“Make it York” reports financial progress

The Make it York organisation, which is partly funded by York taxpayers, is reporting that it has made a £140,714 profit so far this year.  That is £71,900 above budget expectations

They currently have a balance sheet surplus of £330,000

The organisation reports that it had a successful Christmas and claims “continuing strong performance from Shambles Market, City Centre Activities and Visit York Membership”

No detail is provided on the Shambles market performance.

The brief report to a “shareholder “ meeting also says that the “York Pass” initiative has been less successful than hoped.

Looking to the future the report says, “MIY currently runs or facilitates a range of events which animate the public realm and make the city vibrant and interesting for visitors and residents. There is scope though to use the “stage” provided to do, and to facilitate, a great deal more, the ultimate objective being to ensure a daily “wow” factor

So now the £34.28 million York Libraries contract has been let

A Council official has used his delegated powers to let one of the City’s largest ever leisure contracts. The supplier is confirmed as the current Library management company. The decision was delegated on the basis that the tender received was within the agreed budget. In reality it wasn’t and the Council subsequently had to hike its contribution during its recent budget meeting.

No details of the terms of the contract or the expected outputs have been published. The decision was taken at a “behind closed doors” meeting on 1st March. The Council had however already announced that the contract had been let on 19th February!The old contract was due to terminate on 31st March 2019.

While we hold the York Explore team in high regard – a recent independent report gave them a good review in comparison with libraries in other City’s https://t.co/9R3KnthqUF – we are less than convinced about the transparency of the process used by the Council

The degtails released so far by the Council are reproduced below.

“On 21 June 2018 the Council’s Executive agreed key aspects of the service specification for a new contract for library and archive services. It was agreed that the term of the contract would be 15 years with an option for a 5 year extension.

Authority was delegated to the Director of Children, Education and Communities authority to:

? Develop and implement the procurement framework in line with the terms of the Executive report, and

? Award the contract at the end of the process provided that the price is within budget

Two bids were received. These were rigorously assessed. The financial assessment was undertaken by a team of officers from Corporate Finance. The quality assessment was undertaken by a team of officers with expertise in the relevant areas, supported by two external experts, former heads of libraries and archive services respectively.

The assessment of the bids was on the basis of 60% quality and 40% price.
Neither bid as submitted was deemed to be compliant since neither was assessed as being deliverable within the Council’s affordability limit.
The Competitive Procedure with Negotiation (CPN) under regulation 29 of the Public Contract Regulations 2015 was then used within a second bidding round. This procedure was selected as the best option for CYC to assess the minimum additional resources required to secure the contract in line with our specification and within the original timetable.

Both bidders agreed to take part in the CPN on the basis that an uplift in the affordability limit may subsequently be agreed by the Council. A revised affordability limit was set for round 2, in agreement with the Director of Resources, at £2.432m per annum for years 1 to 4, reducing to £2.232m for years 5-15, a total budget of £34.28m over the 15 years of the contract.

The procedure allowed CYC officers to meet both bidders twice before a second tendering phase commenced in order to provide feedback to each bidder on why their bid had been rejected so that they could subsequently make changes to their bids to make them compliant for round two.
The second tender stage was conducted between 14 and 28 January 2019 and both bidders submitted bids.

The highest scoring bid in terms of quality was that submitted by Explore Libraries and Archives Mutual Ltd. This was also the lowest priced bid.
Budget Council on 28 February allocated additional resources commensurate with the increased affordability limit set out above.

The tendered price is now, therefore, within budget and the contract can be awarded to Explore Libraries and Archives Mutual Ltd.”

Business Rates reduction scheme gets nod

Council reveals who pays the most and least in rates

Tesco has largest rates bill in York

The Government scheme to reduce business rates by 33% for medium sized retailers has been approved. New bills are expected to be sent out shortly.

The decision comes as the Council lifts the veil on business rates (NNDR) in York. A report to a meeting next week says that 2000 local businesses are entirely exempt from paying rates. (Businesses with a rateable value of less than £12,000 are exempt from paying rates).

