homes in the City has been published. It reveals that there are currently 937 people on the list. This is fewer than has been seen in the past although recent changes to administrative arrangements may mean that the figure is understated.

201 households are in what is termed the emergency or gold bands meaning that they have a high priority for rehousing.

The vast majority (over 50%) of those on the lists are seeking single-bedroomed accommodation.

York Housing Waiting list

The report states the obvious. Demand for social housing in York outstrips supply. However, some new properties are being delivered at sites like Germany Beck, Lowfields, Ordnance Lane, Burnholme, Duncombe Barracks and the Coco Works.

The Council’s new system allows for discretion transfers for the considered to be vulnerable. Currently around 30 direct offers are being considered. This would sidestep the bidding process.

The report says very little about the other issues that affect Council housing management not least the continuing concerns about anti-social behaviour. Several lettings were made during the pandemic period when the imperative seemed to be to get “problem ” families moved with little or no thought to the longer-term implications fo such a policy.

A copy of the Councils lettings policy can be found by clicking here

Homelessness and rough sleeping

A further report reviews the post COVID position on rough sleeping.

It says As part of the ongoing response, the team worked hard to ensure everyone had a place to sleep which was safe and minimised the risk of covid infection. This was supported by funding from the central government. We are now moving back to a pre-pandemic use of emergency beds in supported accommodation services, without the reliance on hotels and bed and breakfast, so that these can be used for more bespoke support pathways towards independent living.

The report goes on to say,

” On 1 November 2022, we will activate our winter night provision for rough sleepers and single homeless people. This offers direct access to safe and warm accommodation during the winter period from 1 Nov ‘21 to 28 Feb ‘22. The work of service providers, whether statutory, voluntary or faith based, is keeping the number of people sleeping rough as close to zero as is possible.

The service will continue to house people over winter despite the extra challenges that cold weather brings.”

Winter beds programme

What’s on in York: Haka Bollywood dance workshop

Wednesday 26th October 2022

10:00am – 11:30am

York Explore Library and Archive Library Square Museum Street York YO1 7DS

Free

Click to register

Come along to a fun, inclusive, and interactive workshop of dance, movement, and gestures with artist Salma Zaman, the founder and artistic director of Salma’s Bollywood Academy, and award-winning children’s author, as part of the Rugby League World League Cup Cultural Festival.

As the Rugby League World Cup approaches, join our pre-celebrations and learn the most popular Haka from New Zealand and get an introduction to south Asian Bollywood dance.

Here you’ll discover how to shimmy and shake your hips to your heart’s content to Bollywood beats.

Salma has choreographed and performed for Bollywood stars and has appeared on Coronation Street.

For children (5+), families and adults.

Council to mark International Fragile X Syndrome Awareness Day

City of York Council will light the city walls blue to mark international Fragile X Awareness Day

Fragile X Syndrome is a genetic condition that may cause mild or moderate degrees of learning or intellectual difficulties and is the most common cause of inherited learning disability. 

York’s historic walls will be lit in blue to raise awareness of the condition on the International Fragile X Awareness Day. October 10th.  The date, 10/10 or X/X in Roman Numerals, references the X chromosome and is celebrated internationally, across 16 countries. 

The Fragile X Society was formed in 1990 by families whose children had been diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome and has grown into a team of dedicated employees and volunteers supporting thousands of individuals and families.

Councillor Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said,

We are pleased to be able to help in any way to raise awareness of Fragile X syndrome. Lighting the historic walls blue will serve as our message of support and will hopefully urge people find out more about the condition.

“For those interested in finding out more about the condition or diagnosis, please visit the website of the Fragile X Society”

York Council Leader claims success in reducing city centre crime but picture in some suburbs is very different

A media release from the York Council says, “City partners have come together to agree a series of actions to support York and its night-time economy as part of its Purple Flag accreditation.

Leaders and officers from the Council, Make It York, The BID and North Yorkshire Police met with Council Leader Keith Aspden and Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Zoe Mecalfe.

