York Council has a plan

The new leaders of the York Council say they will publish a new “Council Plan” in the autumn.

This will be preceded by public consultation.

The Council’s Executive will hear on Thursday that they intend to concentrate resources on a list of challenges. These are:

a. Good Health and Wellbeing

b. Well-paid jobs and an inclusive economy

c. Getting around sustainably

d. A Better Start for Children and Young People

e. A Greener and Cleaner City

f. Building homes and World-class infrastructure g. Safe Communities and culture for all

h. An open and effective Council

So, in effect, everything will be a priority!

The electorate told Councillors in May that the top priority should to get basic street level services back up to decent standards.

That means that performance on key services needs to be monitored regularly and publicly published.

The Council needs to concentrate on its core responsibilities. Those that affect most residents are:

  1. Road repairs
  2. Footpath repairs
  3. Litter/Fly tipping prevention
  4. Weed control
  5. Poop scoop/ litter/ salt bins
  6. Hedge/tree maintenance
  7. Street cleaning
  8. Amenity & garage area maintenance
  9. Reducing Dog Fouling
  10. Improving Policing visibility
  11. Car parking
  12. Grass cutting (e.g. verges and open spaces)
  13. Recycling
  14. Street lighting
  15. Schools
  16. Refuse collection
  17. Bus service improvements

To this list should be a commitment to openness and a drive to devolve power to local communities

The Council should concentrate on getting these service right before being tempted to roll out “beer and skittles” prestige projects.

Subsidised bus services in York set to continue

The Council is being recommended to continue to subsidise several bus services in York. The services serve either remote areas or provide services at times of the day when commercial services don’t run.

Tenders to continue services were sought earlier in the year.

The affected series are

  • 10 Evening Poppleton – City Centre – Dunnington Stamford Bridge
  • 11 Evening Bishopthorpe – South Bank – Stonebow
  • 12 Daytime Stonebow – Heworth – Monks Cross
  • 14 Evening Foxwood – City Centre / New Earswick – Haxby West Nooks
  • 19 Daytime Skelton – Clifton & Rawcliffe – Exhibition Square
  • 20 Daytime Rawcliffe – Clifton Moor & Haxby – Monks Cross / Osbaldwick
  • 21 Daytime Colton – Acaster Malbis & Bishopthorpe – Foss Islands
  • 24 Daytime Ascot Way (Acomb) – Acomb & Holgate – Piccadilly
  • 25 Daytime Derwenthorpe – Foss Islands – Crossfield Crescent (Fulford)
  • 26 Daytime Crossfield Crescent (Fulford) – City Centre – South Bank
  • 26 Fri/Sat eve Piccadilly – Crossfield Crescent (Fulford)

There is a question mark against the evening link (new service 15) between Stonebow and Monks Cross but officials hope to sustain the service in some way.

If approved the cost of subsidising bus services in the City will rise to £3/4 million.

The full report can be read by clicking here

A decision is expected on 18th July.

Subsidised bus services in York

Big investment in York Public Services

Council leadership set to prioritise road repairs, play facilities, housing, energy efficiency and Social Care.

The new Council leadership has announced changes to the budget that it inherited. As expected, extra investment in improvements to street level public services are planned.

There will be extra investment in

More to be spent on road repairs
  • Removing graffiti
  • Additional Litter bins
  • Tree management
  • Crime reduction
  • Waste collection
  • Street environment (cleaning and community projects)
  • Buses
  • Electric vehicle charging point maintenance.

The biggest investment will be £1 million spent on road repairs and a further £1 million on cycling/walking improvements

There will be a £250,000 boost for children’s play facilities.

The Council will invest £1 million in speeding up housing modernisation and a further £1 million on energy efficiency improvements

£22,000 is being taken for the reserves to improve children’s and adult social care standards.

Several of the proposals are less than transparent. We are told, for example, that the Council will “Re-purpose funding from the Leeds City Region Business Rates Pilot to strengthen our approach to inclusive growth, including child poverty, greening the high street and promote lifelong learning

We think that there is unlikely to be rioting in the streets as a result of the Councils decision to discontinue the “digital immersive model” marketing project. There may be public unrest if the Council doesn’t publish its reports in plain English in future.

Also, the Council will fund “connections with communities most impacted by EU exit to better understand their needs, and to take forward the community hubs work initiated”

Four schemes are intended to be self-funding. They relate to foster care, Special Education Needs and Disability pupils, Public Health and mental health.

The proposals will be welcomed by many in the City. It will, however, take more than £1 million to get the City’s roads back into good order. 

