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Controversy over the council budget in York


3:28pm 16th January 2012

Concerns of the York Lib Dems

Residents will be prevented from receiving information about the Council's budget at the next round of Ward Committees it has been revealed, after the Cabinet decided not to allow any discussion of the budget outside their set consultation framework.

Heworth Without's Liberal Democrat Councillor, Nigel Ayre had requested that Council Officers attend the next Ward Committee meeting to provide information for residents ahead of the budget Council meeting, but was told the Council wasn't willing to discuss the budget at the meetings until after decisions had been made.

Councillor Ayre raised the issue with Council Leader James Alexander who told Councillor Ayre that the he wasn't prepared to allow Council Officers to attend the Ward Committee as the meeting wasn't included in the Cabinet's agreed budget consultation process.

Councillor Ayre said:

"The upcoming Council budget is the most pressing issue for local people at the moment and at the last Ward Committee meeting residents asked if the budget could be included on the agenda for the next meeting. Residents simply wanted the opportunity to ask some basic questions and get an overview of the financial situation that the Council is facing."

"Unfortunately the Cabinet seem to have decided that resident shouldn't be allowed to discuss the budget unless they are willing to commit to attending a meeting of the Fairness Commission or make a trip into the city centre to discuss the budget with the Cabinet. Many residents are elderly or have mobility problems and such trips just aren't feasible. That the Cabinet want to exclude these residents is quite disgraceful."

"This year Labour decided not to hold a citywide budget consultation so refusing to allow discussion at Ward Committees will really limit the ability of residents to find out about the current situation."

Councillor Ayre said he was concerned about the attitude of the Cabinet towards consultation with residents.

He said:

"It seems that the Cabinet are being much more selective about how they allow residents to engage with the Council."

"After the Union Terrace debacle where the Cabinet attempted to ignore the views of 22,000 people, they now seem to want consultation to be much more limited and tightly managed so residents can only discuss important issues in ways that the Cabinet have approved."

"The Cabinet need to remember that they are deciding how to spend local people's money. They shouldn't be preventing anyone from asking questions about how they plan to do that."

Response from York's Labour Party

Labour Leader of City of York Council, Coun. James Alexander, said:

"Now in opposition, Coun. Ayre is advocating changes to the budget process that have never been in place before.  Ward Committees were never previously the forums to debate the budget in detail, and the council can ill-afford introducing this when its budget is being cut massively by the Government.
"For the first time we have held a face-to-face, public budget consultation event where over 70 people attended.  The independent Fairness Commission held numerous meetings to discuss the budget with groups and individuals before making its recommendations.  Residents can also always contact their ward councillors and Cabinet Members, including myself, on any budget proposal.
"I fail to see why Coun. Ayre wants this when he says he wouldn't feed residents' comments into the budget process anyway.  His stance is simply to grandstand in opposition to the Labour-run council, rather than preparing an alternative budget to set out a Liberal Democrat vision.  The reason for that is because there isn't one".

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