Your chance to stand for the county council

Think you could do better in providing local services?…..well here’s your chance.

All six seats representing the Richmondshire District area on North Yorkshire County Council
are up for election on May 4 – and a special briefing session is being set up for election
agents and prospective candidates in March.

The county council is based in Northallerton and is responsible for some of the big spending local services such as education, social care and transports.

Local people are being urged to make a difference to the communities they live in and consider signing up as candidates for the May local elections.

The nearest councillors for this area at the moment are:

  • Helen Grant, Central Richmondshire division, NY Independent.
  • Carl Les, Catterick Bridge division, Conservative.
  • Stuart Parsons, Richmond division, NY Independent.

Anyone thinking of standing as a candidate – or acting as an agent – can attend to get more information on the process and what the role entails.

It takes place on Thursday, 2 March at 2pm at Mercury House, Station Road, Richmond.

Anyone wishing to attend should contact the Elections Team on 01748 901018 – and advise which County Division they are interested in as nomination packs will be distributed that day.

Councillors face new rules on allowances – how much is your councillor worth to you?

An independent panel has put forward a plan which could see some councillors on Richmondshire District Council receiving less from the public purse.

Currently each councillor is entitled to a flat rate allowance of £3,000 then that is topped up with allowances for taking on specific responsibilities as well as expenses for costs incurred such as meals and mileage.

But an Independent Remuneration Panel made up of people appointed to look at the way the authority rewards its councillors has suggested changes which would increase the basic allowance but restrict other expenses.

The most controversial of the changes is to remove the allowance of £14.99 per month for broadband access. A suggestion which has angered some councillors because they are required to access all official documents using their council issued ipads.

You can see their full discussion on the suggestion – described by one of the councillors as ‘tawdry’ – in this video from the meeting.

The councillors failed to agree on the panel’s recommendations at the last full council meeting of 2016 and so the issue will be considered again in February.

In the meantime, we took a look at the amount each is currently claiming.

The highest level of allowance and expenses goes to the Conservative leader of the council Yvonne Peacock who received £10,148.53 in the last year that figures have been published for.

The councillor who received the smallest amount of money in the financial year 2015-16 was Catterick’s Simon Young. He received just £299.47 but was only elected to the seat in February 2016.

The Richmond ward councillors were rewarded in that financial year (2015-16) as follows:
Linda Curren 3,903.87
Louise Dickens 1,766.75 (elected in Sept 2015)
Stuart Parsons 3,225.90
John Robinson 4,954.44
Clive World 3,260.53

The full list of councillors and the expenses received can be seen here .(Those councillors without details of ward or party are no longer serving on the Council.)

* Please note, the figures relate to Richmondshire District Council only. Some councillors also sit on North Yorkshire County Council, or other bodies, and so could also receive allowances and expenses from those authorities separately.

Planners to decide on new gift shop for the town

millgate

A gift? No. 19

Plans for a new gift shop in Richmond’s Millgate will be considered by councillors on Wednesday.

The owner of a flat at number 19, Barbara Overfield, wants to change the use of her property from residential to commercial. The street is well used by visitors to the Falls and she believes her small property could host a shop.

The property comprises a long narrow building, and would be ideal for a small,
niche, boutique shop which would only serve to enhance the area.

Some of the other residents in the street have objected to the plans but councillors on Richmondshire District Council’s planning committee are being recommended to grant permission.

The proposed change of use from residential to retail relates to a very small ground floor property, just off the Market Place. There is policy support for retail use in ‘edge of centre’ locations. The proposal will not harm the character and appearance of this part of the Richmond Conservation Area, or result in any significant harm to neighbour amenity and privacy.

Given the scale of the proposed retail use, there are no grounds to reject the proposal in terms highway safety. The proposal meets the requirements and expectations of policies of the Development Plan, and the National Planning Policy Framework.

* The full agenda item report can be seen here. The meeting is open to the public and starts at 6.30pm on Wednesday, January 4 at Mercury House.

“Little boys and girls pounce on the food because they are so hungry”

It’s the moment in the blockbuster film of this year, I Daniel Blake, which brings home the enormity of the desperate situation the lead female character finds herself in.

Finally reaching the end of a winding food bank queue, the young mum is overwhelmed by the availability of food and is so hungry she can’t help herself from opening a tin and stuffing the cold, unappetising food into her mouth.

When this scene played out to a packed screening at The Station a few months ago, there was much rummaging in pockets for hankies, suppressed sniffles and clearing of throats.

But what the film followers experienced as fiction that evening is also playing out for real close to home. At a meeting last week, Richmond west ward councillor Linda Curran told her colleagues about the scenes she had witnessed at Richmond’s food bank, the StoreHouse on Victoria Road.

“We are talking about young families with young children who are being pushed into poverty, basically, and into hunger. I’ve been with quite a few families to the food bank and seen little boys and girls pounce on the food that’s available because they are so hungry.”

StoreHouse confirmed there had been a recent sharp increase in the number of people looking for help.