£4.25 million of the plan is capital investment, meaning higher debt charges in the future (and less to spend in the revenue budget).

The plans are likely to be criticised for failing to clearly identify the objectives of some of the changes with no detail given of how the success of the projects will be measured.

No KPIs are listed and there is no clear vision of how the City will look in 4 years’ time.

Residents may feel that prompt attention to reducing the costs of some inherited major projects is necessary, especially if demands on taxpayers in future years are to remain under control.

It really shouldn’t cost £35,000 to “ launch a public Citizen’s Assembly on how the Council can best work in an open way

The Council must become a “can do” rather than a “can talk” organisation.

Still it’s a start, and a better one than was managed by the last two Council administrations.

The proposal will be discussed at a meeting taking place on 17th July

A full list of budget proposals can be read by clicking here

Full list of budget changes
Budget changes list continued

Cost of Ascot Way disabled centre soars by 37%

Council blames the “complexity” of the selected design for the increase.

A Council report published today reveals that the cost of the Centre of Excellence for Disabled Children will increase from the originally budgeted figure of £4.3 million (January 2018) to an estimated £5.9 million.

Demolition works have started at Windsor House

This comes after the Council, In April 2018, had agreed to increase the proportion of the costs which would be funded by borrowing

£1.1 million of the increased costs will come from a Health service grant with the rest being transferred from the education budget.

It appears that some features  of the building are being “value engineered” out of the design.

The centre is being built on the site of the Windsor House elderly persons home. The neighbouring Lincoln Court independent living building is also being modernised and extended at the same time.

While both projects have been welcomed, concerns have been expressed about traffic congestion and parking issues in the area.

The impact of the developments on open space and sports facilities in the neighbourhood have also been criticised.

Details of the new budget allocations are being kept secret by the Council. It is unclear what promised features in the building may now be omitted.

The meeting to consider the budget increase is taking place on 18th June.

Road and footpath resurfacing in York

The York Councils maintenance programme for the forthcoming year has been published. Expenditure of over £9 million has been identified although a lot of this will go on addressing surface water drainage problems. The schedule includes £700,000 for gulley repairs
surface water

The programme also includes investment of over £600,000 to maintain the City Walls, with the focus being on the Bootham section.

One of the most expensive single schemes will see Stonegate repaved at a cost of £500,000.

On the west of the City the carriageways on both Gale Lane and Tadcaster Road will be resurfaced. Cycle routes will get a £250,000 maintenance boost.

However, the funds allocated for footpath repairs is disappointingly low.  The identified major footpath resurfacing schemes are all on the east of the City.

It must leave residents living in streets like Walton Place wondering just how bad a footpath must be before being repaired.

Walton Place

Predictably last night the York Council woke up to the major backlog in highway repairs that has developed in the city during the last decade. Cynics may say that Labour and the LibDems vying to be the voice of the road user has something to do with the imminent Council elections which take place in early May.

However, successive residents’ surveys have confirmed that poor highway maintenance is now the biggest concern that residents have.

It will take a major and sustained boost in funding if the roads and paths in the City  are to be returned to a safe condition.

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.

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.

York Council claims over 50% of complaints answered within 5 days

…we don’t think so!

The Council has published its latest financial and performance update. It reveals that it could overspend this year’s budget by as much as £1.5 million. The expectation is that the Council will outturn on target.

A major source of complaint is paradoxically complaint handing. The Council claims to have answered “50% of complaints within 5 working days”.

Maybe!

….but we have a current instance of a complaint registered on 27th December 2018 which hasn’t even been acknowledged yet. The Council needs to improve its exception reporting systems and inject some fresh drive into its customer relationship processes.

Another key concern is the impact that the Council is having on delayed discharges (bed blocking) at the hospital. “The total number of days that patients resident in York have been delayed, for all reasons, during the last twelve months for which statistics have been published (November 17 – October 18) was 10,655 which equates to, on average, 29 beds each day occupied because of DToC across the health and social care system. From August to October 2018, this figure was 2,967 days which equates to 32 beds each day”. The Council says that the closure of two large nursing homes in the city has impacted on the ability of Adult Social Care to place patients quickly, as well as considerable pressures in both the residential and homecare markets.

The future of the Greenworks section of Yorkcraft has also never been properly explained. The Council is reducing the budget by a further £160,000 for adult social care workers, in supported employment, during the next financial year. So the future looks bleak for some of the workers who are a familiar sight as they deliver newsletters to various parts of the City.

Following the decision by the Council to suspend its housing modernisation programme the number of Council homes not meeting the decency standard has soared to 546.

It was zero two years ago