The bottom 50% of businesses pay an average of less than £1000 per annum.

The biggest bill is paid by Tesco which alone has a bill in York of over £3 million.

7 of the top 10 charges are for superstores, including those at Vangarde.

The top 3 non-retail rates bills are for Nestle (£1.4m), Defra (£930k) and CYC’s West Offices (£730k).

Hotels are large contributors, The Grand having a net charge of £680k, The Principal paying £547k and the StayCity Aparthotel on Paragon Street contributing £343k.

Within the city centre, the highest charges are paid by Marks and Spencer for their Parliament Street store (£527k), Primark (£366k) and Boots (£355k).

The highest rateable value of £7m is for the University of York, although the University is a charity and receives 80% relief on its liability.

Coney Street and Parliament Street still have the highest rateable values. Click here to see a list of the values in each City Centre street.

The York Council is increasingly dependant on business rate income to fund public services.

The report reveals that, although rates are payable on empty properties (after 3 months), the BHS store on Coney Street has been exempted from the charge by the Valuation Office. There are other exemptions mainly for charities and amateur sports clubs.

Business rate levels are set by central government. Income is shared between the local authority and central government.

28% of the York Council’s budget is now funded from business rates .

The Council is expected to submit an expression of interest in the new “Future High Street Fund” at a meeting being held on 22nd March.

NB. The Council refused recently to publish a complete list of long term business rate debtors.

Lincoln Court modernisation set to double in cost.

Council admits it got costs wrong

Modernisation plans 2018

The estimated cost of modernising the independent living flats at Lincoln Court has increased from £1.9 million to £4.8 million. Council officials, in a report to an executive committee meeting next week, admit that they got their measurement figures wrong in a report published in March 2018.

A contract for £4.7 million had already been let for the Windsor House/Lincoln Court redevelopment 

The new scheme would include 15 new apartments which would meet disabled access standards. In total there would be 35 units on the site.

Although the report has not been approved, Council officials have already submitted a planning application for the scheme. The planning application is due to be determined on 20th March 2019.

It is currently blocked by an objection from Sport England.

Sport England objects to the loss of the all-weather games area on which the extension to Lincoln House will be constructed. They insist that a replacement is provided.

A local residents association supports Sport England’s position.

It has been suggested that a new games area could be provided nearby on the Thanet Road Sports Area.

Kingsway MUGA

The report seeks to address to sports area issue by saying “To note that in approving Option 1 a commitment is made for alternative recreational facilities following community consultation including Sport England within Westfield Ward in mitigation for the loss of the Multi Use Games Area. The alternative facilities provided are to be agreed by Executive and will be subject to a further report and budget approval”

That isn’t likely to cut any ice with residents who will want to know what it to be provided and when before any planning application is approved. (The last ploy by officials was that some outdoor gym equipment would be provided on Chesneys field)

The report also candidly accepts that the new scheme will reduce the amount of garden space available for Lincoln Court residents.

That will not be popular.

No attempt is made to address the lack of car parking provision or the effect on traffic congestion, on approach roads, that the expansion will have.

Altogether too little, too late from Council officials who have treated tenants and neighbours with little more than contempt over the last 12 months.

Liberal Democrat Councillors launch petition to reduce proposed Community Stadium parking charges

Liberal Democrat Councillors have launched a petition calling on the Council to reverse the proposed increase to parking charges at the York Community Stadium.

The new £10 charge was agreed by Tory Executive member Peter Dew at a meeting which took place 3 weeks ago.

key_campaign_image.jpg

Under current proposals, fans travelling to park at the Park & Ride facilities to reach the Stadium may be charged £10 to park, increasing from the current £5 price.

This will be in addition to some spaces reserved for the sports clubs, continuing Park & Ride services and free parking at the Vangarde Shopping Centre, which will be limited to two hours on all match days.

If approved, local councillors are concerned that fans travelling to the Community Stadium will seek alternative or cheaper parking in nearby Huntington, increasing local traffic in the community and on-street parking on matchdays.