StoreHouse co-ordinator Paige Rutherford said: “We have seen a large increase over the past month or so of people accessing us. A normal week, we tend to see approximately 15 clients using us (which could feed anywhere from 15-20 people). Recently we’ve been seeing about 20-25 clients weekly which feed 30+ people. In comparison to large cities, this may seem a very small number, but for a town our size, and based on our normal weekly averages, this is a huge increase.

“Our increase seems to be coming from the choice between heating or food (one factor, but a fairly key one at this time of year).”

Councillor Curran believes that part of the issue pushing families into poverty has come about due to major policy changes from both local and national government relating to the way benefits are dealt with and the timing of when the money is paid out.

The topic is complex and multi-layered one which can be a baffling world of new terminology and processes just as the Ken Loach film exposes. The language used and systems deployed make public debate of the issue a minefield for people outside the system, a scary world of confusing new terms and undecipherable symbols.

For example, a process known as ‘sanctioning’ translates to mean that benefit money is withheld from people if a representative of the Department for Work and Pensions decides so. Richmondshire has the unhappy ‘honour’ of being at the top of the league for the whole of the UK for sanctions. In other words, as a proportion, more people claiming benefits in this area have them taken away leaving them without any financial support.

This month it was revealed that the area has also topped the league for homelessness in Yorkshire for the first time too, although it should be noted that that’s an accolade the council doesn’t accept as an accurate assessment.

What happens to those people left with no money?

Well no-one knows for sure because no-one collects the information. For some it could be good news – they simply don’t need help any more or maybe they have moved from the area? perhaps they got jobs? became homeless? or died? Statistics alone can’t answer those questions – and, it turns out, neither can the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

In response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request seeking some more information about what happened those local benefit claimants who have been ‘sanctioned’, the DWP said:

“The Act (FoI) does not require the Department to provide opinions or explanations, generate answers to questions, or create or obtain information it does not hold. We can confirm the Department does not hold any recorded information that could address your specific request at these questions. “

Imposed from a national decision, this  region was one of those selected as a pilot for the controversial flagship benefit policy, Universal Credit. That change was fully introduced across most of Richmondshire on 29th June this year.

Since that point, all new claims and changes in circumstances for housing benefits for working age people (with some minor exceptions) have been transferred to the DWP to be dealt with as Universal Credits claims.

The district council admits “there have been some teething problems in dealing with claims by the DWP leading to delays by the DWP in addressing claims” and the figures show there’s been a drop in the numbers of people locally receiving housing benefit – down from 2,072 in April to 1,778 in November.

But the changes don’t stop at nationally administered benefits. In order to avoid any potentially unpopular rise in the level of council tax  that householders have to pay, the district council reduced the level of subsidy available to people on low incomes to help pay their tax bills. There’s now 2,264 receiving that subsidy compared to 2,333 in April this year. According to councillor Curran, some families found that the increased Universal Credit they were entitled to pushed them into a position where they owed more council tax.

She called for action to ensure that people wouldn’t be faced with higher council tax bills in April while they waited for benefits changes to catch up with the shortfall in October.

The issue is sure to arise again during committee meetings of the council when taxes are set again next year but that still leaves those currently going through the labyrinthian systems with more pressing needs and the food bank operators are looking for help right now.

Rutherford appealed for donations: “We are definitely still looking for donations. Due to the increase of demand, or stock has gone down and a lot of our reserves have been used. We have had a quite a few generous donations recently, but we will continue to need more food to meet the demand over the coming weeks and months. We also accept financial donations – cash or direct debit/bank transfer if people prefer to donate this way.”

* The StoreHouse will be open on Wednesday, December 21st but then remains closed over the Christmas break. It will then reopen Wednesday January 4th, and be open full time again as usual from the 5th. There’s also more information about the food bank, including a list of the items required, at the website here.

 

Confused by new bin rounds? You are not alone

Richmond residents have been receiving cards from the district council warning about a change to bin collection times which will see householders getting their wheelies out for 6.30am on a Thursday…….or is a Wednesday?

Councillors this week heard that confusion reigns in some areas. West ward councillor Stuart Parsons said two neighbouring houses on Reeth Road had been given different collection days and wondered how that could be so.

In response, corporate director Colin Dales said there had been very little public response to the notices issued about the new collection times and urged people to get in touch if they were unsure about the changes.

Th email addresses for all the local councillors can be found here.

In a bid to ease confusion, the council issued the following press release about the collection times over the next few weeks:

Refuse and recycling collection dates across Richmondshire are revised due to the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Residents can check their changed dates at http://www.richmondshire.gov.uk

Excess recycling will be taken in suitable containers or bags and all the authority’s mini recycling centres will be open throughout the holidays. Christmas cards and envelopes can be left at the kerbside – in the blue bags – along with all paper and light card.

There will be a special collection of Christmas trees and garden waste on weeks between January 4 and 14 for residents subscribing to the green bin collection service.

Residents are also urged to take note of their revised collection day from January 16,
2017 – information is being sent to all households over the next week.

