More concern over Community Stadium project

The proposed operator of the Council’s indoor sports facilities is under fire in some parts of the Country over safety standards.
PE extract 2nd Sept 2016

Private Eye magazine 2nd Sept 2016

According to Private Eye magazine (right) Greenwich Leisure has been slow to respond to complaints of tainted water in one of its pools in Swindon.

Greenwich Leisure is a not for profit “community interest company” which ran the Waterworld leisure centre on behalf of the council before it was demolished as part of a larger project to build a new community stadium.

Use of Waterworld declined rapidly and the, then Labour led, authority made additional subsidy payments to the operator between April and November 2014 to keep the pool open.

The payments were later subject to an auditor’s report.

Greenwich Leisure were appointed as the preferred contractor not only for the Stadium and associated swimming pool and sports centre but also the Yearsley pool and Energise sports centre on the other side of the City.

We reported in August 2014 that increasing costs were threatening the future of the Community Stadium complex. Things have deteriorated further since then with planning permission for additional commercial development now subject to a Judicial Review.

It has been clear for several years that the increasing size and complexity of the project has jeopardised not only the interests of taxpayers but has even brought into question whether some sports facilities in the City may also now face closure.

Recently the Council agreed to subsidise the use of Bootham Crescent by the Rugby Club until the new stadium has been completed. It is unclear how much this will cost taxpayers.

The York Council has yet to comment on the reports about swimming pool safety.

York Council still in a muddle over local QUANGOs

The York Council’s Executive is to consider its relationship with agent bodies and companies tomorrow.Quango list

The move comes in the wake of criticism of several bodies not least York City Trading where audits revealed that inappropriate payments had been made.  Other problems arose in relations with the York Museums Trust over charging arrangements and Make it York where apparently unilateral decisions angered residents

The organisations concerned depend on Council taxpayers for a lot of their income

One common criticism was a lack of transparency shown by the organisations (they are not subject to Freedom of Information legislation).

Concerns were also expressed that performance indicators – where published – were inappropriate or “soft”.

Campaign against secrecy started 5 years ago

Campaign against secrecy started 5 years ago

The expectation was the new Council would shake up the bodies and inject more democratic accountability.

Instead a disappointing report concentrates only on governance issues. Steps are being taken to separate executive and customer functions but little else. We will still have a bureaucratic muddle with little consistency and no new commitment to openness.

If approved without change, the Council will stand accused of ignoring many of the concerns expressed by taxpayers over the last five of years.

Important decisions affecting the City will continue to be taken “Behind Closed Doors”

York Council plans 3% Council Tax increase

Details are emerging this evening of the Council’s budget plans for  2016/17.

D4NT09 Council Tax bill 2013/2014 for property dwelling band F with 25% discount for sole adult resident

Council Tax will increase by 3%, of which 2% will be ring-fenced to help with social care costs.

Council house rents will be reduced by 1% (in line with central government instructions). This will mean cuts in repairs budgets, although the housing account is showing a £20 million accumulated surplus.

The Council is to spend £234,000 more to fund “additional Community Safety Hub officers” to cover additional enforcement around dog fouling, street drinking, licensing infringement and noise enforcement plus ” a reactive service for street services to deal with fly-tipping, graffiti, litter and weedswhich would be a welcome step forward.

Another welcome improvement will be an investment of an additional £100,000 to help tackle mental health issues, while the completion of the Local Plan will cost another £350,000 and an update of the strategic flood risk assessment will cost £60,000.

An extra £74,000 will be used to increase Councillors pay.

Some of the more eye-catching cuts include:

  • £350,000 cut in bus subsidies. Number 20 service to be scrapped.
  • £1.1 million cut in adult social care provision
  • £1.3 million cut in education support (schools are funded directly by the government)
  • Reductions in public garden and tree maintenance
  • Handing over allotment management to  users
  • Theatre Royal (revenue) grants scrapped.
  • Less on Public Health (drugs, alcohol, smoking, dentistry and sexual health)
  • Fewer health checks

Many residents will be looking at the Council capital investment plans to see whether the excesses of the last administration – which doubled the debt per head of population figure in the City – have been reversed.

