York man sentenced for Council Tax fraud

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

An investigation carried out by City of York Council has uncovered and successfully prosecuted a serious case of Council Tax fraud of almost £6,000.

Christopher Cuinu (aged 52) of Blossom Street, York, claimed Council Tax Support on the basis of being unemployed, obtaining £5882.41 from the public purse over a six year period.

Veritau, the council’s fraud investigation service, carried out an investigation into his claim for a reduction to his council tax liability.

The investigation was conducted following claims that Mr Cuinu owned and managed a café in York for a considerable period of time and fraudulently sought unemployment benefits.
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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 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

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.

Council Tax in York may rise by 3.9%

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

The government has today confirmed that Councils may, for the forthcoming financial year, increase Council Tax levels by up to 4% without the need for a local referendum.

2% of any rise will be used to improve care facilities for the elderly.

The government has also indicated that it will agree a 4 year budget with any local authorities who wish to implement long term financial planning.

The implications for York of the provisional  local government finance settlement announced today are still being worked out.

NB. Councillors in York have tonight agreed to implement a significant increase in their pay levels

Have your say on York Council budget

 The Council has issued a media release saying, 

“City of York Council’s Executive is facing some tough decisions in 2016-17. Below outlines why these difficult choices need to be made and why residents’ views are so important.

To help shape the 2016-17 Budget proposals, the council is inviting residents to have their say through a consultation by Wednesday 20 January:

·         Online at www.york.gov.uk/consultations/

·         By post to FREEPOST RTEG-TYYU-KLTZ, Budget consultation, City of York Council, West Offices, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GA

·         By hand at West Offices or libraries/Explore Centres”.

Council consultation

On line consultation questionaire https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/YorkBudget

The Council of course omits to mention many options that many residents might like to take.

  • You noticeably won’t be able to vote for a pay freeze for Councillors or to reduce their support costs,
  • There’s no option to stop the “Our City” newspaper.
  • Quangos like “Make it York” are off the options list.

Not can you vote to save money through the lower debt (interest) charges which would come if the subsidy was reduced for big investment schemes like the:

  • New swimming pool at Monks Cross
  • Access bridge to the York Central development or
  • Development of the Guildhall site.

There isn’t even a “write in” option for those feeling inventive!

You can say whether you prefer a tax rise to service cuts but you aren’t offered a choice on how much any increase might be!

NB It is likely that the cap in increases will be around 3.9% most of which will be ring-fenced for elderly care.

The Council justifies its stance by saying, “This year’s budget proposals will seek to ensure the council’s priorities continue to be delivered, whilst also ensuring the council’s financial position is managed effectively.
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York Council set to change entitlement rules for Council Tax support

But how to pay for a fairer system beats most residents and the media

In 2014 the government forced the York Council to take responsibility for setting up a support scheme for residents who were unable to pay the full amount of Council Tax.  The then Labour Controlled Council set the level of support at 70% of the amount due. Around 7000 residents were hit by the change, with some as much as £700 a year worse off.

Many, who were otherwise living on benefits, had an extra £5 a week to find. Many were forced into debt with mounting arrears.

The 70% level was one of the harshest set in the country. Most Councils expected poor residents only to pay between 10% and 20% of their Council Tax bill.  The new Council decided to consult on whether the threshold should be raised and, if so, how the loss of income for the Council could be offset.

A survey of residents received only 453 replies (there are 87,000 homes in the City) but a majority (69%) said that a higher level of rebate should be implemented.

Advice agencies in the City are recommending a level of 83% which would mean that the Council would need to find savings – or additional income – of around £487,000 pa to fund the deficit.

That is the equivalent of a Council Tax increase of just over 0.6% for everyone in the City.

Where would the money come from?

The Council has been criticised in the past for not publishing the full results of its consultations. In the summer, a consultation on the devolution proposals disappeared without trace.

This time analysis of responses bordered on overkill

Consultation response

Consultation response

The open ended question about paying for the change has produced a revealing set of reactions from residents. They tend to confirm what most would expect. The average person in the street simply doesn’t know what money raising powers the Council actually has.

Putting up Council Tax.

In so far as there was a majority for any option, around 30% said that they would put up Council Tax to compensate. Yet for over 25 years successive national governments have capped increases in Council Tax. The Chancellor announced a few days ago that Councils would be permitted to increase charges by 2% – but this was specifically to pay for escalating elderly care charges. This is the option apparently favoured by the York Press.

Hit public enemies

These suggestions included new charges which are not legally possible at present. Targets would include a Tourist Tax, student landlord tax, reducing Councillors perks, surcharges on homes worth more than £500,000, 20 mph signs, reduced management salaries and getting rid of the office of Lord Mayor.

Enlightened self interest

In the main these were from respondents who lived in, or near, the City centre. They saw the money coming from increased car parking charges (although the last increase actually resulted in a reduction in Council income), from charging for green bin emptying (many residents in the City centre don’t have garden waste) and various forms of congestion charge (including the introduction of a toll on Lendal Bridge!).

In reality the Council missed a trick by failing to ask residents whether they would pay a 1% increase in Council Tax to offset any change.

 

Spending review – how it may affect York

Policing

There will be no cuts to government funding for the Police. North Yorkshire police however already employ fewer officers than they have budget for, so we hope those vacancies will be filled quickly now. What is less clear is what impact the Chancellors statement, that Police Commissioners would have flexibility to raise the police precept, will have locally.

Tax Credits

The Chancellor has scrapped plans to reduce working tax credits. The move has been welcomed by Local LibDem Cllr Sue Hunter

Jobs & housing

The York central site has been awarded “Enterprise Zone” status.  This means all business rates growth generated by the Zone, will be kept by the relevant local enterprise partnership and local authorities for 25 years to reinvest in local economic growth. However, there are fewer planning controls in these Zones. The York Central site is expected to provide 2000 new homes and around 80,000 sq m of office space.

£50 million will be invested in the agri-tech centre at Sandhutton

Elderly care

The Chancellor has said that Council can increase Council Tax by 2% “to help pay for increasing elderly care costs”. This means that the Tories have abandoned their policy of freezing Council Tax. However, income for Council Tax is not hypothecated to individual services, so it remains to be seen whether the government will condition this power by ring-fencing social care expenditure.

The spending statement indicates that there will be increased funding available for the NHS and for Mental Health

Pensions

Basic state pension to rise by £3.35 next year to £119.30 a week

Schools

The statement says that big regional variations in grants to schools would be removed. Historically York schools have been more poorly funded than those in other areas.

Transport

The Chancellor has promised major capital investment including HS2 and electrification of the Trans-Pennine route.

However the revenue budget has seen major cuts so there is likely to be less for public transport subsidies and maybe road repairs.

Council Tax

As well as the proposed 2% increase this year, the proposals imply that York will retain more of its Business Rates (it has always been a net contributor to the national pool) but will continue to see reductions in government support grant.

The way that the York Councils budget has been funded has changed a lot over recent years.

York Council chnages in source of income

York Council reveals housing benefit payments for “exempt” properties

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

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

The York Council has received 88 claims for housing benefits from people living in “exempt” properties in The City.
In total over £102,879 has been paid out so far this year.

Housing benefit payments  for exempt property peaked at £181,760 in 2013

Properties can be exempted from Council Tax liability for a number of reasons.

In York many are occupied by students

A full list of possible exemptions is:
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