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How has the financial constraints effected the council in York?

How has the financial constraints effected the council in York?

12:01am 24th October 2011

City of York Council is continuing to deliver on its key priorities for 2011-2015 despite ongoing financial constraints.

The authority’s performance and finance report for the second quarter of the year shows improvement in key areas of the council’s work. Key achievements include further improvement in education, with over 62 per cent of pupils achieving five A*-C grades at GCSE (a increase of three percent from 09/10) and 27.8 per cent of pupils achieving level 5+ in both English and Maths (and increase of 3.6 pre cent from 09/10).

York appears to be coping with the impact of the economic crisis better than in many other parts so the country. Although there has been a slight increase in the number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance in York in the last three months (to 2.5 per cent of the working population) this remains considerably lower that the regional average (4.6 per cent).

The city centre is also performing well, with the number of vacant shops in York one of the lowest in the country at between nine and ten per cent, compared to the Yorkshire and Humber average of 17 per cent.

Partnership efforts across the city to improve the city’s sustainability are showing a real impact, with a 22 per cent reduction in the city’s CO2 emissions over the last three years, and Park & Ride usage increasing.

However, the council, like most other local authorities across the country, is continuing to operate within severe financial restraints.

The latest quarter update shows that the council is currently facing financial pressures of £3.5m, £0.8m less than estimated in the first quarter of the year. The figure is similar to that forecast in previous years, but follows one of the most challenging budget rounds in the council’s history, with over £21m saving having to be made in the 2011/12 budget.

Teams across the council are working hard to mitigate the pressures so that expenditure can be maintained within the agreed general fund budget of £123.9m for 2011/12. Actions include freezing existing vacancies, a moratorium on all but essential travel and on purchasing additional good and services.

The most significant financial pressure is within the social care sector, with increasing numbers of customers requiring Independent Residential and Nursing Care and a significant increase in the number of children in the care of the council (157 in 2006/07 to 250 currently in 2011/12). The number of children in local foster placements has also increased from 162 when the 2011/12 budget was set to 176 this quarter – pushing up the cost of providing the service by £226,000.

The council has a statutory duty to provide care and support for vulnerable adults and children and increasing numbers of customers requiring support puts a significant and unavoidable pressure of around £2m on the budget.

Other pressures include a reduction in income levels in key areas such and Building Control (£194,000) and Development Control (£100,000), which are lower than expected as a result of the recession, and delays in remodelling services and ways of working in areas such as fleet management.

Kersten England, chief executive of City of York Council, said:

“I’m pleased with the progress we continue to make in key areas such as education and the economy. However, we are continuing to operate within severe financial constraints.

“The last budget was one of the toughest in the council’s history, but we are committed to working within the budget parameters and we will be liasing with service providers to ensure that we can continue to provide high quality, value for money services on budget.

“The council’s finance teams will be working with Service Managers to ensure that savings are made within directorates to mitigate forecast over-spends in other areas. However, the financial pressures are set to continue for several years and tough decisions will need to be made in the future to ensure the council can continue to provide high quality services for the most vulnerable residents.”

Members of the council’s Cabinet will consider the performance and finance report at their meeting on 1st November.

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