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York's bleak future


5:47pm 22nd February 2012
(Updated 5:53pm 22nd February 2012)


Liberal Democrat Councillors have announced their plans to amend the ruling Labour Cabinet’s budget plans at the Budget council Meeting on Thursday 23rd Feb.

The plans would see over £2m of the cuts Labour have planned for frontline services reversed, paid for by cutting the Labour leader’s planned £1m ‘Delivery and Innovation Fund’ and reducing council borrowing.

Just some of the plans included in the Liberal Democrat Amendment are:

-       Reversing Labour’s planned cuts to voluntary sector organisations (including York CVS and the Salvation Army)

-       Reversing Labour’s £50,000 cuts to Youth Services

-       Cutting the planned £1m ‘Delivery and Innovation’ fund

-       Introducing living wage of £6.83ph for council workers

-       Freezing council tax

-       Reversing £895k of road maintenance cuts

-       Reducing borrowing by £1.5m this year (which saves £135k in interest payments this year alone)

-       Reversing local Ward Committee funding cuts

-       Cutting two cabinet members

-       Reversing cuts to the target hardening fund to combats anti-social behaviour

-       Keeping Beckfield Lane Recycling Centre open

Councillor Carol Runciman, who is proposing the amendment, said:

“Our amendment would make the proposed budget fairer for York’s residents, in particular the most vulnerable.”

“We think that local council services are more important that a fund for the Council Leader to spend at will. That’s why we are planning to cut the ‘Delivery and Innovation’ fund and put the £1m back into frontline services for residents. Our plans would see funding restored for projects that benefit residents all over the city.”

She added: “I very much hope that backing from all parties can be found for reversing cuts to vital services and support for the most vulnerable in our city.”

Labour's take on the announcements

Opposition Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green Groups have published their alternative council budget plans just 24 hours before City of York Council meets to approve a two year budget for 2012-14.

All opposition parties have opted for a one year budget in order to hide the implications of this year’s proposals on council taxpayers for next year’s budget.

The implications of the Tory and Lib Dem budgets are that accepting the Government’s ‘buy now pay later’ council tax option means further cuts or increased council tax rises next year, something that is not a good deal for York council taxpayers, says Labour Leader of City of York Council, Coun. James Alexander:

“Conservative and Liberal Democrat budget proposals, published just 24 hours before we discuss them, show they want to propose additional cuts to those already imposed by their Government on York.

“Their proposals would mean millions more in further cuts next year or massive council tax increases. Labour has been open about our budget plans by proposing a responsible two year budget. The other parties are advocating only a one year budget to hide the implications of their budget proposals on the council taxpayer.

“Council finance officers have confirmed the implications of the Conservative budget proposal would mean a further £1.8m of cuts next year or a council tax rise of 4.6 per cent. The Liberal Democrat proposal would mean £2.9m of further cuts next year or a council tax increase of 6.1 per cent.

“Conservative and Liberal Democrat plans to scrap the Economic Infrastructure Fund (EIF) would see no improved bus services, no increased highways infrastructure investment, no city centre wi-fi, no new intervention projects to reduce child poverty, no improved business support, no inward investment, no city centre regeneration and no public realm improvements. Conservative and Liberal Democrats are locally falling into the same trap as their colleagues in Westminster; cuts without economic growth.”

The Green proposal would see the need for a further £1m of cuts next year or an increase of 3.5 per cent in council tax.

Greens budget plans unveiled

York’s Green Party budget proposal involves scrapping the Labour leader’s proposed £1m ‘Delivery and Innovation Fund’ in order to reduce the severity of the cuts to the most vulnerable in York.

The Green amendment would reverse the cuts to voluntary sector organisations such as The Salvation Army and Future Prospects, as well as planned cuts to neighbourhood working, youth work and ‘smarter york’ budgets for dealing with the effects of anti social behaviour.

Greens say that the proposed new fund is ill timed and undemocratic, being available as a personal ‘Leaders’ pot’ for use on unspecified projects up to £100,000 without public accountability.

Green Group leader Andy D’Agorne said:

"Government cuts are going to really hit the vulnerable in York in spite of the efforts of the Labour administration. Labour are pushing ahead with the ongoing privatisation of care services for the elderly as one of the main ways to save money”

Cllr D’Agorne says this move will drive down staff wages and morale and reduce the quality of service for the city’s most vulnerable who depend on council services.

“Labour should be working more with staff unions, voluntary and community organisations to create new ways of delivering these services rather than privatising care services and axing most of the council’s neighbourhood work” said Andy

The Greens are also critical of Labour slashing budgets for whole departments without publishing the staffing and service plans that arise out of those cuts.

“Plans to restructure the team responsible for tackling grafitti and work in neighbourhoods were due to be published in October, but now will not be made public until after the staffing budget for the work is due to be halved in the council budget.

This is undemocratic and presents the city with a ‘fait a compli’ with the local environment being the main casualty.

These cuts will greatly increase fear of crime, anti-social behaviour and problems for the elderly who are still living in their own homes.”   said Cllr D’Agorne.

Ward budgets that have been spent on services for the elderly, summer activities for young people and volunteer clean up campaigns will also be axed if the Green amendment is not accepted at full council.

“Ward budgets have already been halved in the eight years I have been a councillor and now Labour plan to slash what is left by a third overnight, reducing them to an amount that will barely cover a handful of schemes.”

The Greens are also opposed to the plan to cut money spent on prosecuting shopkeepers selling alcohol to under-age drinkers and plans to spend £200,000 as a contribution towards a ‘closed circuit cycle track’ at the University. “This budget proposes further cuts to funds for cycle training that help young people stay safe on our roads, yet Labour can afford to waste money on an off road facility for sports enthusiasts who will mostly drive out to the centre” said Andy

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