Council could face £2.7 million COVID overspend

The York Council has revised down the impact that the pandemic may have on its budget this year.

It had previously talked of a £20 million deficit.

This is now much less following some government funding including additional support for the loss of income from fees and charges. The Government will fund 75% of any loss

Nevertheless, the Council believes that it may have to eat into its £7 million reserves to balance the books this year. Next year may be even more challenging with Council Tax and Rates income set to fall.

A list of the pressures on the Councils budget can be read by clicking here

The Council has not tabulated the “mitigation” measures that it is taking to reduce expenditure.

There has been increased expenditure on helping the elderly and disabled. The work of volunteers has been praised by the Council.

A report being considered next week says, “The Council has remained committed to our Home First approach to managing people’s recovery, avoiding placements in residential and nursing care whenever possible. However the impact of COVID-19 and the associated lockdown has meant that more people than we had planned for have needed social care funded through the council. This together with increasing mental health referrals, the increased cost of care and the 4 more complex needs of those the council is supporting has resulted in increased pressure on the adult social care budget”.

Council slow to repair empty Council homes.

One of the largest drops in performance is in re-letting empty Council homes. This has increased from 37 days at the end of March 2020 to 59 days at the end of June 2020. Delays to repairs are still a major problems with this service and so far the Council are choosing not offer work to local tradesmen many of whom would the opportunity.

The published performance results (click) don’t provide information on key COVID measures (e.g. traffic and cycling levels).

Foxwood Community Centre to remain closed

According the the residents association Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FoxwoodResidentsAssociation, the local community centre will not reopen in September as hoped.

Foxwood Community Centre

The centres Trustees say that they don’t have the resources or expertise to run the centre under post COVID restrictions.

That would be a shame. Some of the user groups provide essential support services for the local community. Some of these services are even more important in the post pandemic fragile world that we now live in.

Some users groups may cease to exist if they don’t have at least some earned income.

The Council has postured over the last few mnths about the importance of “community hubs”.

It should now put its money where its spin has been and agree to properly resource centres like the one in Foxwood.

Clock ticking on Stadium opening

Members of Parliament have written to the Sports Minister asking when clubs like York City will be able to reopen their grounds.

MPs letter to Sports Minister
Signatories

The MP’s highlighted the perilous position of many non league clubs finances.

Uncertainty – about when paying customers will be able to attend games – and in what numbers – is putting some clubs under threat of closure.

The MPs pointed to the imminent start of the pre-season “friendly” programme.

Although neither of the local MPs signed the 21st August letter, York Outer MP Julian Sturdy said he supported a more general plea made in a letter sent on 17th August and subsequently backed this up with an Email last Monday. There has been no word from York Central MP Rachel Maskell in whose constituency the present York City/York Knights ground is located.

Currently the expectation is that, when the National Leagues resume in October, around 30% of the seats may be available for supporters.

There is a particular problem for York City FC who will manage the new LNER community stadium at Monks Cross. Before they can take full occupation a “test” event involving 3000 spectators must take place. This would allow a safety certificate for the 8500 seater stadium to be issued.

There has been a suggestion – as a result of the health restrictions on capacity which are likely to apply for a few months at least – that certification for a smaller capacity might be possible.

There has been no word from the stadium owners – the York Council – about how and when this might be achieved.

There are 6 weeks to go until the start of the football season for clubs like York City

Earlier letter re smaller non league clubs
Signatories

Risks, delays & cost increases as York Council struggles to manage its commercial portfolio

York Guildhall

Yesterday’s announcement that more than £15 million of infrastructure schemes had been secured in North Yorkshire over the next 18 months – with £300,000 of funding going towards the York Guildhall offices project – will have been welcomed by many.

The money comes from the Government’s “Getting Building Fund” which “aims to boost economic recovery from Covid-19”.

According to a Council spokesman, the funding will now be used “for internal fit-out works” on the business club which will occupy much of the building.

That will come as a surprise to those who thought that the agreed £20.18 million budget included all costs.  Indeed, the option approved by the Council in February 2019, specifically identified £300,000 for “fixtures, fittings and furniture”.

Council report 2019. Option 1 was agreed

It seems that the only change is that this expenditure will now be funded from general taxation.

Even with this subsidy, and assuming that all offices and the on site restaurant, are all occupied, York Council taxpayers still face an annual bill of over £500,000.

An Executive meeting which took place last week was told in an update on the Guildhall project that “additional delays have meant that it is presently considered that these additional costs cannot be contained within the agreed contingency”.

The scale of the over expenditure was not revealed.

The Guildhall is not the only commercial portfolio project to come under scrutiny.

Some independent commentators are sceptical about the timing of the Councils £2.8 million acquisition of 25/27 Coney Street. Rent levels are now dropping and with them property valuations in some high streets. Coney Street is struggling more than most.

Meanwhile large numbers of Council owned properties remain empty and unused.

These include Ashbank (empty for 8 years), 29 Castlegate (3 years), Oakhaven (4 years) and Willow House (4 years 6 months).

Willow House stands abandoned with no sign of redevelopment work starting.

We now understand that Willow House – which was advertised for sale with Sanderson Weatherall – has been withdrawn from the market. The Council turned down a £3 million offer for the prime site shortly after it became available.

None of these properties are accommodating anyone.

All are incurring maintenance and security costs for taxpayers, while at the same time attracting no Business Rates or rent income.

At a time when local authorities are on their knees financially, poor resource management is  a matter of concern.

Vulnerable children and young people in York to receive laptops

3,000 Newcastle families to get free laptops and internet access ...

Over 450 children and young people across the city will have access to their own laptops this summer, as part of a national scheme to help vulnerable young people during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The laptops will be distributed by children’s social workers to children and young people they’re working with who don’t currently have internet access, as well as recent care leavers.

Several Councils been given laptops to distribute under a government programme covering children with a social worker, those who are leaving the care system, and Year 10 students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It is understood that the move is aimed a ensuring that no child falls behind with their home work as a result of COVID restrictions.

The Council has yet to confirm that the equipment will remain the property of the local authority or what maintenance and insurance arrangements have been put in place.

Corona (COVID-19) update – effect on west York

The government has relaxed delivery restrictions on supermarkets. Click link. It means that deliveries can be made at any time of the day or night. Most local stores have their own delivery yards but neighbours of, for example, Morrisons on Green Lane may see lorries serving the store later at night.

Local residents associations have suggested that lists of local shops and takeaways who can deliver to these self isolating should be drawn up. They want to see a local neighbourhood coordinator appointed by the Council.

In the meantime they’re offering to publicise any local business that will accept remote orders (phone/email/online), pay electronically, and deliver to a doorstep. (Email Foxwoodra@btinternet.com)

Elsewhere community networks are getting established to deal with any escalation in the numbers confined to their own homes. The Leeds Council are, for example, taking steps to provide community support to safe and professional standards.  click

Volunteer groups like #ViralKindness are also springing up.

New Covid-19 (coronavirus) case in York

It is understood that this case came about as a result of travel to northern Italy.

The individual “followed all necessary health advice and has been in self-isolation at home” and the authorities say “here is a very low risk of the virus having been transferred to anyone in York”.

The Council expects that more confirmed cases in York over the next weeks and months as the virus spreads across the country.

“The council and our partners have well established plans in place and are working closely together to ensure that we are best placed to respond to local issues as they arise”.

No details of which neighbourhood the victim lives in have been released.