Neighbourhood working and ward budgets
Hear more about the 2015/16 ward budget of £42,371 and how it can be used to meet local needs
The council has established a new finance model for the allocation of funds in each ward, with devolved power allowing for more detailed community involvement in the budgets and spending in their local area. The plan aims to empower local residents and tailor budgets to the needs of local residents. The new model encourages communities to create residents associations formed in streets etc.
There will be four meetings of the committee across the year:
· One formal meeting towards the start of the financial year where budgets will be outlined. (Although it is now late in the financial year, this meeting is that first formal meeting).
· The other three meetings can be in other formats, depending on the needs of the community and what the meeting is aiming to achieve.
Councillors Andy D’Agorne and Dave Taylor then outlined the different budgets that the ward will be working with:
General ward budget - £7,075 (annual)
· This budget may be spent in two ways: through grants which will be allocated via application forms outlining the benefit the spending and through the commissioning of private companies.
“Pride in York” budget - £9,434 (annual) .
· The budget aims to get local people involved and reduce the ward’s reliance on council services.
· Alongside the annual budget, there will be a one-off “Pride in York” fund - £15,249 which is a one-off allocation based on the current grounds maintenance spending. This money may be spent on providing grants to partners and investment in projects which will facilitate community groups taking on more work.
· Cllr Taylor described how this funding may be spent, with the example of a floral display on a roundabout where the ward may decide to ask a company to sponsor the floral display or invest in a more long-term solution with tubs and planters.
Community care fund - £3,538 (annual)
· This money is designated for the prevention or delay of people requiring access to formal care packages.
Highways programme - £11,792 (annual)
· CYC will conduct their annual city-wide assessment of highways and outline the priority levels of their funding – Cllr Taylor noted that this is expected to be received in November.
· This £11,792 funding will be available to the ward to complete work which is not to be carried out by the council programme. This can cover a range of highways infrastructure including; surfacing of roads and footpaths, street lighting etc.
· It is noted that CYC will still be responsible for the maintenance of major roads in the city, but will cut back on some other. The ward highway programme funding is there to fill the gaps left by the council.
Questions from residents:
One resident noted that we are well into this financial year and asks whether the one-off “Pride in York” funding will need to be spent before April.
· The councillors are aware of this issue, noting that there have been changes in the council due to elections this year. The new council has established this change in process which has caused some delays to the programme (including this initial meeting taking place in October, rather than the beginning of the financial year as stated).
· Residents are assured that this one-off funding can be carried over and spend over the next 18 months.
A resident recalled that in a previous meeting an example was used of the community care fund being allocated to pot holes and benches, as filling pot holes will reduce falls and benches can reduce loneliness.
· It was suggested that this was not the greatest example and this was used to highlight how the funding is not strictly restricted to the categories given and can be stretched to address specific needs of the community.
It was suggested that people in the local community are already doing far more work than litter picking, such as the work of the Friends of New Walk.
· The councillors recognise that this is not an ideal situation and they would not have chosen to do things this way. However, if local associations and residents groups do not take on more work then it simply won’t get done.
· Cllr Taylor recognised the work of Friends of New Walk in the community and was grateful for this. Other organisations like this will need to spring up and there is potential to support them with funding.
A local resident and member of the St. Lawrence’s Church council reminded the committee that St. Lawrence’s Church Hall, where this meeting was taking place, was not exclusively for church purposes and is available as a community resource. The hall is currently used for community activities such as a lunch club for elderly residents. However, work needs to be done on facilities, particularly the floor and kitchen, and funding is hard to come by. The resident questioned whether ward funding could be used to make improvements to the hall allowing it to become a more valuable community resource.
- The councillors were aware of the work done at the church; however, as the ward becomes reliant on community work councillors need to establish a greater understanding of the specific work that is being undertaken. Cllr Taylor thanked this resident for bringing this point to his attention and will meet with them after the meeting to discuss this in more detail.
A local resident noted that the area has a growing student population and there was a great need to involve these students in the local community.
It was questioned whether the committee will need to reach out to organisations such as the Red Cross and Age Concern.
