Empty Monks Cross restaurants could cost taxpayers £1.4 million

The Community Stadium saga has taken a new turn, with the Council admitting that it may not get the full £3.8 million which the developer has promised to pay for land allocated for three restaurants.

The units are unlet and if they remain so on the opening date, then the Council could receive £1.4 million less for its interest.

June 2019 Council report

The Council says that discussions are ongoing with several potential tenants.

A report the Councils Executive confirms that building work on the stadium should be completed in September. The buildings would then be handed over to the operators who will be responsible for obtaining a safety certificate. The Council claims that it still opens the stadium will be operational in October but that seems optimistic to many observers.

In the meantime, the Knights Rugby team continue to play their matches at Bootham Crescent. The Council plans to increase their subsidy to the club from £30,000 to £45,000 to compensate for the delays in moving to Monks Cross.

The stadium project cost £22.6 million during the 2018/19 financial year

Budget consultation – what they don’t tell you

Any resident with an idle moment can take part in the York Council’s annual budget quiz. A simulator allows residents to set council tax levels and public service priorities.

It is a slight improvement on playing scrabble on the wet Sunday afternoon but has little in common with real budget setting and the horse trading that goes on in a “balanced” Council. One reason is that officials are too scared to include options like having fewer Councillors or reducing senior officer pay levels.

Most significantly they say little about the Councils accumulated debt omitting to remind residents that 13% of what they fork out in Council Tax goes to pay interest charges on past borrowing.

There are options available which could have an immediate effect in freeing up money for under pressure street services like road repairs.

One example is the Guildhall business centre project which is currently set to cost £15 million. It could be restructured to encourage private sector investment.

Once spent, of course, there is usually no way back. But some taxpayers may feel that higher admission charges at York’s new Community Stadium might be one way of clawing back some of the £13 million taxpayers investment in the project.

You won’t, of course, find those options like these  listed on the Councils web site.

Click to play York Scrabble

York Council budget battle lines drawn

A meeting tomorrow (Thursday) will set the York Councils budget for 2018/19.

The ruling coalition – still wobbling from its leadership woes – has already announced its plans. Now two opposition groups have said that they want to increase Council Tax by a larger percentage. The choices are:

Tory/LibDem = +3.49%

Labour = +4.49%

Green = +5.99%

Central government no longer provides York with a grant to underpin local services. Instead the City must depend on income received from service charges, Business Rates and Council Tax. The government caps the maximum that can be raised from the latter two income streams.

The coalition budget would see an additional £3 million invested in York’s Adult Social Services. The expectation is that this investment will ease the pressure on local hospitals and ensure that no beds there are “blocked” Recently it was found that, over 7 days, 123 patients in hospital beds (the equivalent to 4 wards) were medically ready for discharge.

In addition, several other investments are promised

  • A £150,000 investment in improving the City’s drains over the next three years. This will ease surface water flooding issues.
  • A £175,000 investment in Education Psychology to support specialist staff working with children with Special Education Needs
  • A £3.3 million investment in a new Electric Bus Scheme, which will include new vehicles, charging points and the UK’s first Clean Air Zone
  • An investment of £250,000 for Energy Efficiency projects, such as the inclusion of solar panels on major projects, so residents can save on energy bills.
  • £500,000, over two years, to repair and modernise cycle routes
  • Deletion of the planned cut to the older and disabled persons garden care scheme

The other parties support most of the published plans.

As well as the higher tax increase, Labour say they will spend more on a projects to reduce falls, address dementia, on mental health issues in schools, on the Citizens’ Advice Service and youth provision.

They’d cut the Council’s scrutiny processes and the number of Executive Councillors. More would be spent on subsiding home to school transport and in reducing the bulky waste collection charge from £44 to £22.

Slightly bizarrely they want to spend £100,000 on a feasibility study for an energy provision company

The Greens have a shopping list which would do justice to a school boy locked in a sweet shop.

They agree with Labour (and we suspect most residents) that the bulky waste collection charge is too high.  Lower charges might reduce the amount of fly tipping in the City

The Greens also want to borrow an extra £2 million to buy empty property.

The Council has already made provision to purchase empty homes on the open market, so the proposed use of Compulsory Purchase Orders must be aimed at empty commercial property. That would be a very risky venture.

Elsewhere, the Greens go for a mixed of enlightened self-interest – reduced ResPark fees and parking enforcement using ANPR cameras (!), the eccentric (£3000 on installing poster boards around the Parliament Street fountain), the divisive (locking the gates and providing gardeners at some but not all public parks) and the unpopular (increasing car parking charges by an additional 10p per hour – making the increase 20p in total)

The meeting tomorrow will also elect a new Council Leader.

If the Green amendment is carried he would no doubt resign before the meeting had concluded!

York Council underspent its budget by £876,000 (1%) last year

Floods cost City £3.3 million

Despite big overspends on Children’s Services (foster care, adoption and pay) higher than expected refuse collection costs and lower parking income (£233,000) the potential deficit was offset by savings on debt charges as a result of capital investment projects slipping.

Floods cost City £3.3 million

Floods cost City £3.3 million

A report to tomorrows Council Executive meeting reveals that the controversial decision to collect “co-mingled” recycling had added £200,000 to processing costs. Last year the Council claimed that dumping recycling materials into one lorry compartment would not affect budgets. It now says the additional processing cost is £70/tonne

Central government is bearing most of the costs of the floods although the Council has allocated £50,000 to be spent by “Make it York” on a publicity campaign while the costs of the post flood public inquiry are set at another £50,000.

The report also revealed that the Council still has £676,000 in the account set up to repay those wrongly fined for using Lendal Bridge and Coppergate during the ill-fated “spy camera” trial.

Council set to make £600,000 "profit" from unlawful fines levied on Lendal Bridge

Council set to make £600,000 “profit” from unlawful fines levied on Lendal Bridge

£1,226m was been reclaimed by drivers before the deadline for applications passed.  It remains to be seen what the Council will do with this money (although it must be spent on transport related projects)

The Executive is planning to put some of the surplus into a recycling fund, some into a scheme to appoint visitor welcome staff (“ambassadors”), some into support work to help low achievers at school and some into holding additional “job fairs”.

The rest will be put into reserves.

It is surprising that the continuing problems with street public services (blocked drains, weed chocked gullies, overgrown trees/hedges, potholed roads and footpaths) are not being addressed by using some of the surplus.

York Council struggles with £3 million overspend prediction

A Council report has pointed to a possible £3 million overspend on its budget this year.

Over budget

The main area of concern is a potential over spend on the direct provision of care packages to vulnerable residents.

These include Non Residential Care Packages (£649k), Emergency Placements (£92k) and Short Term Breaks (£116k).

The Council intends to throw the whole of its budget contingency (£600,000) into this service area but is showing little sign so far of being able to recover from the financial breakdown revealed by auditors earlier in the year.

There is also a continued shortfall from parking income of £400,000.

As the published figures cover the period up to the end of June, they do not include the impact of current parking initiatives, including the charges for Minster Badges, the free parking introduced in late June and pay-on-exit at Marygate.

All of these are now expected to further reduce car parking income