York Council budget surplus hides underlying problems – Public service quality hits buffers

The York Council had an underspend against its revenue budget of £688,000 in the last financial year.

Most of the surplus came from a £2 million improvement in the central services budget which is heavily influenced by external factors such as favourable interest rate levels.

Worryingly all the major service departments were overspent with environmental services (which includes waste management activities) racking up a £941,000 overspend and Adult Social Care (services for the elderly and those with disabilities) came in £528,000 above expected expenditure levels.

An overspend on children’s services was blamed on difficulties with fostering and adoption services.

Landfill Tax payment increased to £4.2 million with 52,370 tonnes of waste dumped.

There was a £325,000 reduction in car parking income compared to estimates. This is partly blamed on unreliability issues at the pay on exit barriers installed at the Marygate car park. Most of the Environmental Services underspend was due to poor performance on waste management.

Following the delays to, and subsequent collapse of, the older persons homes strategy that account showed a shortfall of over £1 million last year. There has been a significant overspend of £1,021k within the Elderly Persons Homes budgets due to utilities, cleaning, catering and repair and maintenance (£325k), increased staffing ratios (£237k) and temporary staffing costs (£332k)

Public Health overspends (£658,000) are put down to the demand for genitourinary (basically sexual diseases) services being higher in York than the rest of North Yorkshire.

The Council is making a payment of £1.3 million to the Leeds City Region business rates pool.

The overspends are a concern as they carry over into 2015/16. Taxpayers will be looking with concern at the first quarter outturn figures (due on 24th September) to see whether there have been any improvements.

The last Labour Council approved a budget for the current year which included £11.9 million in cuts and efficiency savings.

Many of these look like they were built on – to put it kindly – shaky assumption.

Click for full list

Click for full list

The Council has also published updated performance information. Performance in many areas is stable although several wage level, public health,  and waste management indicators are below target.

The outturn report is due to be discussed at a Council meeting taking place on Thursday.

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