Local Liberal Democrat Councillors for Huntington and New Earswick have voiced their concerns at the proposals and have now launched a petition calling for a reduction to the proposed fare increase.
(more…)

Over 1000 business in York likely to get a 33% reduction in business rates

Retail businesses qualifying for rates relief

The Council has announced how it proposes to implement the governments rates reduction scheme for retailers.

In order to help the beleaguered High Street, retailers will get a 1/3 reduction in business rates.

Small businesses with Rateable Values of under £12,000 don’t pay business rates anyway. Now those with Rateable Values of up to £51,000 will get more help.

The purpose of this new discount is to support the ‘high street’ which has been affected by changes in consumer spending preferences such as online shopping. The relief is temporary for two years from April 2019.

A report to a meeting next week says, “The purpose of this new discount is to support the ‘high street’ which has been affected by changes in consumer spending preferences such as online shopping. The relief is temporary for two years from April 2019”.

There are some notable exclusions from the scheme. These include professional services, cinemas, theatres, museums, night clubs and music venues.

Some eyebrows will be raised that restaurants and bars operating in the profitable hospitality economy in the City centre may qualify for discounts.

The Council will implement an “appeals” process for any businesses that feel aggrieved with their categorisation.

The scheme does little to address the underlying problem of low-cost on-line retailers who many think provide unfair competition.

York Council budget should deliver improved road surfaces

The York Council budget agreed last night promises to deliver a major increase its highway resurfacing funding. Most of the funding is earmarked for neighbourhood wide resurfacing programmes.

It remains to be seen in which part of the City this programme will begin.

However, since the Council dramatically cut its maintenance budget 7 years ago, potholes have been on the increase and it will take many years to “catch up” and restore acceptable standards.

Maybe they have a better way of doing things in other countries?

Click

https://youtu.be/sIDGSmv5BJs

 

 

It’s “spend, spend, spend” time at the York Council

2019/20 York Council budget choices

With the Council elections scarcely 2 months away, decisions on the York Councils budget are likely to be clouded by posturing. All the parties will want to appear to be investing in providing better public services and will highlight those that voters have been most vocal in criticising.

A decision on the Councils budget takes place tomorrow (Thursday)

The coalition has decided to sink together. They are weighed down by historic decisions particularly on capital expenditure priorities and levels. They will hope, for example, that electors don’t notice that they intend to spend £20 million on a “business club” at the Guildhall. That’s money that would be better  invested in repairing local roads.

Labour’s alternative budget will not be moved by its Leader, Janet Looker. Instead Cllr Neil Barnes – who is set to quit the Council in May anyway – has taken up the poisoned chalice. Despite the Council owing record amounts of money and facing the prospect that over 20% of tax revenue will be used to service debts (interest) charges in future, Labour want to borrow even more, Nearly £7 million more in fact. They say that they will spend it on road repairs and energy efficiency programmes. Expenditure on both is already substantially increased under the Coalition proposals.

Labour want to increase Council Tax by 4.49% – the highest increase possible under current central government regulations.

They would use the extra tax revenue to pay the interest charges on extra borrowing, reduce response times on fly tipping, improved street sweeping, bus subsidies, trees, youth services and several other minor schemes.

Labour show no sense of irony in their proposals, several of which seek to reverse cuts made when they were in power between 2011 and 2015. Most notable is the sudden interest in road repairs which they cut by 25% leading inevitably to the decline in standards which we see today. .

The Greens provide an entertaining approach to fiscal prudence. They at least recognise the implications of increasing debt. They might reduce it. Unfortunately they choose to do so by abandoning improvements planned to reduce congestion on the outer ring road. They substitute an array of cycling and pedestrian schemes apparently oblivious to the fact that they have no control over the regional funding stream which would pay for most of the outer ring road scheme.

The Greens are also going for the maximum Council Tax increase of 4.49%.

