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Howard and Byrne Solicitors, York - Criminal Defence Specialists

Fairness in York

York Fairness Commission

5:35pm 28th November 2011

The York Fairness Commission has recommended ten 'Fairness Principles' to City of York Council to help guide decision making both in terms of overall budget setting and in making choices on priorities for spend.

The principles are based on the concept that a more equal society is better for everyone and that given the financial challenges we face we can do one of two things :

1) Let events take their course (the budget cuts will happen anyway) in the full knowledge that the people paying the highest price will be those who can least afford it.

2) We can work to ensure that the burden is fairer for the benefit of us all.

The Commissions recommendations attempt to share the burden by protecting the most vulnerable whilst asking a little more of the better off. In this way we can try to counter the otherwise inevitable consequence of the budget cuts, which would lead to an increase in the gap between the least and the most well off.

The Commission's initial recommendations will be unveiled to senior councillors and city partners at a launch event this evening (28th November).

The ten fairness principles are:

1. Make reducing inequalities a prime focus in policy/decisions.
2. Support & empower the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.
3. Adopt a long-term view.
4. Listen and Engage.
5. Find ways to generate new income.
6. Base budget decisions on evidence, values and needs.
7. Take account of wider factors that affect inequalities in York.
8. Target investments and services geographically.
9. Growth for people, not for its own sake.
10. A 'best in class' council.

The independent Fairness Commission was set up in July, to advise the council how to tackle poverty and injustice in all their forms.

The Commission's challenge was to prepare a report which would help inform City of York Council about local priorities and needs, ahead of the council's budget setting process for 2012-2014.

This interim report will be supplemented by another section in the final report dealing with fairness in the community more widely. It's seen as once in a generation opportunity to tackle some of the social evils that devastate and debilitate our communities, recognising that a more equal society is better for everyone.

The Commission has created a three-pronged vision to ensure the well-being of each person in the community; to provide access to services and support; and to make the provision of work a priority.

The Commission's report makes 30 recommendations on how fairness can be improved; some are specific actions and others are broader policy themes.

The Commissioners have also outlined where they believe savings could be made to enable the investment that needs to be made in certain key policy areas. Recommendations include:

  • Putting benefit advisors where they are most easily accessible to users.
  • Make training and employment opportunities for young people a priority and radically expand the number of apprenticeships on offer.
  • Extend the 'YoZone' card for discounted bus fares up to the age of 18 and explore other ways to reduce transport costs for young people.
  • Make public transport concessionary fares for disabled people apply all day.
  • Explore the reasons behind and take action to combat the gap in educational attainment between pupils from lower income households and others.
  • Collaborate with the voluntary sector to make the best possible use of the skills of older people and young people as volunteers. " Routinely involve disabled people in the design of services and facilities.
  • Act upon research into the reasons for health inequalities in York.
  • Work together with and support the voluntary sector more closely and extensively.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, sponsor of the Commission, said:

"We came to the Fairness Commission with open minds, looking forward to listening not only to our expert Commissioners, but also to hearing the views of the people of York.

"What a discussion we have had: passionate, eloquent and creative with so many different voices joining in along the way. We would like to thank each and every one of the people who have contributed to this report; those who spoke at the public meetings, those who wrote to us or emailed, and those who gave us a call. The insight you have given has been invaluable.

"Unenviable choices need to be made and we do not claim to have all the answers. However, we hope that the ten Fairness Principles we have set out will help inform this difficult process.

"You can judge how healthy a society is by how it treats the most vulnerable people. For the Commission 'fairness' is about increasing equality of opportunity and income and making sure that available resources are focussed on reducing inequality.

"York, in all its beauty and strength, should reflect the very best standard of fairness. We hope that this report will be a significant step on the road to a fairer, more equal city."

The Commission's recommendations will now be considered by the council as part of its ongoing 2012-14 budget process.

The Commission will begin a second round of consultation and engagement in early 2012 before producing a final report in spring 2012 looking at how the city as a whole can become a fairer place.

Responding to the Commission's initial recommendations, Councillor James Alexander, Labour Leader of City of York Council, said:

"I would like to thank the Archbishop and the members of the Fairness Commission for their hard work, dedication and enthusiasm, without which our aim to create an independent commission would not have been realised.

"We will consider the report and its recommendations carefully and will look at where it will be feasible for us to implement the Commission's suggestions as we strive to make York a fairer city for all."

A copy of the York Fairness Commission's report and details of all the recommendations are available on www.yorkfairnesscommission.org.uk

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