We'll find out today if council tax is set to go up in York. The Labour-run council wants to put the tax up by 2-percent or 38-pence a week to help pay for rising elderly care costs. 20-million pounds has to be saved from the city's budget over two years.
The Council plans to increase council tax by 1.9% from April, car parking charges will also be increasing by 10p for non-residents and 20p for York Residents' Permit Holders. The city council says it would be the first increase in residents' charges in eight years.
The city council must find £62m in savings over the course of the current parliament, including £20m in the next two years.
Parks will be left open after hours and the York toy libraries will be closed.
The council says although no libraries will be closed, their hours, lending and locations will be reviewed.
Other methods of keeping services going will be used, which could see roads responsibilities shared with neighbouring councils like North Yorkshire County Council. Volunteers could also be brought in to help run services. Privatisation of some services was also not ruled out.
240 council jobs will be lost over the next two years although it's hoped most will be lost through voluntary redundancy, compulsory redundancies could not be ruled out.
There will be a £6 million boost to elderly care in the city, part of which will be paid for out of the 2% or 38p a week council tax increase. The council admits the money will only enable the authority to keep up with rising demand. It adds the city council did consider only providing help for critical care needs but this was rejected.
Other plans of £1.3 million of cuts which were rejected included closing swimming pools, children's centres and libraries and axing school crossing patrols.
But those services highly valued by residents will continue, said Council Leader James Alexander:
“Every year it becomes more and more difficult to save those services being put in jeopardy by the Government’s cuts programme. But over the next two years there will be no Children’s Centre closures and no swimming pool closures.
“That we have been able to protect Children’s Centres is all the more remarkable given the Government has effectively reduced the Early Years Intervention Grant.
“But while we disagree strongly with the Government over the severity of the cuts, we are not letting this get in the way of protecting services. Working with the Cabinet Office, we are exploring different ways of delivering the library service that will ensure the service remains available to residents in the future.
“The public understands that local government has been targeted more than other parts of the public sector so we need to be responsive to their priorities, at a time when some services simply cannot continue.
“Our budget proposals show that we are being responsive, and will protect the most vulnerable through the planned council increase of 1.9% (average 38p per week) being dedicated solely to investment in adult social care, at the same time as continuing to bring jobs and investment from the private sector to York”.
The opposition Lib Dems on York Council are calling for a council tax freeze, more money to fix potholes and libraries kept under council control.
The Lib Dems are proposing to:
- Cut waste and borrowing
- Reinstating the salt bins and litter bins which were removed last year.
- Make sure the outer areas get equal treatment in funding.
- Accept council tax freeze grant.
- Boost road repairs budget so potholes are fixed paid for partly by stopping expansion of 20 mph zones.
- Keep libraries under city council control by putting more services into them. No closures.
- Ditch arts barge.
- Not put as much money into reserves.
- Eligibility for elderly care to be at "moderate" with an expansion in telecare to help contain costs.
Conservatives in York have also unveiled their plans for the city's budget. Council tax wouldn't go up as the party would accept the government's council tax freeze. There would also be no new 20mph zones, with the money saved spent on filling in potholes on the city's roads. Parking charges would not increase and there would also be no change in garden waste collections. Parks in the city would continue to be locked at night as plans to keep them open would be cancelled.
The full list of proposals is below:
- £1.4 million from Digital Media Centre moved to Guildhall to ensure continued effective use after council HQ move
- £1 million a year for next four years for road maintenance. First two years paid for by £850,000 from Economic Infrastructure Fund and further £150,000 from Local Transport Fund for 20 mph zones.
- No further 20mph zones and money saved to be spent on potholes.
- Newgate Market and Re-Invigorate York schemes delayed for a year and then funded by Economic Infrastructure Fund.
- Cut cabinet posts by three posts to save £44,000
- Cut union facility time by £50,000
- Move uncommitted budget to Delivery and Innovation Fund to save £737,000
- Remove commitment to fund Innovation and Capital Programme to save £165,000
- Reinstate £66,000 for park attendants to keep parks locked overnight
- Keep Towthorpe Tip hours the same as the moment
- Ditch plans to charge for the emptying of green waste collections at a cost of £220,000
- Ditch plans to increase parking charges for residents and visitors at a cost of £175,000
- Accept council tax freeze grant