Among the actions agreed by the partnership were to continue to work together to address anti-social behaviour, particularly in the run-up to the festive season and to continue to promote York as a safe place to visit”

These actions build on measures renewed earlier this year, to help protect the city centre and nearby residential areas from alcohol-related anti-social behaviour. Following two separate consultations in February this year, over 90% of respondents agreed to the reintroduction of powers to address groups drinking and being anti-social.

Cllr Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council, said:

We value the city’s Purple Flag which reflects that York is a secure and vibrant location for residents and visitors alike.

“With city partners, we want to continue to improve on our night-time economy, including addressing anti-social behaviour with the Police and building on our city’s outstanding reputation.”

Zoe Metcalfe, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said

I am thrilled that York continues to be recognised as a Purple Flag city as we plan for new ways to keep residents safe, and feeling safe this Autumn/Winter.

“The root causes of many problems go beyond policing and York’s Purple Flag is an example of how ongoing collaboration between local partners can help to tackle, prevent and solve issues such as anti-social behaviour and, ultimately, make our streets safer for everyone.” 

The Purple Flag is an international accreditation awarded by the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM), similar to the Green Flag award for parks and the Blue Flag for beaches. The Purple Flag scheme aims to help create safe and thriving locations at night for visitors and residents, that offer an entertaining, easy to access, diverse, safe and enjoyable night out.

Time to address crime concerns in residential areas

Sufficient childcare facilities in York?

The York Council will consider a review of childcare sufficiency across the city next week.

The Council says it wants to understand the impact of low funding and recruitment and retention challenges on the early years and childcare sector.

The report says

Early analysis of a new survey of York parents shows there is some unmet need across the city albeit in relatively small numbers, including some families with children with SEND and this does vary regarding provision type, age etc for different wards.

The main area of unmet need appears to be for full day care or sessional care for
the under 5s in several ward areas, before and after school provision in Acomb, Bishopthorpe and Dringhouses and Woodthorpe and holiday provision in Acomb and Haxby &Wigginton.

2022 report summary

Some of this is likely to be due to the current recruitment and retention issues causing some providers to limit the number of places on offer. Many families commented that the cost of childcare is an issue and whilst most indicated that they were aware of TaxFree Childcare, nationally there is low take up so further promotion may support increased take up.

A report concludes that whilst the challenges for the early years and childcare sector are significant, there is still some optimism about the local childcare market.  For example, the local authority still receives approaches from prospective providers wishing to set up in York and settings can also change ownership.

Where settings have low occupancy or staffing shortages they can sometimes benefit from the closures of other settings as they can offer places to parents seeking alternative provision and recruit staff who had been made redundant. 

The review summary can be read by clicking here

The sufficientcy approiasal can be foudn by clicking here

The Executive Councillor, with responsibility for Education (Andrew Waller), is being recommended to make representations to the Secretary of State on the issue of low funding, recruitment and retention and the vulnerable status of the sector.

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Bishopthorpe Road – road closure for investigative works

City of York Council will be carrying out emergency works on Bishopthorpe Road, from Monday 17 October.

This follows a ‘dip’ (depression) appearing on Bishopthorpe Road, which has been identified near to the traffic lighted pedestrian crossing, near Thomas the Baker. 

The council appreciates this may look alarming for anyone who lives or works in the area and has written to nearby residents and businesses to update them on the situation.

From Monday 17 October, the council will be closing the section of the road between Vine Street and Ebor Street, to investigate the dip and determine what remedial works need to be carried out.

This will require the council to excavate, repair and reinstate the tarmac on the road.

At this early stage the authority believes that the cause of the dip is an old Tramway under the road which is settling.

Until the more detailed investigations have taken place, the authority will not be able to identify the exact timescales of repair, but it’s hoped it will take around 2 weeks.

The council’s immediate priority throughout these works is to ensure the safety of residents, particularly as the depression is on a busy section of the highway.

The council would like to reassure residents that whilst the works are taking place, there will be high steel fencing enclosing the site.

Due to the substantial construction of the highway in this area, it is unlikely the depression will dip further prior to the planned excavation works and is being monitored for any changes.