Littering fines to rise to £100 in York

Car parking charges up

Councillors are expected to day to confirm increased charges for many York Council services.

There is an eyewatering 33% increase in the fine level for anyone found littering the streets They will pay £100 a time (early payment discount £75-00) Unfortunately very few fines have been issued in recent years and litter remains a problem in parts of the City

The Council is also hiking the rent for garages. This despite many having been left empty. The Council could bring in more income by actively marketing the vacancies. Filling the garages would also reduce on street parking problems in some suburban estates. Council tenants will pay £7-43 for a garage while private individuals may rent one for £8-92. There are higher charges for high demand are while areas with a low demand attract discount rates

Car parking charges are increasing by 10p per hour. 5 hours parking at a short stay car park will cost £11-50

No elasticity of demand analysis is included in the Council budget papers. In recent years the Council has rarely achieved its budgeted income from parking charges

A list of the new charges can be found by clicking here

Council meeting moves to Citadel as spending plans consultation starts

Council debates may be inspired by Citadel moto

York’s next full Council meeting will be held at the Citadel later this month (26 October) rather than in its usual home of York’s Guildhall.

The temporary venue – formerly the home of York’s Salvation Army and now owned by York City Church – will be used for full meetings of the Council for up to two years while the Guildhall is closed for construction work.

The Guildhall has been used for meetings since the 15th Century and the current council chamber dates back to 1891.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the full council meeting at the Citadel at 6.30pm on Thursday 26 October.

Have your say on York’s spending plans

The results of the 2018 citywide budget consultation will help set the council’s financial priorities for the forthcoming year.

Despite already achieving savings of over £100m in the last decade through a combination of efficiency savings and reviewing the services it provides, the authority needs to make further savings of £6.1m in 2018/19 and £4.2m in 2019/20 to meet its budget.

Against this tough financial backdrop, demand for services continues to rise; mainly due to demographic changes and more people living longer. At the same time the financial support received from central government has been reduced.

The central government grant accounted for 40 per cent of the council’s income in 2012/13 but fell to just seven per cent last year.  By 2020, York will receive no government grant. That means the services the council provides will have to be funded from a share of business rates, from the council tax and through any fees and costs it charges.

Council leaders hope that the responses to the questionnaire will help guide future spending decisions, particularly whether the authority should ‘balance its books’ by:

  • Reducing the number of services it provides, or stop providing them altogether.
  • Finding ways of providing services more efficiently by working differently.
  • Charging more for services.
  • Increasing the amount of council tax.

People can put forward their views:

  • Online at www.york.gov.uk/consultations
  • By completing the survey in the council’s publication Our City [which is being distributed over the course of the next two weeks].
  • By popping along to one of four drop-in sessions, at Huntington Library on Wednesday 1 November; Archbishop Holgate’s School on Thursday 2 November; Acomb Explore Library on Tuesday 7 November or West Offices on Wednesday 8 November, all between 4.30pm and 6.30pm.

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York Council investment programme slips

A Council report shows an out-turn of £35.751m on the Council capital investment budget compared to an approved budget of £52.428, an overall variation of £16.677m.

Community stadium start slips

The biggest slippage (£3.5 million) was on the York Central project although there were also delays in other areas including school maintenance, housing construction, the Glen Lodge extension, waste disposal, IT development and upgrades to buses.

The report shows that expenditure on the Community Stadium has also slipped again with the bulk of the work now expected in 2018/19. In total, the Council will spend £36 million on this project although this figure does not include the substantial sums spent to date or the (privately funded) commercial elements of the project.

The report goes on to say;

Mansion House cost up by £150,000

  • that the Mansion House restoration scheme has an outturn position of £1.031m in 2016/17, requiring re-profiling of £515k of funds from 2017/18 into 2016/17. The work is now expected to be completed in August 2017.  The report goes on to say that “as the works contract has progressed a number of areas of additional work have been identified as necessary to safeguard the future of the Mansion House, these essential restoration works will cost an additional £150”.
  • the Tenants Choice programme saw 120 properties have their kitchens, bathrooms and wiring updated through the year. This is significantly lower than the 220 properties that were planned. This is due to problems with tenants refusing works, delays due to damp problems and delays with kitchen deliveries. The scheme under spent by £416k in 2016/17
  • the proposed developments at Newbury Avenue and Chaloners Road have also been delayed. The development now proposed is for 5-6 bungalows and “will be submitted for planning approval in July”. The development of homes at Chaloners Road was postponed when the developer withdrew from the contract. A revised scheme will be submitted for planning approval in late summer 2017
A summary of the Councils £1/4 billion investment plans can be found below

York Council easing out of budget crisis?

