Neighbourhood democracy under attack

York’s system of funding ward-based projects proposed for, and approved by, lcoal residents is under threat. The Council is planning deep cuts to ward budgets combined with a bureaucratic process for allocating far less money. Labour Councillor Linsay Cunningham-Cross defends it as ‘targetting’, but robbing Peter to pay Paul will simply create a postcode lottery for little impact.

For Fishergate ward, cutting funding from £20,000pa to £3,200pa will make the whole process of consulting residents on how to spend it meaningless (one or two projects for the area, provided a local group is willing to organise them). ‘Extras’ like summer sports sessions, repairs to fences or historic structures like Piking Well, replacement bins, stocking ‘ward’ grit bins on Danesmead and Maple Grove will all go.

Centralising citywide voluntary sector funding makes sense, but shifting responsibility for administration is a further hidden cut creating a conflict of interest if the organisation also applies for council funding. Using new media such as facebook is good, but should not replace council publications delivered to every household, giving ward news. One annual meeting is too infrequent to ensure councillors are held to account in public ward meetings. Residents, especially in wards with Labour councillors need to lobby them to oppose these changes.

Cllr Andy D’Agorne

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