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York Council Tax Set To Rise Again

York Council 010513

1:22pm 3rd February 2014

York Council has announced plans to put up the council tax by 1.9% or £19.24 a year this coming year.

The city council says it is facing a budget gap of £10.7 million this year, rising to £12.7 million in 2015/16.

Council leader James Alexander said:

"Our council tax is still one of the lowest in Yorkshire and this rise is below inflation."

"Our opponents will doubtless once again tell us that we should accept the government’s council tax con – even though it would mean additional cuts of about £560,000 next year."

"They will say that the government has performed a u-turn and put some of the previous freeze grant money into the council’s grant. Even if that policy meant anything when the central grants are being cut again and again, the cumulative effected of their proposals, year after year, would have meant £3.2 million of additional cuts this year."

"The average council tax rise has been lower under this administration than it was under the previous eight budgets approved by the Liberal Democrats, four of which were passed with Conservative backing."

It's blaming the government and rising costs of caring for the elderly for the tax rise. York gets the 9th lowest government funding per head in the country. That's as the council is expected to spend half it's budget on caring for the elderly by 2019/20. The council adds that York has the 9th lowest band D council tax and the 2nd lowest spend per head of population of any unitary council in England

The council says it will save £295,000 next year through further consolidation at West Offices and £125,000 by getting better value from taxi contracts for home to school transport. It will also cut the amount of taxpayer help for the Yorkshire Museums Trust and the Theatre Royal.

But £4.1 million more will be spent on roads and footpaths and the council says the £600,000 raised from the Lendal Bridge trial will also be spent on transport but has not provided any further details. £40,000 will be spent to repair the War Memorial in the Museum Gardens and £200,000 to provide a new building at Huntington School.

A £5.5 million restructuring of the way services are delivered will see more services provided by local people and charities rather than the council.

Kersten England, Chief Executive of City of York Council said: “By 2016 we will have delivered savings of £74million since 2010/11 and by 2019/20 adult care costs are expected to account for 50 per cent of the council’s net budget. The impact of these cumulative cuts and cost pressures cannot be underestimated. We’ve worked to protect front line services for as long as possible for residents and, by comparison with other authorities, we have managed to maintain most of the services we provide through efficiencies and back office and management reductions. However, we – and all of local government – are now facing our biggest challenge yet when it comes to deciding whether we can continue to deliver certain services and, if we do, how we deliver them. Whilst we have worked hard to mitigate the impact of redundancies and we will continue to do so, the budget proposals could also result in the reduction of around 120 FTE council posts in 2014/15 with a similar number of posts are likely to be affected in 2015/16.”

Cllr Dafydd Williams, Cabinet member for Finance, Performance and Customer Services said: “Like all local authorities we are operating against an incredibly tough financial backdrop, balancing unavoidable pressures on council resources such as increases in the number of customers requiring the council’s support as a result of the city’s ageing population; in dealing with increasing landfill tax requirements, fuel and energy costs; and in the impacts of high inflation on external contracts.

“The services the council provides must be cost effective, efficient, good quality and address residents’ needs at a time when every pound spent must deliver real value. At the same time we’re working to achieve a fair and financially inclusive city free of poverty, particularly in light of the effects of the welfare reforms being implemented at a national level, and have again invested in our Financial Assistance Scheme to support our most vulnerable residents and maintained our Living Wage status for 2014/15”.

Cllr James Alexander, Leader of City of York Council said: “We want to see all residents benefitting from well paid jobs, good incomes, quality housing and varied leisure opportunities and have been working hard to provide the right environment for businesses to thrive and grow, so that they might increase the supply of jobs in the city. The combination of increasing costs and further cuts to our funding means harder decisions need to be made over which services to keep and which will have to be scaled back, stopped or delivered in a different way - by communities themselves, by businesses, or social enterprises and charities. I have initiated a new programme of work to engage with residents rewiring how the council delivers its services, alongside partners and residents, to continue to keep the city and its communities working well and delivering what our residents need.

“We continue to be committed to protecting our most vulnerable residents, which means ensuring that funding is prioritised for adult social care and children's services. Given the rising demand and costs for these services in York and in order to support these commitments, we are proposing to increase Council Tax by 1.9 per cent - that’s an average of 37 pence per person, per week. In 2014/15 this will pay for approximately half the adult care cost increases we will see. If we were to take the council tax freeze grant being offered again by Government, we would need to find another £560,000 of savings in 2014/15 alone. We are intent on protecting front line services for our residents, having to find these further savings will make doing this all the more difficult”.

The council's cabinet will discuss the plans on the 11th February before taking them to the whole council later this month.

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