If you go down to the woods today….

Come down to Acomb Woods on Tues 14 Feb, 10.30am to 12noon and meet new friends and join in with the many activities for FREE.

No need to bring anything, just come prepared to get muddy!

Open to all ages. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Please book your space by contacting Jenny Cairns on 07833 436832 or Jennifer.cairns@york.gov.uk.

Where the cuts will bite 4. Discretionary rate relief.

Local organisations getting DRR last year. Double click to enlarge

Over 100 local organisations receive rate relief on premises that they occupy in the City. An 80% discount is available under national legislation but the local Council can increase this to 100% if they choose to.

This 20% is known as “discretionary rate relief”.

Organisations must be non-profit making. The level of their revenue reserves must not be in excess of:
– 10 times the amount of the gross rates payable, or
– £10,000
(whichever is the higher).

Organisations must be primarily for the benefit of people who live or work in York.

The Council is proposing to reduce the budget available for this discretionary relief by £54,000 with effect from April 2013.

At the moment 103 organisations qualify for relief, they cover a wide range of organisations many of which are charities. They include sports, leisure, scouting and educational bodies.

In total, in excess of £200,000 was rebated last year.

Amongst the qualifying organisations are the Foxwood Community Centre, the Acomb Bowling Club, the Dringhouses Sports & Social Club, York Indoor Bowls and Social Club and the Acomb Sports Club.

The Council, have not indicated which organisations they intend to target but Labour in the past have hit organisations which are not registered as charities. Sports bodies with clubrooms are thought to be particularly vulnerable to losing the relief.

Labour’s planned cuts to the York Councils budget: 3. Waste management

Garden waste collection may be scrapped

One service that every resident uses one way or another is refuse collection. The Council plans to cut expenditure on this service by £750,000 over the next 12 months with further reductions in later years.

So how will it affect residents?

Here is the top 10 list of implications

1. Charges will be made for replacement recycling boxes and bins & provision of black sacks.

2. Either charging for green bin emptying or scrapping green bin collection altogether.

3. Changes to bin emptying days. Grey bins may be on (say) a Monday and recycling on a Wednesday

4. Privatisation of refuse collection in 2013

5. Closing Beckfield Lane recycling centre after Easter.

6. Plans for a salvage and re-use centre axed

7. Number of litter and “poop scoop” bins being reduced by 20%

8. Fewer “barrowmen” will be picking up litter

9. Reduce waste minimisation advice

10. Charges for use of recycling centres for items like brick rubble

New survey launched. Should the York Council freeze Council Tax levels?

Labour are planning a 2.9% increase in Council Tax levels from April 2012 plus another similar increase from April 2013.

The Coalition government have offered the City a one year £1.8 million subsidy which would delay any rise until 2013 (at which point an increase of up to 5% would be likely).

The 1 year subsidy would mean that residents would be about £36 better off during the next 12 months.

Both options involve some reductions in public service quality standards.

Increases in tax levels above 3.5% pa can only be implemented if approved through a residents referendum.

What should the Council do? (see survey right)

How the Council cuts will bite: 2. Highways Maintenance

Category 3 roads and footpaths in Dringhouses and Woodthorpe Ward. Double click to enlarge

Each year professional officers at the Council assess the safety and condition of footpaths and roads in the City.

They categorise each, with poor surfaces which require resurfacing being given a “3” score.

The Council then resurface the roads as far as the available budget allows.

The worst are done first.

The recently announced £2.6 million reduction in the highways maintenance budget (56%) means that these roads are now unlikely to be resurfaced in the foreseeable future.

Not only is the resurfacing budget being cut but also the provision for temporary repairs (basically pothole filling) is also being reduced.

The effect of these decisions on road safety is likely to be extreme with pedestrians, cyclists and other two wheel users particularly vulnerable.

Potholes that are not treated promptly are more vulnerable to frost damage. This means that a cycle of disrepair will quickly reduce the quality and safety of our roads and footpaths.

It is a very short-sighted plan which will cost taxpayers more in the long term.

Details released on public ticket ballot for Royal Maundy Service

The Dean and Chapter of York today launched details regarding the public ticket ballot for the Royal Maundy Service on 5th April at York Minster at 11 am.

The Very Reverend Keith Jones, Dean of York said, “We at York Minster are thrilled that The Queen has decided to distribute the Royal Maundy at York Minster in Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee Year. It is our hope to enable as many members of the public as possible to be in inside the Minster during the service for this Royal and beautiful ceremony.”

The ballot process is open to all members of the public who reside within the Diocese of York. The tickets are free of charge. The guidelines for residents making a request are:
•One application per household for up to two tickets.
•Applications must be made in writing, stating the name(s) of those to be entered into the ballot.
•Tickets are named and non-transferable.
•Two forms of identification will be required to enter the Service, one of which must be photographic.
•Those attending should come with the minimum of baggage to speed security checks.

Requests should be made in writing to the Very Revd Keith Jones, Dean of York, Church House, Ogleforth, York, YO1 7JN, enclosing a C5 stamped addressed envelope with the word BALLOT written on the reverse. If an SAE is not enclosed the application will not be entered into the draw.

