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

Acomb Explore Library set to get £2 million boost

Acomb Explore Library

Papers released by the Council this week suggest that a major upgrade to the Acomb Explore Library will be completed by 2022. £4 million has been set aside for works at the Acomb and Clifton Libraries in the Councils budget.

The news will be welcomed in Acomb. It is 10 years since land was acquired to the rear of the library which was intended to accommodate an extension. The hope was then that the building would become a “one stop shop” for public services. It would have partly replaced the neighbourhood “Acomb Office”  which Labour closed in 2013. There was hope that policing and health activities might relocate to the site.

The Council says, that the priority is “for investment in Acomb, to build on the great success of that Explore Centre, and in Clifton to transform the quality of service in that area. Individual business cases will be brought forward during 19/20 demonstrating how the investment will contribute to delivering service transformation and driving the generation of additional income streams”

The announcement comes amid rising tensions over the future of the libraries contract. The Council invited tenders last year for continuation of the service – which is currently provided via a social enterprise organisation.

There has been no official confirmation that the existing provider has been allocated the new contract which is due to start on 1st April 2019.

The Council also last year agreed a planning application which will see houses built on the adjacent bowling green site. Objectors at the time stressed the need for a holistic solution to the redevelopment of all the vacant plots in the area.

Move to address declining refuse collection reliability in York

Council invests additional £125,000 in waste & recycling services

click to access CYC waste Facebook site

 

Following recent challenges to the Council’s Waste & Recycling Service, Councillors have agreed to spend £125K on improving the resilience of the service.

At a meeting of the Council Executive on Thursday (29th November 2018), it was agreed to use £125k from the waste reserve to recruit and train more staff ahead of the winter season.

Earlier this year a national shortage of HGV drivers, sickness and poor weather caused a number of issues for the Waste & Recycling Service.

In response, improving the service was made a priority; including rectifying missed collections and holding a successful recruitment day for staff in September.

A further report will be taken to an Executive Member decision session next month, recommending a new driver apprentice programme, in order to support the service in the long-term.  If approved, the Council will develop a driver apprentice programme within the waste team to train drivers as early as next year.

Councillor Andrew Waller, Liberal Democrat Executive Member for Environment, said:

“This year has been a challenging one for our Waste & Recycling Service, because, like many other areas in the country, we have felt the effects of a national shortage in HGV drivers.”

“Residents have, quite rightly, felt frustrated by missed collections and that is why we have been working hard to identify the best approach to supporting the service amidst these challenges.”

“Therefore, I am pleased that the Council Executive has agreed to invest a further £125K in the service, as this will allow us to immediately take steps in improving the resilience of the service, particularly before the busy Winter period.  This is a short-term measure and one of many we are looking at to support the service.” (more…)

Council budget on track but second home owners will pay more

Most people say that they can’t influence decisions

Refuse collection costs are a concern in York

A report being considered later this week forecasts that the York Council will overspend its budget by around £800,000. This is a controllable risk. Overspends are often projected after the first quarter of the 2018/19 financial year..

The Council has a net budget of £122 million.

Most of the overspend is for children’s and adult social care services. Waste collection costs also continue to be under pressure

The good weather and increased visitor numbers experienced during most of this summer has led to car parking income being 3.2 % above budget. This could lead to an £150,000 surplus at the end of the year.

The Council will also increase the surcharge on Council Tax rates applying to second homes from 50% to 100% with effect from April 2019.

A panel of residents gives a quarterly verdict on how well the Councils is performing.

Only 26% agreed that they could “influence decisions in their area”.

There was some good news though, with 88% satisfied with their local area as a place to live and 60% satisfied with the way that the Council runs things.

The Council only highlights a limited – and highly selective – number of performance indicators in its committee reports. Residents have to wade through on line scorecards to  find out more detail (click)

Independent surveys of public service satisfaction levels in the City reveal that people are most unhappy with the following public services:

  • Litter control 60% rate the service as “poor”
  • Dog fouling 58%
  • Road repairs 54%

The Council singularly fails to publicly monitor and comment on these public services.

The best independently rated public service is the bus service with 57% now rating it as “good”.  Many bus services are of course provided on a commercial basis.

York Council’s investment programme slipping into crisis

Major delays on housing modernisation, Guildhall repairs and transport improvements

Executive report 30th Aug 2018

A report to a meeting taking place on Thursday suggests reducing this year’s capital investment programme by £33 million.

The slippage includes major tenant choice housing modernisation works as the Council has failed to appoint a contractor to carry on the programme. No explanation of the programme failure is offered. The delays could affect other works including those dealing with standing water under homes and upgrades to water mains. These issues have not been publicly reported to the Councillor who has Executive responsibility for housing

The Council does still hope to make a start on controversial building schemes at Newbury Avenue (Autumn 2018) and the £22.5 million Lowfields scheme (Spring 2019).

The report claims that £748,000 “approved by the Executive in December 2016 for Lowfield sports facilities” will be spent, thus perpetuating the myth that the new football pitches being provided near Bishopthorpe are in some way linked to the Lowfields redevelopment.

There are also delays on several major transport infrastructure schemes.

Improvements to the northern by-pass (basically bigger roundabouts) will slip into 2019/20 as will a start on the new York Central access road from Water End.

Guildhall “business case” March 2017

Work on refurbishing the Guildhall will also be delayed with nearly £10 million slipping as a start on site is not now expected before summer 2019. Reopening is unlikely before 2021.

The Guildhall remains closed to the public and is not used now even for Council meetings. Even an empty Guildhall costs taxpayers about £330 a day with much if it going on Business Rates, heating, energy and security. To that should be added the cost of hiring alternative premises for Council meetings and the additional repair costs that inevitably arise when an old building is left empty for an extended period of time.

The Community Stadium work is “progressing on timetable’. However, £5.8 million in contract  payments are being slipped from 2018/19 to 2019/20.

The Council still expects to invest around £124 million during the present financial year.