“On Line” survey asks what York Police tax should be

With crime levels increasing in parts of York, a consultation survey has begun.

It asks whether the police tax should be increased by 1.99% next year.

Recently the government announced that there would be no reduction in the grant that it gives to Police forces.

The survey can be completed by clicking here

The Crime Commissioners Office only hints at how any extra money raise could be spent although residents have an opportunity to “write in” comments.

There are elections for a new Police and Crime Commissioner on 5th May 2016  

More information is available here. The last PCC elections produced the lowest elector turnout ever recorded (15%). 

York Council budget and newspaper

The York Council is also conducting a survey of residents views on its new budget. It can be completed here “on line

The Council is delivering another “Our City” newspaper with a survey form enclosed.

However, they are not giving residents an opportunity to give a verdict on the likely local increase in Council Tax (expected to be 3.99%)

The Council newspaper – which costs residents around £40,000 a year – also has a section devoted to “local news” which appears to be aimed at encouraging participation in how Ward Committee funds are spent.

Our City west Jan 2016

click to access

Our City budget consultation Jan 2016

Click to access

York Council consultations near closure date

“Improving public engagement” survey available but still not publicised
Improving Public Engagement
Engagement survey

Engagement survey

Our Corporate and Scrutiny Management Committee is reviewing the potential for improving public engagement, the take up of services through digital means and our ability to respond.  We welcome your views and experiences of engaging with us via our Improving Public Engagement survey.

Consultation closes 31 December 2015

Public Protection review

Our Public Protection service is under review.  We would welcome views and comments from businesses about our proposals and how we can make best use of resources including a variety of environmental health, trading standards, licensing and regulatory functions.  Have your say in our Public Protection survey.

Consultation closes 31 December 2015

Designer Outlet Park and Ride Bus Service

The Designer Outlet Park and Ride bus service currently calls at all stops along Fulford Main Street, Fulford Road and Fishergate. It is proposed that, from the start date of the new Park & Ride contract in 2017, the number of intermediate stops is reduced.

We would like to hear from Fulford and Fishergate residents and other users of the Designer Outlet P&R service to understand their views on the proposed changes.

Consultation closes 6 January 2016

Minerals and Waste Joint Plan

City of York Council is working with North Yorkshire County Council and the North York Moors National Park Authority to produce a Minerals and Waste Joint Plan covering all three planning authority areas.  When finalised the new plan will help us take decisions on planning applications for minerals and waste developments over the next 15 years.  Find out more about the latest draft and have your say in the preferred options consultation on North Yorkshire’s consultation website.

Consultation closes 15 January 2016

Budget Consultation 2016-17

City of York Council’s Executive is facing some tough decisions in 2016-17. To help shape the 2016-17 Budget proposals, the council is inviting residents to have their say:

Via our online Budget Consultation survey

By post to:  FREEPOST RTEG-TYYU-KLTZ Budget consultation City of York Council West Offices Station Rise York YO1 6GA
By hand at West Offices or libraries/Explore Centres

Consultation closes 20 January 2016

Have your say on York Council budget

 The Council has issued a media release saying, 

“City of York Council’s Executive is facing some tough decisions in 2016-17. Below outlines why these difficult choices need to be made and why residents’ views are so important.

To help shape the 2016-17 Budget proposals, the council is inviting residents to have their say through a consultation by Wednesday 20 January:

·         Online at

·         By post to FREEPOST RTEG-TYYU-KLTZ, Budget consultation, City of York Council, West Offices, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GA

·         By hand at West Offices or libraries/Explore Centres”.

Council consultation

On line consultation questionaire

The Council of course omits to mention many options that many residents might like to take.

  • You noticeably won’t be able to vote for a pay freeze for Councillors or to reduce their support costs,
  • There’s no option to stop the “Our City” newspaper.
  • Quangos like “Make it York” are off the options list.

