Finance, management and governance

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Finance, management and governance

Council Budget and Finances

Over the last 10 years austerity has meant that council funding has reduced by more than 40% whilst at the same time the demand for services, particularly for social care, has increased. The impact of Covid and the current cost of living crisis has made this even more challenging with inflation pushing up the costs of energy, materials, supplies and and staff.

The council now gets no core Government funding and has to rely on council tax, business rates, fees and charges and sporadic Government funding streams. Historically York has inherited one of the lowest levels of core spending per head in the country (in 2021/22 £706 per head as against £1,305 per head in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea). If York were to receive even the average amount of spend per head that would mean an extra £16m in the budget each year.

Without extra funding, savings have to be made in some areas in order to meet increased needs in others. We have argued for an approach that protects the most vulnerable and in need of support, whilst also taking difficult decisions to change and improve how services are delivered to be more effective for everyone in the longer term.

The 2023/24 council budget set this February protects Children’s Services and Adult Social Care with a net additional £5m of spending; saves £5.5m in some areas whilst increasing the overall council wide annual spend by £19m to meet the need for increased services. It protects existing budgets to tackle climate change including the creation of York’s new woodland, invests in the energy efficiency of our council homes and in decarbonising York’s homes and businesses through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

It includes additional direct investment of £1m in providing residents who are struggling with additional financial support with the cost of living; an additional budget for ward councillors to use to improve local communities; more investment in tackling Anti-Social Behaviour and funding specialist Youth Workers; additional investment in mental health and substance mis-use services; and funding to incentivise the use of public transport and maintain the local bus network and the winter gritting of cycle and pedestrian routes.

It also supports a programme of capital projects worth around £480m over 5 years (including investment in new affordable homes, progressing York Central and the Castle Gateway; road and pavement maintenance, flood defences, EV fleet replacement; improvements to school buildings; cycling and walking infrastructure; major repairs and refurbishment of council homes and adaptations to council and private homes to enable people to stay living independently.

This has still left the average York council tax bill over £100 cheaper for residents each year compared to the national average.

We will:

  • Continue to use the Council revenue budget as effectively as possible to support the provision of the basic day to day services used by everyone.
  • Budget as effectively as possible to maintain essential services whilst also investing for the longer term well being of the city.
  • Use capital budgets to the maximum possible (within budget limitations) to invest in the state of our roads, cycle paths and pavements and related infrastructure.
  • Ensure that there is a sound business case for all capital projects and that they fit with wider council strategies, particularly the climate strategy.
  • Work creatively with city partners to maximise the use of available funding, seek further external funding and progress innovative funding schemes such as local bonds, community share issues and shared benefits models.
  • Ensure the council’s own financial investments are ethical and aligned with key council priorities including climate change and tackling poverty.
  • Argue for the North Yorkshire Pension Scheme to continue transferring its investments into environmentally and socially useful portfolios.

Council staff

We will:

  • Ensure that staff get all the training and support they need to manage online and hybrid working and the increased need for services from the public in the aftermath of Covid and the cost of living crisis.
  • Prioritise support for mental health and well being of staff.
  • Ensure all staff are aware and proud of that they work for One Council with no boundaries or silos between departments.
  • Encourage a culture of openness, good communications and problem solving throughout the council.
  • Ensure that all staff are trained to understand and apply to their work key corporate priorities including carbon literacy, equalities and human rights.

York residents

  • Review interaction between residents and staff to ensure that whilst technology is used to best effect for efficiency, there is always an option for a conversation with a person face to face when that is needed.
  • We will share information with the public clearly, accurately and honestly on what the Council is doing, ensuring there is clarity about what the council can and cannot do. We will review council procedures and practices to ensure that there is a presumption in favour of sharing information unless there are strong arguments not to do so.

Governance

We will:

  • Take forward the commitment made by Full Council in July 2022, following a motion from Green councillors, to investigate alternative forms of governance such as the ‘committee system’. The committee system means all major decisions are taken by cross-party committees meeting in public, with all elected councillors taking part in decision-making, rather than just a small ‘Executive’ (9 out of 47). The motion included a commitment to set up a cross-party working group, which was instigated but is still waiting for all parties to participate. We will ensure this is progressed.
  • Consider the options and consult with residents on the introduction of urban parishes for the central wards that currently have no parish council. This grassroots level of democracy and public participation can be a huge support to local communities, particularly at this very difficult time.
  • Work on these measures in the context of devolution and the new Combined Mayoral Authority, ensuring that York’s voice is always heard very clearly, standing up for York residents whilst making the most of opportunities offered by the new Authority.

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