Due to the layout of seats for the service, not all balloted seats can be guaranteed to have a view of the Royal party.

All applications must be received by 5pm on Friday 24th February 2012 for consideration. The draw will take place on Wednesday 29th February and successful applicants will receive their tickets by post. Those attending will be required to be in their allocated places by 10 am.

CONCERNS RAISED OVER LABOUR’S TAX, BORROW AND SPEND

Labour’s claims to be a party of economic responsibility have been undermined, with an announcement to increase borrowing by £20 million in their upcoming budget. Liberal Democrat Councillor Paul Firth has questioned whether this gamble which exposes York’s residents to substantial risk and expense is appropriate at this time.

Only just over a year ago Cllr Alexander was expressing his grave concern that the council’s debt had reached £116 million spuriously quoting similarities with the national debt of Greenland. Now with the stroke of a pen he hopes to add a further 17% increase on that debt. At the same time the proposed budget would impose a substantial increase in council tax of 2.9%, to go towards paying off the debt generated by the irresponsible borrowing, while at the same time reducing services imposing redundancies and cutting funding to voluntary groups.

Paul Firth, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Corporate Services, commented saying “After criticising the City of York’s debt whilst in opposition, James Alexander seems happy to add massive increases to it now that he’s in power. Reckless borrowing from the last Labour government has brought the country to its knees and now he seems intent on bringing the same misery to York. He must learn that in challenging times the answer is not to pile onto a city’s debt whilst simultaneously hiking the taxes of those that live there”.

“It is highly questionable if this borrowing will provide the returns to the council that Labour seem to hope it will, and in the mean time York’s debt will continue to grow. This is a substantial amount of borrowing that we’re dealing with, and it seems that the move is being made without a clear plan about how that will translate into economic benefit for the city”.

How the Council budget cuts will affect York: 1. The voluntary sector

Double click to enlarge

We today begin to take a detailed look at how some of the planned Council cutbacks will affect the residents of York.

The voluntary sector in the city has played an important role in the City’s life long before David Cameron invented the “Big Society” phrase.

During the current year the Council is supporting the sector to the tune of £3.2 million. Much of this goes to large organisations like the Museums Trust (which is set to get a £300,000 cut to the £1.3 million that it currently gets for running the City’s Museums and Art Gallery).

However it is the smaller neighbourhood organisations, some of which relay on Ward committee support, which face the biggest cuts.

The Ward committee budget is being cut from £646,000 to £224,000, meaning that pro rata cuts would see voluntary bodies lose more than half their income.

We believe that it is wrong to do so to fund vanity projects like “free” city centre WiFi access.

NORTH YORKSHIRE FIRE AUTHORITY FREEZES FIRE PRECEPT

York’s Liberal Democrat Member on the North Yorkshire Fire Authority has welcomed the decision made by the authority to freeze the precept (the amount residents pay for fire services) for 2012/13 using a £600,000 grant from the coalition government.

Councillor Keith Aspden said this decision showed that the suggestions made by Labour-run City of York Council that it wouldn’t be financially viable to freeze local taxes for York’s residents to do so were politically motivated.

The fire precept plans were voted through the Fire Authority unanimously today, by councillors from all parties, including Labour.

Labour-run York, in outlining their budget plans last week, said they weren’t able to take the grant and instead would pass additional costs on to residents. They argued this was because the government couldn’t guarantee the funding for the grant would continue next year.

North Yorkshire Fire Authority has avoided this issue by planning to save some of the grant this year in case the money isn’t available next year, together with continuing to save money over a number of years on back office functions.

Councillor Aspden said “The decision by North Yorkshire Fire Authority shows that additional costs for services do not need to be passed on to residents when the Government is offering funding. The decision to sensibly keep money back in reserve alongside back office savings will protect against the loss of the grant next year makes sense.”

Councillor Aspden said that this future planning showed how the grant could be used to avoid passing on costs to residents without affecting the future financial stability of the authority, something that York’s Labour Cabinet are unwilling to accept.

He said “It just goes to show that Labour in York are playing party politics when they say it would be financially reckless of them to take the grant. They could have elected to make contingency plans to avoid a tax increase in these tough times, but instead chose to pass this on to local residents.”

Council budget spin aims to fool media and residents about scale of planned cuts

Highways maintenance expenditure - double click to enlarge

Ward committee budgets - click to enlarge

Sad, but not surprising, to see the Labour spin machine at work in The Press. Some of the figures quoted in articles about the Council budget are just plain wrong.

Highways maintence expenditure is reducing by a massive 56%. The effect on the safety of our roads and footpaths will be dramatic

Similarly Ward Committee expenditure – on projects like security patrols, CCTV and improved parking arrangements and which have been prioritised by York Residents – will be reduced by an unprecidented 65%.

Click the calculations right – which have been verified by the Councils professional officers – for details.

The savings are not being used to help the less well off.

They will fund the interest payments on vanity projects like the £20 million borrowing on a “re-energise York” programme as well as the Council Leaders personal £1 million pa “delivery and imnnovation” slush fund.