York Green Party

Council cuts residents' say on local schemes

2 March 2012

York Green Party says that Labour's plans for neighbourhood working in York are more bureaucratic, despite the axing of seven staff in the unit responsible for the work programme.

"Reducing Ward Committee Meetings to just one formal meeting per year and removing most local discretion over the paltry ward budget remaining will undermine any real involvement of local residents in what happens in their communities," said Fishergate Green Party Councillor Andy D'Agorne.

In a paper for Cabinet on 6 March, Charlie Croft, Assistant Director for Communities and Culture, proposes that Ward Budgets, to be slashed by a third in the coming year, will be divided into four elements, leaving only £75,000 shared between 18 ward committees to be allocated by councillors to local community groups.

Green Party Councillor Dave Taylor said, "We're seeking more detailed explanation, but on this basis a ward the size of Fishergate would have only £3,200 available - not even enough to fund a single fortnight summer play scheme and a community fair event. It's tragic for local people, tragic for the Council staff who will lose their jobs, and tragic that a scheme that gained national acclaim and involved the public in decision-making should be jettisoned in this way."

The Greens welcome the idea of funding for city-wide voluntary and community groups being allocated centrally out of £130,000 allocated but are critical of the suggestion that this process should be managed by an external 'third sector organisation'.

Andy D'Agorne asks, "Why would an external organisation take on this work without any financial recompense, and how will the Council be sure that the money is being used effectively if it is not scrutinising what is being done with these funds?"

The Greens also suggest that whereas the money had previously been allocated fairly across the city with local people deciding on what it is spent on, the new system will be a 'postcode lottery' with the poorest wards getting priority for 'ward credits', which can only be spent on specific measures that meet a narrow range of criteria.

"We have heard the talk before of ward audits, profiles, community contracts and so on - it is all a smoke screen for cutting the money available and marginalising any community involvement in their own neighbourhoods - the council will decide what standard of service can be afforded and that will be it," said Cllr Andy D'Agorne.

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