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.

Budget consultation

budget-consultation

York Council  (click to access)

The York Council is asking residents whether they would like to see Council Tax increased by 1.99%, charges increased or fewer services provided

In its “on line” survey, the Council then asks whether an additional  1%, 2% or 3% increase in tax – to fund social care (elderly and disabled services) – would be acceptable?

There is then a list of services which residents are asked to prioritise. Usually residents say that they want all the services to be sustained. However, there may be a move to invest more in street cleaning, crime prevention and road maintenance this year.

There is room for a comments section but no mention of the high levels of debt charges (interest payments) being born by taxpayers nor any option to cut back on capital programmes like the Guildhall development or the new Monks Cross swimming pool..

The Council’s final budget will be set in February, so leading Councillors will already have decided what the budget strategy is.

Launching a “consultation” a couple of days before Christmas will seem to be an afterthought to many residents.

Police – click to access

The Police and Crime Commissioners survey takes a similar line. A short explanatory leaflet is available but it says little about crime levels (which are increasing in parts of York)

Residents are offered the choice of a tax freeze, a 1.99% increase and – subject to a formal referendum – an increase above 2%.

No spending options are offered and there is no opportunity to highlight areas of concern on policing.

So pretty much going through the motions of public consultation it seems

NB. The results of the last PCC survey – on policing plans – which was undertaken in the autumn, have yet to be published

Council to spend £800,000 on rapid chargers for electric vehicles

Many transport investment projects – due to be completed in the last financial year – will now be slipped into the current year.

A council report says that “This high level of underspend was due to delays in progressing some of the larger schemes in the programme; additional DfT funding being received too late in the year to deliver the schemes; and delivery of some schemes under budget”.

In total over £8 million will be spent.

Traffic lights will be moderdenised

Traffic lights will be modernised

  • £1.6 million of this will go on public transport mainly involving bus stop improvements and modifications to reduce emissions.
  • £3.6 million will be spent on traffic management including £1.2 million on easing problems on the A19 near Fulford, £800,000 on “rapid vehicle chargers” and over £400,000 on renewing traffic signals
  • £1.2 million will be spent on pedestrian and cycle schemes with the largest proportion of this going on a new cycle/pedestrian crossing next to Scarborough Bridge
  • £300,000 is allocated to safety schemes including improvements near Hob Moor School (changes to signing & lining), at the Kingsway West/Tudor Road junction and at the Cornlands Road/Gale Lane junction

Following a successful bid to the Government’s Office of Low Emission Vehicles, the council has been awarded £800k funding for the installation of rapid charger hubs around the outer ring road and city centre areas over the next two years. The Council will also complete the installation of electric vehicle rapid charging points at ten businesses in York.

Council report lacks transparency!

Council report lacks transparency!

The Council says that the conversion of tour buses to electric drive was not progressed in 2015/16 due to delays in appointing a contractor to carry out the work. It is proposed to add the £476k grant to the 2016/17 programme to allow the conversion work to be progressed.

Existing "cycle network" click to access

Existing “cycle network” click to access

Although funding has been allocated for the installation of electronic “next bus” real time information screens at sub-urban bus stops it is unclear whether the busy stops in Acomb will finally get the facility.

A full list of the scheme due to be completed this year can be seen by clicking here.

Separately the Council is trying to sort out where it goes next with improvements to the cycle network. The Council currently has 141 separate cycles schemes in the pipeline for implementation.

We think this is too many and that they should concentrate resources on providing direct, off road, links on routes with the highest commuter demand. They are taking a step towards that approach at a meeting next week.

Under a newly prioritised list the most urgent schemes are now judged to be:

  • University Road/Field Lane (near University),
  • Monkgate roundabout,
  • York University internal links (Heslington East)
  • Tower Gardens access gates &
  • a cross City centre route (e.g. High Petergate / Low Petergate / Colliergate / Fossgate / Walmgate)
Extensions of the expensive orbital cycle path around the A1237 – controversially started near Monks Cross – will now have a low priority.

Council house account makes huge £4.3 million surplus in York

The Housing Revenue Account was budgeted to make a surplus of £2,624k in 2015/16.

