Notes Council Meeting 12th January 2006 : 12 January 2006

ON SETTING UP A PARTNERSHIP WITH HAMBLETON IN REGARD TO REVENUES AND HOUSING BENEFIT

I oppose the proposed partnership for the following reasons:

• Mergers of this kind are a move towards the Government’s creeping regionalisation agenda.

• It will make decision making on two vital local services more remote from local people.

• It makes no business sense. The set up costs are colossal. I cannot say what these cost are because they are confidential, but P&R members do know what they are. Most of these costs will come out of Government grant, and that government grant is public money. It is complete waste.



THE BUDGET

This is an excellent report. It presents the figures very clearly. What is important are the figures which are not included in the report, but which have been before both the P&R Committee and also the Capital Working Party.

• The Budget is based on the assumption that well over 750,000 will be transferred from Revenue to Reserves. I won’t go into details – I have already sent details to all members by e-mail.

• This money includes 471,000 interest on the Reserves

• 209,000 which is paid annually into a Repairs and Renewals Fund.

• 75,000 which is left from the 261,0000 surplus which appeared in the accounts in July.

The transfer of Revenue funds can be justified, if the reserves are too low – however, the Council’s reserves exceed its Revenue budget.

Or if the Council had debts – but Ryedale is debt free

Or, in order to replace money which has already been spent.

The trouble is that we were told in the Capital Working Party that last year there was a 270,000 underspend – and this year there will be a slippage of 1,183,000 – a net underspend of 710,000.

So there can be no point in using Revenue money to replace capital money from reserves which has not been spent. The Council is just building up its reserves at a time when it should be planning to reduce them.

There is a second issue which I have with this document, and that is with the list of revenue priorities set by officers on pp 358 and 359. As members know, I put in a bid of 171,000 for fair car parking fees in the Revenue Budget. The officers have labelled this bid as “car parking subsidy” and described it as "Cllr. Andrews Bid Contrary to Council Policy"

Now, perhaps can tell me how my bid can be called a subsidy. The Council’s car parks don’t lose money – they make a profit – and it is the Council’s car park fees which subsidise the Council’s Revenue budget and not the other way round. So a reduction in income from car park fees cannot be described as a “subsidy”.

How then is my bid “contrary to policy”? I have been told that the reason is because it is contrary to policy to argue for a lower fee next year than the one that is in force this year. I don't accept this. No charge levied by any Council (which is reviewable annually)is like the laws of the Medes and Persians - something that can never be changed - or only changed upwards.

My bid for fair ca r park fees has been "scored" ( on page 359) by giving it a mere 4 points for "affordable housing and jobs", and 2 points for "risk factor" and no other points (see pp.358-9 of this week's Council Agenda).

No points for environment, even though high charges can encourage people to drive further to do their shopping

No points for culture and leisure, when supporting local shops also means preserving the Conservation areas in local towns;

No points for transport – when car parking is a transportation issue;

By contrast there is a bid for beefing up the Council's Scrutiny bureaucracy by 44,000, which gets 8 points for "Affordable Housing and Jobs", 4 points for "Culture and Leisure", 4 points for "Young People", 4 points for "Environment", 4 points for "Transport", 6 points for "Access to Services", 5 points for "statutory requirement" and 6 points for "Risk Factor" (a total of 41 points against 6 for fair car park fees!).

Needless to say, the Scrutiny bid comes to the top of the list, whereas fair fees for car parking comes at the bottom - the joint equal lowest of the Council's priorities!

In other words, supporting local business (because that's what this is all about)ranks joint equal lowest on the Council's list of priorities

I can’t accept this nonsense. I shall vote against the budget.

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