York Council slips further into debt

The York Council’s debts increased from £118.3 million to £128.8m at the end of March 2015.

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

In addition £140.3m was owed on the Council housing account.

The debt represents part of a £317.4 million capital investment programme commitment (which is partly offset by fluctuating revenue balances).

The Council had decided to spend an additional £83.2 million in the current year. Borrowing will peak at £204.3 m.

The inherited Labour programme committed between £13.9 and £26.6m in expenditure in subsequent years (excluding housing)

12% of Council Tax income in the City is now spent on debt charges (interest plus principal repayments)

Details can be found by clicking here

York Council plans huge increase in borrowing

£1 million a year in interest charges to be added to Council Tax burden

Labour Council leaders say that they want to spend an additional £44 million on capital schemes in the City.

Potentially controversial projects include:

Scarborough footbridge £3 million bill

  •  £3 million on a replacement Scarborough (foot/cycle) bridge (the adjacent rail bridge is currently being renewed in a completed separate project)
  • £12.1 million on new IT systems (£1.8 million of which will be charged to Council tenants)
  • £1.8 million on further “reinvigorating” York work
  • £11.0 million on a bridge into the York Central site
  • £800,000 on LED street lamps (despite the Council poor performance in getting existing lights repaired)

No provision has been made for the new Elderly Care facilities at Lowfields or Burnholme – effectively confirming that the Council intends either to abandon these projects or hand them over to the private sector.

Instead a further £300,000 is to be spent repairing existing homes.

Summary of new growth proposals click to enlarge

Summary of new growth proposals click to enlarge

Also missing is any reference to investment in the Guildhall although the last Labour Cabinet meeting authorised a £9.2 million scheme to convert it into a Digital and Arts Media centre.

The Council is making cuts to road resurfacing (structural maintenance) with its contribution falling from £1.0 million next year to £3/4 million in future years.

Labour intend to impose wheeled bins on terraced houses – sparking fears that wars, about the impact that collection points may have on neighbouring properties, will be reignited.

There is a lot missing from the published programme – or hidden from public view.

Despite promises that the “Combined Authority” link with West Yorkshire would provide capital investment funding for transport improvements such as the dualling of the northern by pass, no such contribution is shown during the next 5 years.

Congestion on northern by pass set to continue?

Congestion on northern by pass set to continue?

Similarly no new economic development funding is shown – leaving hopes, for a regeneration initiative in Acomb, floating in the air.

The housing programme once again fails to recognise the need for a face-lift, on many sub-urban estates, despite the surplus on the housing account now approaching £15 million.

It is likely that Liberal Democrat Councillors will seek to use some of this surplus to tackle parking issues on some of the older estates where road widths are relatively narrow.

 Should we be worried about the Councils increasing debt burden?

Planned Council borrowing levels click to enlarge

Planned Council borrowing levels click to enlarge

The York Council currently owes about £330 million.

That is set to rise to £348 million over the next 2 years.

This is an historic high and means that a significant proportion of the taxes being paid (around 14%) are being absorbed by interest and repayment costs.  

The Council is currently borrowing at an interest rate of about 4% pa

The new proposals (above) will add around £28 to next year’s average tax bill.

York Council debt set to increase to £300 million over next 5 years.

Click for detail

Click for detail

The York Councils debt is set to increase to over £300 million by 2018.

That’s the equivalent of £2,530 for every taxpayer in the City.

The amount owed by the Council, net of investments, currently stands at £204 million.

Even that figure is double the debt inherited from the previous LibDem administration in May 2011.

Council debtIronically, when in opposition, Labour said that the Council had too much debt.

Their actions in tripling the burden will take some explaining at the next Council elections in 2015.

The Authority is vulnerable to increases in interest rates although much of the borrowing is long term.

This year the extra expenditure means that £27 is added to this years Council Tax bill in repayment costs with a further £14 expected next year.

The figures are due to be discussed at a Council “Cabinet” meeting later today.