Greens propose increased funding for social care and city parks & cuts to ResPark fees
As with the Labour amendment we propose increasing the General Fund Council Tax by a further 1%. We have also taken the option of adding a further 1.5% via the Social Care Precept – the maximum amount allowed by the Government, to ‘front load’ this contribution for the next two years to an area of considerable budget pressure as acknowledged in the treasury report.
There’s a number of reasons why we have chosen to add this amount this year rather than next year. The pressure on adult social care services is enormous. The social care system is struggling with increasing demands and increasingly complex needs from a growing elderly population. At the same time, in the bizarre funding world created by this Government, whilst bits of extra social care funding are periodically announced by Government, huge cuts are also taking place with a target of £1.7m of savings from Health, Housing and Adult Social Care in this current budget [page 272]. This is coupled with the bringing together of Adult Social Care with health services and the financial risks set out in this paper inherent in the scale of local NHS financial deficits.
Our council is therefore looking at wholesale changes to the way that our social care system operates in future. As Greens we have always been very much in support of preventative health. Indeed many other measures in our budget are focussed on preventative health in the widest sense – from making the most of our parks and open spaces to improving air quality, tackling fuel poverty and promoting warmer homes, to better public transport and targeted support for those struggling financially.
There is, however, a major concern that attempting a transition to a new system based on more home-based and community-based care without sufficient financial cushion will mean individuals in need of high levels of care suffering during the transition.
Our amendment ensures that the maximum level of investment allowed by the Government goes into social care now when it can be most effective in supporting the transition and ensuring that individuals receive the levels of care that they need.
Our amendment follows this advice and invests nearly half a million pounds directly into the adult social care system to support the transition to the new operating model. It also invests £200,000 in extending the falls service pilot across much more of the city to give a free service in people’s homes, giving advice and carrying out physical alterations to prevent falls. [Janet will have said all this bit!] We have also reversed a substantial (£100,000) cut to so-called ‘small day services’ – services which provide a range of daytime social activities for older people and people with disabilities – surely a key part of a preventative health approach? And we’ve reversed a cut to running costs for council run sheltered housing with extra care. We should not be skimping on this cost effective alternative to nursing care.
These investments in social care would be in addition to the £800,000 extra social care spending already in the Executive Budget but funded out of general funds rather than the social care precept. Our amendment would cover much of this out of the additional social care precept, in preference to the administration approach of further paring to the bone of core services. In the current budget the Executive has chosen to take yet more funds away from our public transport health promotion work etc to fund the growing social care pressures.
SO overall, our proposal focus on 3 key principles: protecting older and disadvantaged citizens, parks as frontline services, and planning for the future
Protecting older and disadvantaged citizens:
- In addition to social care provision,
- We would put a further £100,000 into the Financial Assistance Fund along with creating a post to pro-actively promote this to residents in financial need. This fund provides emergency payments and assistance to some of most vulnerable residents who are struggling financially. At a time when this applies to more people than ever it is a scandal that in recent years take-up of the fund has been relatively low – it therefore seems a prudent and sensible measure to appoint an outreach worker at least on a trial basis to ensure that those most in need can access the fund.
- For similar reasons we believe there should be continued investment to support the excellent work of Citizens Advice York, particularly in relation to debt advice and we would also lower the cap on Council Tax support for our worst off citizens by 5% , enabling more people to benefit from Council Tax Support.
- We believe that access to the arts should be a basic right for everyone not middle class luxury – and have included funding to continue free admission for lower income citizens [£52k] to the city’s heritage which is managed on behalf of the council by York Museums Trust
Parks as frontline services:
- We are re-investing a total of £229,000 back into our parks service – to ensure that all parks are locked at night and to be bring back a number of full time gardeners and park rangers. The extent of the cuts to this key neighbourhood service has become counterproductive – damaging to the wellbeing of our local residents and embarrassing for the city. Volunteers can’t be expected to replace the continuity of service needed to maintain these valuable resources. Decent parks and play spaces can play a huge part in promoting physical and mental health for all age groups, promoting social interaction and helping to tackle loneliness but they can’t do this on a shoe string. Even our flagship Rowntree’s Park has flower beds, originally funded by a Heritage Lottery grant, now full of weeds. Residents clearly agree with this concern, placing parks high on their list of priorities in the budget consultation
- Planning for the future
- As a Council we should be planning for the future, both in terms of our finances and how we respond to other threats such as climate change.
- We would Include a new scheme to invest £2m, if necessary using compulsory purchase powers to secure the repair and reinstatement of long term void premises in key location funded by prudential borrowing;’
- Funding is a key concern for this city, and we propose a post which in time should more than pay for itself, with a professional funding officer post dedicated to supporting bids for external funding to support our priorities for a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive city.
- We would get to grips with lots of blocked drains and risks of surface water flooding by investing an additional £100k
- We would create the equivalent of a full-time post to tackle energy poverty and affordable warmth, with more officer time being available to ensure landlords and home owners take advantage of any finance available to reduce insulate homes and reduce heating costs with fuel efficient or renewable energy.
- We would reduce the cost of bulky waste collection so as to encourage responsible recycling or safe disposal of broken white goods and reduce the problems of fly tipping in our streets.
- We would get to grips with the air pollution on our city streets with a dedicated officer post, so that there is someone who can talk to fleet operators, developers, businesses, schools and the general public about actions we need to take to clean up the air we breathe in York.
- Air pollution links in closely with concerns about transport – we would reinvest £100k in subsidies for bus services so that for example residents would be able to get a bus rather than having to get a taxi to visit the Crematorium on a Sunday. We would like to see targeted campaigns not just to defend existing threatened bus services but also trials of more early morning and late night services where there currently a poor service or no service. Many people drive to work because there is no suitable bus service either to get them to work or to get home at the end of their shift. Subsidies can also be used to help pump prime different types of services to key places such as the hospital, city centre, Monks Cross and Clifton Moor.
- We would also redress the balance between car parking charges and the recently increased park and ride fares by adding a further 10p to city centre visitor parking charges and use the extra revenue to help to reduce the cost of respark permits to £90. We would also reinstate the 50% discount for band A-C cars that this administration scrapped last year. In the longer term we propose work on a radical overhaul of our respark system to share the cost savings of new technology investment with those residents covered by a permit scheme. Automatic Number Plate Recognition for enforcement combined with online payments could half the cost of a permit and create the situation where most residential streets in York are covered by permit parking. Our budget allocation would be for work on developing a business case and practical details for such a revolutionary change that would benefit all those except the people currently choosing to park and walk rather than park and ride.
Concluding comments on Council tax rise = 5.99%. This Government is removing all support via income tax from local government services. For this budget year practically all Council income comes from Council Tax and Business Rates – this isn’t a situation we support. We believe that as a country we should be funding our local services properly, to maintain our city centres and local neighbourhoods and to meet local needs. But this isn’t the case – and we have to plan ahead and do what we can to maintain local services.
York has the 7th lowest Band D council tax of all unitary authorities, significantly lower than, for example the neighbouring East Riding of Yorkshire – and the second lowest spend per head of all unitary authorities. [appendix 9 page 359].
We believe we need to gradually raise our Council Tax to closer to the average for comparable authorities, whilst protecting our least well off and most vulnerable residents, providing decent frontline services and planning longer term for 10 -20 year’s time.