Not can you vote to save money through the lower debt (interest) charges which would come if the subsidy was reduced for big investment schemes like the:

  • New swimming pool at Monks Cross
  • Access bridge to the York Central development or
  • Development of the Guildhall site.

There isn’t even a “write in” option for those feeling inventive!

You can say whether you prefer a tax rise to service cuts but you aren’t offered a choice on how much any increase might be!

NB It is likely that the cap in increases will be around 3.9% most of which will be ring-fenced for elderly care.

The Council justifies its stance by saying, “This year’s budget proposals will seek to ensure the council’s priorities continue to be delivered, whilst also ensuring the council’s financial position is managed effectively.

Spare us the spin

Aspden Steward press headlinesThe York Council is set to reduce to 22.5% the proportion of a Council Tax bill that those who depend on benefits will have to pay. The change  will be worth around £55 a year to the average claimant

This represents an improvement on the 30% that Labour extorted when they were in office.

But it does mean that out of the amounts received by claimants to cover food, heating and lighting, they will still have to find between £162 (band A) and £440 (Band G) a year in Council Tax payments.

More if the Council, in February, opts for a 3.9% increase in tax levels.

 Contrary to some popular beliefs most benefits are far from generous.

Many disabled people struggle to manage on an income which was calculated to provide a basic standard of living but which did not – when conceived – envisage many claimants paying Council Tax (100% relief was allowed in many cases until the recent “reforms”)

Councillors pay set for 21% hike

Against all expectations, it appears that Councillors may vote on Thursday to accept the generous pay raise offered by an independent panel.

It has emerged that the Council’s Group Leaders – having opted to re-appoint the same panel that had recommended a generous hike when it met in 2012 – had written to them to indicate that they would endorse whatever recommendations emerged.

It was pretty much a nailed on certainty the that the panel would dust off its previously rejected recommendations and given them some new life.

Given that the Leaders effectively surrendered control of a £546,000 budget, it is surprising that they did not also specify an “affordability” ceiling for any increase.

It is also a  shame that the panel did not invite some independent witnesses to help them with their deliberations.

Nor does it appear that the panel were fully appraised of the many outside bodies which Councillors serve on and which also pay responsibility allowances.

These include County bodies, various regional bodies and national organisations like the Local Government Association.  

Some Councillors declare this income on their declarations of interest

In assessing the number of hours that each type of Councillor might work each week, it also seems that they were not advised that some Executive post holders also hold down full time jobs (a recent trend).

It reminds us of the story about a lawyer who died and went to heaven.

On entering the Pearly Gates, he was welcomed by St Peter.

St Peter sympathised with the lawyer who was looking miserable and said “well least you had a good innings”

The Lawyer responded “I don’t know about that. I was only 48 when I died”

Surely not” said St Peter.

“We added up all the timesheets that you had sent your clients and calculated that you were at least 108”

So “cheers” to those looking forward to a more comfortable Christmas!
Council Leader – Pay up £3955 pa29-CYD171tn
Deputy Leader – Up £2770
Labour Leader – Up £2674
Green Leader – Up £4574

York Council set to change entitlement rules for Council Tax support

But how to pay for a fairer system beats most residents and the media

In 2014 the government forced the York Council to take responsibility for setting up a support scheme for residents who were unable to pay the full amount of Council Tax.  The then Labour Controlled Council set the level of support at 70% of the amount due. Around 7000 residents were hit by the change, with some as much as £700 a year worse off.

Many, who were otherwise living on benefits, had an extra £5 a week to find. Many were forced into debt with mounting arrears.

The 70% level was one of the harshest set in the country. Most Councils expected poor residents only to pay between 10% and 20% of their Council Tax bill.  The new Council decided to consult on whether the threshold should be raised and, if so, how the loss of income for the Council could be offset.

A survey of residents received only 453 replies (there are 87,000 homes in the City) but a majority (69%) said that a higher level of rebate should be implemented.

Advice agencies in the City are recommending a level of 83% which would mean that the Council would need to find savings – or additional income – of around £487,000 pa to fund the deficit.