* You can see the full debate about the new bin collections, including concern about the new contracts for bin men, at this clip from the live stream in the first 10 minutes.

Black future for White Shops traders

Traders at the unimaginatively named White Shops in Catterick took their plea for help to the council this week as they struggle to remain in business.

Councillors were told group had seen their incomes fall by 75% due to the double whammy of lengthy roadworks going on outside their doors and a car parking charge being introduced in the nearest car park.

They presented a petition to members Richmondshire District Council asking for the car park charges due to be imposed next year to be dropped.

“The Democratic Services Manager to seek consideration of a petition requesting that Richmondshire District Council do not increase car parking charges at the White Shops in Catterick Garrison and that charges for parking be removed altogether.”

This was the case put forward by local councillor Helen Grant.

But the Conservative leader Yvonne Peacock insisted that the car parking charge would be needed to balance the council’s books.

After two votes on the subject, the final outcome was to refer the issue to the Council’s scrutiny committee in the New Year leaving the traders with no certainty about the issue for many more weeks.

You can see the full debate, including the petitioner’s case, on the complete video streamed from the council chamber here.

Richmondshire Today also has more details from the debate here.

How do you think the White Shops could be saved? Is the car park charge a step too far? We’d love to hear your views via the comments below.

Many expected at meeting to discuss almost 40 new houses

Council planners considering two proposed new housing developments have taken the unusual step of moving the public meeting to Richmond School due to the number of people looking to attend.

While most planning committee meetings barely see anyone but the council officials, Richmond Civic Society and the applicants  turning out to hear the discussions, this Tuesday’s meeting has had to be moved to larger quarters than Mercury House can provide.

The discussion will look at plans for up to 32 houses at Robin Hood Farm in Brompton on Swale and a separate proposal for nine houses in Catterick Village where there have been scores of objections from local residents and concern about the archaeological importance of the proposed site.

The meeting takes place on Tuesday, December 6 in the main hall at Richmond School from 6.30pm. The full agenda can be seen here.

 

‘Up to 700 new jobs for Scotch Corner’ says council leader

Richmondshire District Council chiefs have welcomed today’s announcement that a multi million pound retail and leisure development at Scotch Corner has been given the go ahead.

Council leader, Councillor Yvonne Peacock said the authority is delighted that the plans for Scotch Corner Designer Outlet have received government approval.

“Today’s decision is wonderful news for Richmondshire – and the economy of our area.

“It will not only create up to 700 jobs – both in the development of the site but also in the new outlets opened there – but it will bring people from far and wide to visit our district. The knock on effect for the area will be immense and we are very excited to see work on the scheme begin.”

The decision announced today comes after a planning inquiry into two possible schemes – one for 84 retail and eight food and drink units and a second for 70 retail outlets. Each includes the associated parking and landscaping.

The district council had approved both schemes but they were ‘called in’ for the inquiry by the Secretary of State after concerns on the size and scale of the proposals – and the effects on the economy of neighbouring towns.

 

The site applicant says the new centre will house ‘upscale fashion and personal, household and leisure goods retailers’ filling a gap in the market in the north of England. It will be sited close to the upgraded A1.

Co-op recycling site being suspended

img_3619Richmond town centre’s recycling site at the Co-op store next to Friary Gardens is to temporarily close next week.

The site will shut from November 28. It will re-open next year after the building’s conversion work by Lidl.

Residents are asked to take their recycling – paper, cardboard, cans, plastics, textiles and tetrapak cartons to the site at the Nuns Close car park.

For more information on recycling centres check out the council website at  www.richmondshire.gov.uk.

Do you know of anyone sleeping rough in Richmond?

Richmondshire Council is trying to count up how many homeless people there are sleeping rough in the area.

They’re asking people to let them know of anyone in that situation. In a press release issued today they explained that the figures compiled from just one night will then be extrapolated to give the Government a figure to assess the district’s homeless problem.

An estimate of the number of rough sleepers within Richmondshire will take place this month- focussing on one night.

All local authorities need to submit an annual figure to the government (Department of Culture and Local Government) indicating the numbers of people sleeping rough in their area on a single ‘typical’ night.  Local authorities can decide whether to submit an estimate or carry out a count.

Due to the rural nature, geographical size of the district and the heavy involvement required by partner organisations the decision was made to submit an estimate. Richmondshire District Council, along with neighbouring authorities will complete the estimate on the night of Wednesday 16th November between the hours of midnight and 7am.

The Council is asking everyone within the local community to let them know of any rough sleepers in the area. For the purposes of the estimate a rough sleeper is classed as: people sleeping, about to bed down (sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding) or actually bedded down in the open air – such as on the streets, in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters or encampments. Also people in buildings or other places not designed for habitation – such as stairwells, barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats, stations, or “bashes”.

People who see anyone believed to be sleeping rough should contact Helen Sutherland by Friday 18 November on helen.sutherland@richmondshire.gcsx.gov.uk  or 01748 901142.