A report to a meeting taking place today says the estimates were badly wrong

“There has been an overspend of £639k on repairs and maintenance, mainly due to the use of sub-contractors for high value repairs to resolve damp issues at a number of properties.

Mixed views from tenants on housing services in York

Mixed views from tenants on housing services in York

This was offset by a number of underspends in

  • general maintenance (£72k),
  • the painting programme (£150k)
  • decoration allowances (£49k) plus
  • £178k on utilities,
  • £436k from delays in capital schemes that are funded from revenue,
  • £248k lower than budgeted cost of capital,
  • £107k of additional interest income and
  • £257k from lower than budgeted levels of arrears and bad debts.

This resulted in an overall surplus of £4,344k and therefore an underspend of £1,720k”.

Tenants area likely to be unhappy.

There have been complaints about poor maintenance standards on some amenity and garage areas while requests for improved car parking provision on many estates are taking an excessive time to process.

The Council needs to tackle these issues quickly now that it has the funds available

Garage areas are neglected in many estates

Garage areas are neglected in many estates

York Council debts creeping up

The latest figures published this week show that the total Council debt stands at £319 million.

Borrowing May 2016

 

It is forecast to peak at £350 million in 2017 with new commitments like the Community Stadium, the York Central development and Guildhall office project all set to add to the overall debt.

Other projects like the so called community hub being constructed at Burnholme and the rest of the elderly person’s accommodation building programme could also add to the debt burden.

The figures mean that, in 2017, every Council taxpayer will pay £36 in interest charges on the borrowing.

The Council has been criticised for failing to get expenditure – and borrowing – under control with a string of recent decisions adding to the burden being placed on taxpayers.

York Council set to plunge further into debt

It looks like the York Council will be borrowing more money next year.

Hopes that the new administration would avoid using the £9 million reserved to subsidise the York Central project have been dashed and £900,000 remains in the budget for works to the Guildhall.  £15.714 million is earmarked for expenditure on the community stadium project.

How the debts are forecast to ncrease

How the debts are forecast to increase

Over £40 million of expenditure is being slipped from the current year into 2016/17 according to papers which will be discussed next week

The additional expenditure means that around 13% of the Council taxes that York residents pay will in future be soaked up by capital and interest repayments.

In total Councillors are being asked to add £5.5 million to the City’s debt burden next week.

A full list of expenditure proposals can be viewed by clicking here

click

click

York Council releases latest – more comprehensive – performance stats

Unemployment low, forecast 12% increase in crime levels, poor housing management performance,

The latest performance figures from the York Council provide a lot more information about public service standards in the City. It is a welcome improvement from the “dark ages” between 2011 and 2015 when little was revealed and Freedom of Information requests flourished

Environment KPIs click to access

Environment KPIs click to access

The Council is reporting a big over-spend on the costs of looking after children from broken homes. Car parking income is already £282,000 below budgeted levels, and the Council has, of course, received no income from ANPR enforcement on Coppergate.

One worrying trend is on crime where “significant increases are forecast in the violent crime, criminal damage and burglary of non-dwellings”. With elections for the role of Police and Crime Commissioner coming up in May, candidates can expect to be questioned closely on their plans to reverse crime trends in the City.

As you would expect, performance in other areas varies. No one expects perfection – just a solid response to any evidence of declining standards.

The only department that still hasn’t adjusted to the new, more open, culture appears to be the Housing department. The Housing Revenue Account looks like it will underspend by £480,000 this year – yet many estate regeneration projects remain on the shelf.

Housing KPIs click

Housing KPIs click

Housing KPIs lack information about contact volumes, complaint levels. repair numbers and customer satisfaction levels.  There is no exception reporting. No “longest outstanding issue” figures are provided.

Housing have also produced a new “business plan” which singularly fails to identify any administrative savings despite a heavy investment in technology. The lamentable condition of many estates – particularly  communal spaces and in garage areas  – together with growing issues like the lack of off street car parking, is largely ignored.

The Council’s Executive when it meets next week should send the housing documents back for a rethink.

Detailed KPIs can be found behind these links:

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