£16 million owed to York Council

The Council has published a list of the outstanding amounts owed to it in each of the last 3 years.
Uncollected debts
The size of the debt shows an upward trend which could lead to cash flow problems if not reversed.

Although many of the debts will eventually be recovered, some will not.

There have been significant increases in the amounts owed on business rates, former tenant arrears and sundry debts.

In total the amounts owed have increased from £12 million to £16 million over a 3 year period.

Council property sell off to be questioned

Rookie Cabinet member Dafydd Williams is likely to face a series of challenging question at the York Council meeting on Thursday after he revealed that the Council will sell a building to St Johns University without testing the market.

St. Anthony's House

St. Anthony’s House

The Council got into trouble in 2011 for trying to arrange a private sale of the Union Terrace car park to the same institution.

Now Cllr Williams has revealed that St Antony’s House on Clarence Street will be sold to the University without the property being put on the open market and alternative bids considered.

A similar private sale is envisaged for a property on Reedness Street which was for some years leased by Cllr Williams employer (Yorkshire Water). Is now being sold to the current leaseholder (a local development company who apparently intend to build student flats on the site).

Private sales like these are generally frowned on as there is no guarantee that taxpayers are getting the best deal available.

In 2008, the Council sold the site of the former Edmund Wilson swimming pool on Thanet Road to Lidl but only after a competitive bidding process. The sale eventually fetched over twice the value that had been put on the site by professional valuers.

Similarly the Bonding Warehouse site achieved a sale price twice its original valuation.

The lessons are clear.

The property market in York is buoyant and, to get the best value for money, properties must be put on the open market.

The Council also faced criticism 12 months ago when it announced that it was selling its Hungate development site to a local builder………. again without seeking competitive bids. They argued that the low sale price – about half of what the site might fetch now on the open market – was justified as it would bring a new Insurance company employer to the City.

Subsidising private companies with taxpayers money is a dangerous business and one that is outlawed by European legislation.

Time for the District Auditor to take an interest we think.

Derisory funding allocation to Acomb by Council

Front Street

Front Street

We understand that the York Council is being recommended to allocate only £30,000 to a much needed regeneration project in the Acomb Front Street area.

That is just 0.1% of the Council budget that is available for economic development projects in the City.

The Labour Council has been blamed for the stark decline in the area over the last 2 years. The decline started with the council closing its Acomb Office before reducing the number of litter bins in the area.

Ward Committees in Acomb and Westfield, which had over £80,000 a year to invest in local public services, lost their budgets.

Fly tipping in Front Street back lane

Fly tipping in Front Street back lane


Local Traders fought back with an “Acomb Alive” campaign and a successful festival was held in the summer.

But the whole area needs a lift with the removal of weeds, road repairs, repainting and replacement of street furniture all high priorities. Dumped rubbish needs to be systematically removed, fences repaired, graffiti removed and walls rebuilt.

Some broken bus timetable information boards have been out of service now since 2011. A lasting memorial to neglect.

The £30,000 can be compared to the single £500,000 project which is currently seeing Kings Square in the City Centre being repaved.

Well fancy that! Click to enlarge

Well fancy that! Click to enlarge

Airport advertising to be reconsidered?

Plans to spend £85,000 on marketing at Leeds Bradford Airport have been called-in by opposition councillors.

advertising airport

Last week the Labour Cabinet agreed that City of York Council would spend an initial £85,000 on marketing the city at the airport, with £10,000 for the development of the campaign followed by £75,000 for the roll out.

A further three instalment of £75,000 could then be invested over the next three years.

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All York bus ticket sales figures finally released

12 months after a Freedom of Information request was lodged with the York Council, officials have finally revealed the number of “All York” bus tickets that have been sold.

This was the product launched in July 2012 which allowed passengers to purchase one £5 day ticket which could be used on any bus operating in the York area.

When launched, the Council said that it would spend £20,000 of taxpayer’s money advertising the availability of the ticket.

They would also use administrative staff to allocate, the fare revenue collected, to individual bus operators.

all york ticket

It was this taxpayer’s subsidy which prompted a request that the number of tickets sold be publicised. The Council declined to do so saying that it was “commercially confidential”.

It took an appeal to the Information Commissioner to force the release of the information.

In March the minutes of a Council bus consultative meeting had suggested that “All York” ticket sales were around “10,000 a quarter”.

In reality it turns out that sales are only about ¼ of that figure.

The total number of tickets sold stands at 10,425 which represents a tiny proportion of the 16 million local bus journeys made each year.

It looks like taxpayers have subsidised each ticket to the tune of £2.

Many people thought that the Council should have prioritised the introduction of a smartcard which would allow cross operator ticketing at negligible cost.

Steve Galloway – who first raised the issue – says, “There is nothing contained in the figures that threatens the commercial interests of bus companies. The very low sales do suggest though that the Council miscalculated very badly the number or passengers who would take advantage of a scheme which has proved to be an unnecessary burden on taxpayers.

I hope in future that the Council will be more open with bus users about service information.

They have been withholding facts about bus service reliability for over a year.

I would like to think that they would adopt a more positive approach to information sharing in the future”

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Vehicle damage claims against York Council increase by over 400%

Potholes

The number of claims for damage to vehicles in York, as a result of poor road surfaces, has increased by over 400%.

In 2011/12, 13 drivers made a claim against the York Council

This spiralled to 70 in 2012/13

The value of compensation paid, however, reduced from £1455 to £333.

The Council had halved the amount that it was investing in highways maintenance in 2012/13.

A Freedom of Information response has identified the road in poorest condition in York.

Moor Lane, near Murton, attracted 10 damage claims between 23-12-2012 and 06-01-2013

The Council says that, generally, a road has a surface design life of 15 years.

At any one time there are around 40 potholes on the York road network requiring attention. This increases in the winter as a result of the impact that ice has on poorly maintained carriageway surfaces.

Potholes can be reported here http://www.mycouncilservices.com/

York Council facing £3.7 million over spend on this years budget

Council tax bag

The Council’s first review of its expenditure this (financial) year suggests that it is heading for an over spend of £3.7 million.

Such a forecast is not without precedent and tends to reflect the most pessimistic view of trends.

However the nature of the possible over spend is important and here £1.1 million is put down failures in social services. Essentially, more and more people are arranging their own care packages and receiving direct payments from the council.

A £227,000 shortfall in car parking income is being reported, although this is offset by fewer pensioners using bus services in the City.

For the first time York will be able this year to keep the Business Rates that it generates within the City.

After adjustments to reflect relative prosperity, the City is forecasting that it will receive £23.2m. Part of any income above this figure will be kept by the Council (although Labour have agreed to pay the “surplus” into a West Riding “rates pool”).

The Council has discontinued its policy of reporting on public service performance indicators. So it will be another 3 months before the scale of the decline in service quality becomes public.

York Council publishes rental received for Knavesmire, Parliament Street and other open space

The York Council has responded to a Freedom of Information request by publishing a list of the rents that it has received for allowing use of public open spaces in the City

Click here for full list

The rents help to pay for the clean up costs and administrative work. A bond is required for some events and sometimes these are not reclaimed.

Planet Circus

Most activities are free of charge with many providing an additional leisure choice for York residents and visitors.

The amounts paid for events on public open spaces range from £200 for dog training on the Knavesmire to £2000 paid by the circus also on the Knavesmire.

The Continental market on Parliament Street brings in a healthy £5600 a go while the Food and Drink festival is the top earner at £13,022.

The Council has also listed the organisations which have used the (free) “charity” stall on Parliaments Street.

It is an eclectic list dominated by the Baha’i Faith, Bible education and York Palestine Solidarity.