Good progress in improving some services

The York Council showed a small budget surplus during the last financial year. As a result, its reserves will increase from £6.8m to £7.3m. In addition, prudent use of its contingency fund will see its 2017/18 provision increase to £1,049k.

This represents a marked improvement on the performance of the Council when it was under Labour control between 2011 and 2015.

The Council has also published selective performance stats.

These claim to show good progress with only delayed discharges from hospital sounding a negative note.

But is everything as rosy as may seem?

The Council’s Executive does not receive exception reports. Such reports would highlight failing performance at street level (which the Council claims is its primary focus)

Selective performance stats published by Council

A survey being undertaken in the Westfield ward by local Councillors presents a slightly different picture.

Westfield Councillors survey results at June 2017

Although respondents say that they are satisfied with most local public services there are exceptions.

The biggest failings (in sub-urban areas) are;

  • Poor road and footpath maintenance
  • Parking provision and
  • Litter/poop scoop bin provision

The Council provides more detailed information on line (see www.yorkopendata.org under the “performance scorecards” section)

But several of the scorecards have still  not been updated for the 2016/17 year.

Other elements of performance are not publicly monitored.

These include the progress made with locally budgeted Ward Committee schemes some of which – although funded – have been in a lengthening waiting list for over 2 years.

Better progress on genuine local concerns would enhance the Councils claim that its priority is indeed the provision of good quality basic services.

On Line performance stats need updating

York parking account reveals £4.8 million surplus

Draft accounts published by the City of York Council for 2016/17 reveal that the Authority made a substantial surplus on its car parking activities.

Out of a total income of £7.3 million, nearly £5.5 million came from charges levied at off street car parks.

Residents parking schemes brought in £806,000 and penalty charges £600,000 while on-street machines took £466,000. The balance came from coach parks.

The Council spent over £1.3 million on its off street car parks with £1.2 million apportioned to enforcement and administration.

This meant that a surplus of over £4.7 million accrued.

Legally the Council must reinvest any parking profits in transport.

Most of the surplus was spent on highway maintenance (£4 million) and subsidised bus services (£670,000)  The rest went on community transport and shopmobility.

Some drivers may wonder why more has not been invested in resurfacing Council car parks, several of which are now in very poor condition.

The inaccurate “on line” parking space availability map has also been a source of criticism.

‘Take control of your money’ urges new York partnership

York residents can take control of their money for free ahead of changes to benefit payments in the summer, thanks to City of York Council teaming up with South Yorkshire Credit Union Ltd.

Council tenants, private tenants or mortgage holders are welcome to take advantage of the scheme which aims to help people budget, pay essential bills and manage any type of debt or multiple debts.

No-one using the services needs to be an existing customer of the credit union, but is encouraged to open a savings account with a minimum £1 balance to help manage their income and outgoings and so avoid any unnecessary debt.

Anyone wanting help to repay debt will be given tailored advice which could include consolidating any repayments into a single, more manageable account at a lower, fixed interest rate, rather than having to resort to unregulated lenders or loan sharks.

With changes to Universal Credit payments due from July 2017, new applicants could face a delay in payments for six to eight weeks. This new service will help prepare for any predicted shortfalls in income and ensure every day necessities like fuel, mortgage or rent payments are paid for regularly.

The scheme is already tried and trusted by a number of social landlords in the region and some City of York Council tenants are using it too.

The credit union operates on co-operative principles and offers savings and loan products authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority.

Cllr Carol Runciman, executive member with responsibility for financial inclusion at City of York Council, said: “This is a really worthwhile service to residents to help them regain or maintain control of their finances and give access to safer and regulated loans – a much better alternative to doorstep lenders.”
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York Council Tax bills on their way

 

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

The Council has started this week to issue its Council Tax demands for 2017/18. In total council tax will rise by 3.7%.

Residents have the option to spread the cost of their bill over 12 months rather than 10 months by request to council.tax@york.gov.uk

To make it simpler for residents to access a range of council services and report changes for council tax and benefits, they can create their own online account at: www.york.gov.uk/myaccount

At a click of a button they can also pay their council tax online, let the council know if they’re moving house, are claiming sole occupancy discount and student discount.

They can also request a copy of their bill, set up a payment plan if they’re in arrears and set up a Direct Debit.

In addition to this, council tax bills can also be sent by email. It’s free, fast, environmentally friendly and secure. Anyone without internet access can continue to call the customer service centre or visit staff at West Offices.

