York Council breaks even, but only after calling on £1.9 million from reserves

The York Council exceeded its expenditure budget during the last financial year by nearly £2 million..

Road repair programme failed last year

It was able to fill the gap by drawing on £1/2 million from its contingency allocation. It also raided its reserves to find an additional £1.4 million which it had previously earmarked for pay and pensioners liabilities. The final £309,000, held to repay unlawfully issued fines connected to the Lendal Bridge closure, was also utilised.

While this juggling of funds allowed the authority to emerge with a £128,000 surplus on its 2019/20 £123 million budget, the moves camouflaged large overspends on Education and Social Care. Promised efficiencies there failed to materialise.

The £1.5 million overspend by the Education department will no doubt result in a renewed focus on inessential expenditure. One trenchant “citizen auditor” has reported finding that the department apparently spent £10,000 renting rooms at a luxury hotel and golf complex in Humberside last year. The nature of the activity is being investigated.

Clearly the Council will now need to clamp down on anything other than essential expenditure.

The Council faces a new multi-million pound shortfall on its income this year as a result of the Coronavirus epidemic. It will not be able to call on the above reserves again but does have a buffer provided by the £7.4 million held in general reserves.

A meeting to discuss the report takes place on Thursday

Quality of Public Services in York

The Council has also released some information on public service quality. Unfortunately, many of the figures are not up to date. There is likely to be some cynicism about some of the results with only 20% of road surfaces in the City classified as “poor” or “very poor” by Council officials!

York Council performance indicators

Need for clarity from Council Executive members

The Council’s scrutiny committees will begin to receive reports this month from the new Executive councillors.

The expectation will be that a line will be drawn in the sand and a new suite of measurable outcomes will be published.

Street sweeping poor

At the moment residents must rely on Open Data pages to try to check on progress.  They represent a confusing array of stats with some key service areas barely covered.

The public will want to know what the trends are in volumes? Are the demands on the Council’s resources increasing or are they stable?

 Whether it be numbers of schoolchildren or elderly people requiring support, these are key figures. 

Blocked gullies

The volume of waste being presented is an example of  important information, as are jobless and job vacancy numbers.  Complaint and issue numbers provide a clue to residents’ concerns.

“How many?” “how often?” “where?” are all legitimate questions

Going beyond these how is the Council responding?

  • What are the customer satisfaction numbers?
  • How quickly does the Council respond?
  • How effective is the response?
  • What are the root causes of repeat problems and how has the Council responded?
No weed control

Two reports to a scrutiny meeting next week offer little insight. They include no numbers.

The Executive member scorecards for the first quarter (April – June) haven’t even been published yet.

An outturn report to a full executive meeting on 29th August prompted no debate.

Paths obstructed

Taken with the obvious decline in street public service standards that have been evident during the summer months, this simply isn’t good enough.

It doesn’t matter which party is in control of the Council a “can do” attitude coupled with good, honest communications is essential.

Residents expect better.

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.

So how good are York Council services?

The results of two recent surveys allow us to measure what residents say are good and bad about City of York Council services.

The Council’s own “Talkabout” panel has given a verdict this summer.

Talkabout results June 2016

Talkabout panel results – click to access

Best service - refuse collection

Best service

It is the first comprehensive look at customer satisfaction with services in the City since polls were scrapped by the, then Labour led, administration in 2013.

These can be compared to a more detailed survey being undertaken in west York where residents have also given a verdict on service quality.

The Talkabout respondents indicate that satisfaction with their local area as a place to live has increased for 83% in 2013 to 92% today.

Worst service - road repairs

Worst service – road repairs

66% of the panel are satisfied with the way that the Council runs thing compared to 54% three years ago

One of the few areas judged to be deteriorating was law and order. 77% said that York is relatively free from crime and violence compared to 80% in 2013.

Looking at street level services, 39% (2013 – 33%) though litter was a problem in their local area although the majority (61%) still thought litter was not a problem.

survey results as at 26th Sept 2016Problems with vandalism showed small increases (17% up to 18%), as did drug dealing (15% up to 26%) and drunk/rowdy behaviour (25% up to 30%)

The numbers who though that the Council was doing well in at improving green spaces was static at 48% but those who thought the Council was doing well in improving streets/public spaces was down from 49% to 45%.

Looking at the more detailed poll conducted in west York, it may be significant that the 4 most criticised public services (footpath repairs, road repairs, the availability of litter bins and local car parking facilities) were not monitored in the citywide survey.

Although most residents indicated that other services were “satisfactory” there were large numbers of people who rated some services as poor.

These included weed control (31% poor), tree/hedge maintenance (36%), Policing (31%), and garage area maintenance (20%).

The top ranked services were refuse collection (91% rated satisfactory or good), recycling (92%) and street lighting (89%)