Thank you Lord Mayor, I am pleased to second this Budget and put forward our proposals to stabilize the Council’s financial position, invest in the services which support the most vulnerable, and crucially, to work together with businesses, organisations and residents to create an exciting new normal, taking forward everything positive that we can in the recovery from the pandemic.
I would like to echo Cllr Aspden’s thanks to Council officers, at every level, over the past year in extraordinarily challenging times. I would also want to thank the considerable amount of hard work has been put in to develop these budget proposals.
It remains an incredibly challenging time for the city and everyone delivering council services. Despite the very welcome financial support that City of York council has been able to channel quickly to our businesses and residents, the Government has nevertheless put local authorities in an almost impossible position by failing to provide enough financial support to make up for the additional demand on services and reduced income.
As already highlighted, the council is facing an in-year budgetary pressure of £15 million, even with £7.9 million of savings identified in this budget. In these difficult circumstances, we believe it is the right thing to do to include the 3% social care precept and the maximum allowed council tax increase of 1.99%.
Despite these challenges, this budget maintains and protects vital services, particularly for the most vulnerable, with continued investment in hardship funds to assist those who are struggling most financially. The budget includes significant extra funding for Adult Social Care and Children’s Services and support for the community and voluntary sectors, whilst also looking to the future and the need to address the climate emergency.
We are also proposing to retain the Council’s £600m capital programme, which includes investment in York Central, the Castle Gateway, the new Guildhall complex and the Eco Business Centre, along with new electric waste vehicles, a new community woodland, and the council’s zero carbon Housing Delivery. It is these initiatives that will be crucial in driving regeneration post-pandemic by helping to create much needed new jobs.
It is also important to highlight that within this budget, a section of the £3.5 million Covid Recovery Fund has been proposed as a prudent and essential contingency fund to ensure that the Council is able to remain financially sustainable and respond to any future shocks or emergencies, including the pandemic, but also the impact of Brexit, and further recession. With everything that has happened over the past 12 months, it is important that we prepare for all contingencies in the crucial coming12 months.
I hope that everyone will appreciate this is a budget that has demanded a lot of difficult decisions, but also fresh thinking. The proposals before us are financially prudent, protect vital services and look to build on the priorities this administration has already committed to, from investing in and empowering our communities, to tackling the climate emergency. As you listen to the debate on the amendments, please note that 99% of our proposals are accepted by all parties, and even the Conservative group struggled to come up with ways to shave just half a percent off the council tax increase we are forced to make.
you can see the budget here