That is the equivalent of a Council Tax increase of just over 0.6% for everyone in the City.

Where would the money come from?

The Council has been criticised in the past for not publishing the full results of its consultations. In the summer, a consultation on the devolution proposals disappeared without trace.

This time analysis of responses bordered on overkill

Consultation response

Consultation response

The open ended question about paying for the change has produced a revealing set of reactions from residents. They tend to confirm what most would expect. The average person in the street simply doesn’t know what money raising powers the Council actually has.

Putting up Council Tax.

In so far as there was a majority for any option, around 30% said that they would put up Council Tax to compensate. Yet for over 25 years successive national governments have capped increases in Council Tax. The Chancellor announced a few days ago that Councils would be permitted to increase charges by 2% – but this was specifically to pay for escalating elderly care charges. This is the option apparently favoured by the York Press.

Hit public enemies

These suggestions included new charges which are not legally possible at present. Targets would include a Tourist Tax, student landlord tax, reducing Councillors perks, surcharges on homes worth more than £500,000, 20 mph signs, reduced management salaries and getting rid of the office of Lord Mayor.

Enlightened self interest

In the main these were from respondents who lived in, or near, the City centre. They saw the money coming from increased car parking charges (although the last increase actually resulted in a reduction in Council income), from charging for green bin emptying (many residents in the City centre don’t have garden waste) and various forms of congestion charge (including the introduction of a toll on Lendal Bridge!).

In reality the Council missed a trick by failing to ask residents whether they would pay a 1% increase in Council Tax to offset any change.


Spending review – how it may affect York


There will be no cuts to government funding for the Police. North Yorkshire police however already employ fewer officers than they have budget for, so we hope those vacancies will be filled quickly now. What is less clear is what impact the Chancellors statement, that Police Commissioners would have flexibility to raise the police precept, will have locally.

Tax Credits

The Chancellor has scrapped plans to reduce working tax credits. The move has been welcomed by Local LibDem Cllr Sue Hunter

Jobs & housing

The York central site has been awarded “Enterprise Zone” status.  This means all business rates growth generated by the Zone, will be kept by the relevant local enterprise partnership and local authorities for 25 years to reinvest in local economic growth. However, there are fewer planning controls in these Zones. The York Central site is expected to provide 2000 new homes and around 80,000 sq m of office space.

£50 million will be invested in the agri-tech centre at Sandhutton

Elderly care

The Chancellor has said that Council can increase Council Tax by 2% “to help pay for increasing elderly care costs”. This means that the Tories have abandoned their policy of freezing Council Tax. However, income for Council Tax is not hypothecated to individual services, so it remains to be seen whether the government will condition this power by ring-fencing social care expenditure.

The spending statement indicates that there will be increased funding available for the NHS and for Mental Health


Basic state pension to rise by £3.35 next year to £119.30 a week


The statement says that big regional variations in grants to schools would be removed. Historically York schools have been more poorly funded than those in other areas.


The Chancellor has promised major capital investment including HS2 and electrification of the Trans-Pennine route.

However the revenue budget has seen major cuts so there is likely to be less for public transport subsidies and maybe road repairs.

Council Tax

As well as the proposed 2% increase this year, the proposals imply that York will retain more of its Business Rates (it has always been a net contributor to the national pool) but will continue to see reductions in government support grant.

The way that the York Councils budget has been funded has changed a lot over recent years.

York Council chnages in source of income

York Council’s debts still a cause for concern

The latest finance figures released by the York Council show that over 13% of the annual Council Tax paid by York residents is being used to pay interest charges on the Councils borrowings.

Debts Nov 2915

This equates to payments of £20.25 per person per year.

The worrying trend is in the net debts level of the Council.

This is forecast to increase from £245 million this year to £285 million in 2018.

 This figure which is concerning and reflects the fact that the present Council has yet to scrap some of the more extreme commitments that it inherited from the last Labour administration (e.g. the new swimming pool at Monks Cross, the “in house” development of the Guildhall annex site and the “bridge to nowhere” access for the York central site).