They would spend the extra cash on paying interest on their borrowing. Small amounts are allocated to welfare payments, an additional  “mental health champion”, bus subsidies, a report on the introduction of “trams”, extended green waste collections, gardeners, park security, new play equipment,   8 additional admin staff, a re-use shop “near waste recycling centres”, lower Respark charges and a “free” City centre shuttle bus.

They want to increase parking charges at car parks by 10% and would hike evening visitor parking charges by 50% (!).

In the end they find that they are spending more than they are raising so they propose to raid the Councils reserves to the tune of £358,000.

We doubt that either of the amendments will be passed. In effect they are simply a platform which allows opposition parties to claim at the elections  that they would invest more in high profile public services than their opponents.

Such claims have always found their way into election manifestos. Party’s depend on the fact that electors will not look back very far to see what budget amendments had been moved in previous years. If they did then the level of inconsistency – and opportunism – would become more apparent.

There are some good ideas in the proposals from all the parties.

The present system doesn’t allow for a cross fertilisation  of ideas.

A return to the committee system – where all parties can input into the budget build process in a transparent way – might help but it remains to be seen whether that proposal finds its way into any of the election manifestos this year.

Further turmoil for Tories as Police/Fire chief faces boot

Problem with LEGO is that it can fall over

It looks like the North Yorkshire crime, fire and policing commissioner Julia Mulligan faces the chop following an extraordinary few weeks of controversy.

The final straw seems to have been a confrontation with other Tories on the crime panel who were unimpressed by her plans for a 9.8% increase in the amount that taxpayers will have to folk out for policing. The proposal was reluctantly nodded through yesterday.

A scrutiny panel initially blocked the move saying it was unclear how the funding increase would impact on critical street level policing numbers. Instead attention focused on the plans to appoint additional senior admin staff while the Commissioners personal expenses (credit card and hotel bills) also came under increased scrutiny.

The combination of the management of policing and fire activities under one roof had been claimed, by some, as likely to improve efficiency.  This is now increasingly being questioned.

Julia Mulligan had also been subject to several bullying allegations over recent months, deflecting attention from her principal role in fighting rising crime rates in some parts of York. Her presence in the City has been very low profile over the years although she has an  advice surgery scheduled in York on 6th March

Many people continue to doubt the need for an elected police chief. The old committee system provided adequate supervision without the additional bureaucracy and political posturing that the Commissioner system involves.

The next commissioner elections take place in 2020.

Council contracts and the Library service

Lots of new entries on the public contracts register for the city of York Council (https://procontract.due-north.com/ContractsRegister/Index)  but nothing for local Libraries other than repairs.

Register of York Council contracts 19th Feb 2019

The Council has, however, issued a media release saying that a new 15 year, £32 million value, contract has been awarded to the existing Library Service provider . That would be good news but still leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

Not least will be the reliance to be placed on “volunteers” helping to provide the service.

It appears that only two tenders were received to run the service. The other is believed to have been from GLL who currently run the Councils sports facilities.

The Council’s media release says,

The new contract, which will commence on the 1st April 2019, will ensure that the city’s existing libraries can remain open over the next 15 years, in line with the agreed vision.

The announcement follows a procurement process to decide which organisation would be best placed to deliver the city’s vision for its 14 libraries and world renowned archives service.

At a previous meeting, the Council’s Executive agreed to provide an additional £300,000 to support the new £32 million library services contract.  The additional funding follows feedback from both bidders involved in the procurement process, and will ensure that all the city’s existing libraries can remain open over the next 15 years of the contract. Full Council will be asked to agree the additional funding at a meeting later this month (28 February).

Plans for the future of the library and archive service in York were shaped by the results of a citywide consultation in 2017/18.

Key proposals for the future service include:

  • York Explore Library to continue as the flagship service centre, including the archives and local history centre
  • Explore Gateways offered at a variety of venues, preferably with cafe facilities, and co-located with other community activities where possible, with local communities invited to be involved in their operation.
  • Virtual libraries providing a 24/7 online service, involving e books and e magazines, with virtual spaces for people to share ideas.
  • Providing reading cafes, encouraging the joy of reading especially for those who may feel uncomfortable in a more traditional library.