The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of a Bank Holiday

The Good

Good work by volunteers has seen attractive flower beds established at the Foxwood Community Centre. The beds are “bee friendly”. Residents are being urged to recognise the needs of pollinators when selecting their border plants this year. Lists can be found on the RHS wen site and can be downloaded from these links;

Garden Plants click

Wildflowers click

Most garden centres have now reopened. In addition the Poppleton Community Railway Nursery charity is continuing to offer a service click for their catalogue There will be someone on the nursery at these times Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9.30 to 3.30. and Thursday 9.30 to 1.00. To avoid disappointment you can ring the nursery mobile 07800 501382 or the land line 01904 797623

Flower beds at the Foxwood Community Centre

The Bad

Less impressive has been the response in dealing with obstructions to foot and cycle paths. The Tadcaster Road cycle path has been reported on several occasions. As a result of weed and hedge overgrowth, it has now been reduced to less than 1 metre wide in some places (making “social distancing” more difficult).

Tadcaster Road cycle track obstructed.
Similar problem on another main access route into the City. The path on the A59 near Poppleton is obstructed forcing users to walk or cycle on the highway.

The Ugly

Sadly there has been an increase in fly tipping. Below is a country lane near Tadcaster photographed today (Monday). The tipping has been reported to the Selby District Council.

Catterton Lane

York Council wants to borrow more money

The York Council leadership has written to the government asking for restrictions on borrowing to be eased.

The request comes in the wake of claims that the City faces a £24 million black hole in its finances.  The Council was urged last week to provide more details of the deficit but has so far failed to do so.

The only information available to the public was published prior to the last executive committee meeting at the beginning of May.  This showed that much of the deficit as made up of Council Tax and Rates income defaults although £10.9million was the assumed cost of extra social care.

Council budget deficit as at 7th May 2020

No savings for reduced travel, energy and materials costs were included.

Now Council Leader Keith Aspden has written to Local Government Minister Robert Jenrick making a case for government support.

Perhaps surprisingly the letter concentrates on the Councils borrowing powers. The present Council leadership committed to a £560 million investment programme only a few weeks ago and is now agonising about how much it can actually deliver in the new financial climate.

It has separately said that it will press on with the York Central development although many will feel that some of the basic assumptions about office and retail growth are now redundant. It seems the best – most fanciful – hope is that the government will agree to move the House of Lords to the site.

The Council leadership also says that it wants a 2 year moratorium on making a “minimum revenue provision” in its budget. This is the funding set aside to repay interest and principal repayments on borrowing. The implication of not paying off this debt (most is borrowed over a 20 year period) could be to push a bow wave of debt onto future generations.

Council letter to government 18th May 2020

This tactical approach is also exposed by another request in the letter.

The Council wants to borrow to cover revenue expenditure – a bit like taking out a bank loan to buy a jar of jam.

The Council goes on to ask for the suspension of S114 “so that struggling Councils don’t have to deliver a balanced budget in the medium term”. 

Section 114 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 requires the Chief Finance Officer, in consultation with the council’s monitoring officer, to report to all the authority’s members if there is, or is likely to be, an unbalanced budget. In practice, this is most likely to be required in a situation in which reserves have become depleted and it is forecast that the council will not have the resources to meet its expenditure in a particular financial year. A full council meeting must then take place within 21 days to consider the notice. In the meantime, no new agreements involving spending can be entered into.

Many will feel that issues like these do require full and public debate. That will involve ensuring that all Councillors and taxpayers are alerted to [problems at the earliest opportunity.

The Council could make a start by providing a candid and full disclosure of its financial position.

It should then go on to review its financial strategy and options in a way that promotes understanding by local residents.