· It was recognised that conversations are being had but this is new territory for councillors as well as residents. Work was being done with professionals in CYC and community groups to build up understanding and utilise this experience.
Looking at the community care fund, one resident raised concerns that people are not currently getting the care that they need, particularly when they have no family and their neighbours are also elderly. A particular example was given of an elderly resident was found on the floor after 15 hours and subsequently died. Alarms are noted as a possible solution, although there are also concerns that the community care fund is too small.
· The councillors are happy to look at help with care but need to know what currently exists.
· Another resident notes that alarms are available to people and CYC should be contacted for this.
A resident suggested one informal way of improving loneliness in the ward is street parties. The resident noted the success of their street parties and sees this as an informal way for people to get to know one another and gage the needs of their local area. Citing issues in holding street parties, street party packs are suggested.
· While it was recognised that the basic idea has merit, it is noted that some people, particularly the elderly with the greatest needs, would be unable to engage which would be problematic for this idea.
A grounds maintenance list was distributed to residents. This list, produced by CYC, colour-codes maintenance work that is done with two categories:
· Red - work which requires technical expertise which the council could not expect local people to undertake.
· Green – tasks which could be carried out by the local community.
· Cllr Taylor noted that even if they residents undertake all the work highlighted in green, it still doesn’t amount to the total of cuts, meaning some of the red tasks will still have to be left.
CYC sees this process as making funding a more open but will require residents to think outside the box and provide ideas about how projects could be completed in different and cheaper ways.
One resident saw no mention of Heslington Road and while there is mention of litter elsewhere on this list, there is no mention on Heslington Road, which the resident saw as a major issue.
· The councillors were aware of this issue and were picking litter yesterday. Cllr Taylor and Andy D’Agorne have asked Russell Stone (General Manager of Public Realm for CYC) for more information about the way that this list has been created. It was also noted that the references to litter picking in this list concern that in hedges and shrubbery, rather than on the pathways.
A resident brought the meeting’s attention to the retreat bowling green which accounted for around one quarter of the current budget. Residents questioned whether this bowling green is a community resource and whether the retreat should take responsibility for this.
· The panel notes that this is a public community resource and has been since the bowling green was removed from the Barbican Centre.
· Russell Stone has advised Andy D’Agorne and Cllr Taylor that CYC will be taking a city wide review next year and the maintenance of the retreat bowling green has been identified for cuts but it is not yet clear if this will be included in the ward’s list to make savings from – more information is being sought.
It was asked if the grounds maintenance list will be distributed to the email list but the councillors have concerns that more information needs to be provided, such as how regularly activities are done.
Residents questioned money spent from the ward’s budget on St. George’s car park as it is used by people from outside the area rather than residents. People pay to use the car park so surely some money is allocated for keeping it in good order?
· Cllr Taylor suggests that this would lead to questioning the way CYC runs finance. Money is raised by car parks but this is used to fund traffic highways infrastructure. It is also stated that the work done concerns hedges along the boundary, meaning it is part of the ward’s budget.
Items on the green list are spread all over the ward – if no local group picks up item, what will happen?
· We can ask council for it to become part of the red list.
· Task will simply not be done.
· Committee could decide that funding come from the annual fund, but this cost would have to be accounted for every year.
· Ultimately, if it costs a lot the committee needs to see if it can be done in a cheaper way or with a mix of funding. However, Andy D’Agorne aware of this unsustainable scenario and suggests that maintenance spending will have to increase in the long run if day-to-day maintenance is not done and more serious problems arise.
Another large sum identified on this list was the clearing and breaking of leaves. It is suggested that money could be spent on a leaf blower and a building a composting site. It will be a lot of work but there is money to be spent to facilitate this work.
· A resident suggested that if it is everyone’s job it is nobody’s job and things will not get done or chances are it wont be done well. Concerns were raised about the potential loss of jobs but there was a suggestion that people from Brunswick could be employed to do these jobs – funds could be too small for this.
What do we need to do now?
· Explore direction of travel, taking the sheet home and talking to neighbours as more people need to be involved.
· Think about new solutions and contact Cllrs D’Agorne and Taylor with any suggestions.