Will the council's budget proposals be fair?
11:30am 15th February 2012
The Independent York Fairness Commission has welcomed City of York Council's detailed consideration and prompt response to their Interim Report recommendations published in November 2011.
Many of the Independent Fairness Commission's recommendations were incorporated in the Cabinet's budget proposals for 2012/14, which are protecting services for vulnerable people. Cabinet also approved a detailed response to each recommendation showing how the council will take forward the Commission's suggestions.
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.
"Today, I welcome City of York Council's prompt and detailed consideration of the Commission's findings.
"Fairness and equality of provision and expectation cannot be achieved without a shift in culture and consciousness for everyone, rich and poor alike.
"There are some difficult decisions and choices to be made and much work to be done to ensure that those decisions make the difference.
"It is a challenge which I know the council and the people of this city can meet with determination and spirit".
The Commission's principles are based on the concept that a more equal society is better for everyone and its budget recommendations to the council attempt to share the burden by protecting the most vulnerable whilst asking a little more of the better off.
The independent Commission was particularly pleased to see that the council is giving serious consideration to implementing the Living Wage for employees.
Commissioner Richard Wilkinson, co-author of The Spirit level, said:
"By paying all its adult employees the 'living wage' - £7.20 instead of the minimum wage of £6.08 - City of York Council would be leading by example and helping to reduce the number of families which are in poverty despite working.
"It is crucially important that this example is taken up throughout the public and private sectors.
"If the UK is to become a better place to live, a more cohesive society with stronger community life, it must reduce the scale of income differences.
"Research shows that more equal countries suffer less crime and violence, and standards of child get a better start in life."
The Commissioners also welcomed the council's emphasis on inclusion in its plans to invest more in creating jobs and growing the York economy, which was highlighted in the Commission's recommendations.
"It is very pleasing to see that the council has been able to take on many of our recommendations and respond to the good ideas that we heard direct from people in York" said Ruth Redfern Chair of the Commission. "The many young people who talked to us will be delighted to see that the council is acting on their suggestions and plans to work closely with the Youth Council to develop ways to implement them."
The council's response to the Commission's recommendations will be considered and debated at the Full Council meeting on Thursday 23rd February.
Meanwhile, the Independent Fairness Commission also suggested a proposed tourist tax in York.
In response Councillor Leader James Alexander said:
"The council does not currently have any powers whatsoever to introduce a bed tax, although giving councils this power is being considered by the Government.
"Until such a time when the Government makes a decision, the issue is academic.
"I have repeatedly made this point to the hoteliers association, Visit York and the media who contacted me. I also made this clear at the full council meeting held on 8th December and the cabinet meeting held on 14th February.
"We would need to know the full impact before such a decision is made, if we were even given the powers to proceed.
"We are interested in developing revenue streams to help increase funding to organisations such as Visit York that help grow the tourism sector, but not at the expense of visitors numbers.
"I believe there is more the government can do to help the hotel and guest house trade in York.
"For this reason I have written to the Chancellor asking him to consider a temporary reduction in VAT on such stays in the forthcoming Government budget."
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