Included in the council tax information are details about financial support from the December 2015 floods. The council has been helping residents whose homes were affected with government payments and council tax exemptions. The deadline for claiming this financial support, if they haven’t already done so, is before 31 May 2017 by request to council.tax@york.gov.uk

The council’s gross expenditure for 2017/18 is £376.006m (380.391m in 2016/17) the amount raised though council tax in 2017/18 will be £81.630m (£77.072m in 2016/17) plus £703k (£667k in 2016/17) from parishes.

For more information about council tax visit www.york.gov.uk/counciltax

Another big York Council contract let in behind closed doors decision

£1 million plus contract for social care started on 1st February 2017 – authorised last week

In April 2016, the York Council considered a major shake-up in its housing support programme. The service had been costing York taxpayers over £2.5 million a year.

The users of this support programmes short term services include the homeless, young people at risk (16-25 year olds including care leavers and teenage parents) offenders, mental health, substance misuse and domestic violence.

Long term services support residents with permanent needs including older people; learning disabilities and mental health.

A report to the Council’s Executive last April said,

The approach is one of “co-design” with the Council setting some minimum requirements but requesting providers to submit proposals that identify the added value that can be provided and setting out a five-year vision for service delivery which will further enhance provision across the City”

It was expected the the new approach would save taxpayers around £750,000 a year. The new approach anticipated an increase in activity by volunteers.

At about the same time the government announced a cap on the total amount of housing benefit payable to social housing tenants. At the time this was expected to impact heavily on supported accommodation services  like hostels.

The 2016 report said,

There is however apprehension amongst providers and partners regarding the significant service change that will take place and any resulting reductions in capacity. Some customers have also expressed anxiety over potential change of providers but this will not be known until after the outcome of the proposed “tender” exercise”.

The services put out to tender were Community Wellbeing and Support Services for:

  • Adults (including Mental Health, Homeless, substance misuse, offenders and Young People)
  • Older Persons
  • Young People – Supported Lodgings

The expected total cost of providing these services was £1.27 million (a saving of £750,000)

It had been anticipated that the contract would be awarded in September 2016 with implementation from 1st February 2017.

It appears that the contracts have only recently been authorised although they were implemented at the beginning of the month. (There is a suspicion that the responsible Council official actually agreed the contract in December).

Papers were published on the Council’s web site on Friday but reveal very little either about the cost of the new contracts or their specifications (i.e. targets, outcomes).

September 2017 specification promise

There will be a suspicion that these have only been made public as an afterthought and were possibly prompted by last week’s revelations about previous contract failures.

The three contacts awarded were:

So, substantial contracts have been let apparently without the involvement of the responsible Councillors, with no visibility of the “vision”, the number of tenders received haven’t been reported, nor has the value of the individual contracts or the expected outcome specification/targets.

Some further explanations are needed we think!

*Bizarrely the report claims that the specification for this service will not be agreed until “Sept 2017”

York Council budget – 3.7% Council Tax increase

More for road and footpath resurfacing

The York Council has revealed its budget for 2017/18. Taxpayers face an increase of around £14 a year in their bill for local public services.

The proposals include a welcome increase in the amount that will be spent resurfacing local roads and footpaths. An additional £1 million a year will be invested although the Council will borrow money to fund the improvement. The increase returns investment to the levels last seen in 2011 (after which a Labour administration slashed road maintenance budgets).

The coalition led authority say that they have heeded views of residents who responded to a consultation on the budget.  Residents gave the highest priority for improvements to road maintenance (in line the last survey undertaken in the Westfield Ward) as well as care for the elderly. An extra £1.8 million will be spent on social care.

The government is reducing the grant that they pay to the City by £6.3 million.

Cuts of £8.9m have been identified with around 40 job losses forecast.

Figures release by the Council today reveal that

  • The failure to negotiate a new park and ride contract will cost taxpayers £666,000
  • £230,000 is needed to address increase waste disposal costs
  • £345,000 will fund more changes to the emerging Local Plan
  • Parking charges will rise by around 5%

As many motorists have not reclaimed the fines that they were entitled to, following the Lendal Bridge/Coppergate fiasco in 2013, the money allocated for refunds will be allocate to other transport schemes including road repairs. Ironically some is earmarked for a cycle hire scheme (despite such schemes having failed when tried previously in the City)

Council house rents will be reduced by 1% in line with central government instructions. Despite this, a year end surplus of £24 million on the housing account is forecast.

The average York Council taxpayer will pay around £1540 a year for local services when Police and Fire costs are added in.

The Council’s capital budget reveals a large increase in expenditure on Museums. A £18 million upgrade project for the Castle museum is getting start-up funding as a way of making it more self-sufficient in the future.

Overall the Council will increase its capital budget by £36 million.

£1,7 million is being spent on replacing concrete lampposts and £1.77 million on the City Walls.