‘Strong mid-term performance’ despite budget challenges

28 Oct 2013 @ 5.22 pm
| News

 
Issued by City of York Council

York is performing strongly against its key priorities despite continuing financial pressures -outlined in a report to be presented to Cabinet at a meeting next week (5 November).

Available to view here, City of York Council’s Finance and Performance Mid-Term (Qtr 2) report provides an overview of the council’s financial position and what action the council is taking to meet the necessary savings forecast for 2013-14.

Following the extensive £21m savings programme in the 2012-13 budget, the 2013-14 budget requires a further £8.8m of savings in order to reach a balanced position.

Mitigation strategies have been identified for each council service, but these proposals are not without risk as the financial position of the health sector or severe weather over the winter months could increase pressure on a number of budgets.

The report also identifies how York is making progress with its key five priorities, with strong performance in creating jobs and growing the economy, getting York moving, building strong communities, protecting vulnerable people and protecting the environment, although with more challenges in the last two areas.

Cllr Dafydd Williams, Cabinet Member for Finance, Performance and Customer Service is, said: “Good work has been made so far and York overall is performing well against a backdrop of challenging economic circumstances and continues to be one of most resilient, safest and educationally prosperous city’s to live in the UK.

“However, there’s still a lot to do, and like many councils which are experiencing either the same or greater level of financial pressures at this point we have a continued determination to control costs and should see an improved position as the financial year progresses.”

Out of 64 UK cities, York remains the third least affected city with respect to Job Seekers allowance claimants since February 2008.

The proportion of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance has dropped to 1.7 per cent in September 2013, the lowest JSA rate since October 2008.

This represents a decrease of 740 claimants since September 2012. This trend is likely to continue with new businesses in York such as Hiscox and John Lewis recruiting this year.

There has been significant movement in the financial year in terms of the growth in planning activity, with planning applications received or determined including major new housing sites at the Tannery, Strensall, Breck’s Lane, Strensall,the former Sessions site, Huntington.

Many of York’s longstanding Brownfield sites have been the subject of planning approvals or renewed interest.

The former Terry’s factory site has outline approval, with phase 1of the 270 new- home element now submitted in detail. Phase 2 of the Hungate redevelopment has been submitted for approval with early commencement on site anticipated shortly afterwards.

York continues to York remain one of the top (16th out of 152) Local Authorities in England for education, achieving its best GCSE results with 67 per cent of pupils achieving 5+A*-C including English and mathematics.

Currently, 80 per cent of York secondary schools are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, well above the national picture. At primary level, 73 per cent of schools are now rated good or outstanding compared to a national figure of 78 per cent.

Driving up bus performance and passenger numbers by 18 per cent is key to the council’s priorities and is supported through successful bids to the Department of Transport York including a share of the £16.5m Better Bus Area fund, £750k to invest in seven electric buses, a further £1.93m of funding to invest in bus priority measures and £250,000 for new electric vehicle charging points – all helping towards reducing congestion and improving air quality in the city.

Affordable housing was identified as the third most important issue requiring improvement by residents in the 2013 Big York Survey.

To address this, here is progress on a £2m scheme to build 18 affordable homes in Elvington, which is currently being developed by York Housing Association, and a number of housing sites have been identified through the York Local Plan, which will go before the Local Plan Working Group in November before being progressed for consultation early 2014 andadopted by 2015.

York is still one of the safest cities in which to live, with overall crime figures predicted to reduce again, by five per cent on last year. The numbers for all violent crime continue to reduce as do those for Hate Crime incidents, reducing for the fifth consecutive year: from 169 in 2009/10 to 95 in 2012/13 with the forecast at 84 for 2013/14.

The number of domestic violence cases has increased by five per cent on last year and the percentage of repeat victims is also higher. However improved recording has contributed to this increase. The council is adopting a stronger early intervention and prevention approach across services to ensure intelligence is more wide ly shared and early action taken.

Since taking over responsibility for Public Health in April the authority is committed to improving health and wellbeing across the city.

City of York Council is committed to supporting the most vulnerable residents – older people, those with disabilities and Looked After Children.

Although the numbers of Looked After Children has decreased significantly, from a high point of 256 in 2012, the council has yet to see a corresponding reduction in costs.

This is partly explained by legacy costs including Special Guardianship, Adoption and Residence Order allowances. In addition some of the looked after children with the most complex needs continue to need highly specialised care which accounts for a significant portion of ongoing care costs.

Through the council’s Keeping Families Together initiative, which is continuing to deliver an overall reduction in the number of children in public care, the sustained month-on-month reduction in the overall number of children who are looked after has reduced from 243 at the 1 April to 223 at the 20 October.

With increasing demands on health and social care services, this remains a challenging area. Estimates suggest that by 2020, the over-65 population is expected to increase by four per cent and the number of people aged over 85 years is expected to increase by 60 per cent.

Following a comprehensive waste review andconsultation of the council’s waste services earlier this year, changes to the services have now taken effect.

Responding to increasing landfill tax costs and reduced funding which places pressures on the service (£208k), the council remains committed to the Allerton Park Waste Strategy and the implementation of the Waste Strategy.

Waste rounds have already been rationalised which has delivered significant cost savings this year. An additional 824 households will also now benefit from recycling and garden waste collections. However, pressures still remain and projects have taken longer than planned, resulting in budget pressures of £415k.

 


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