York Green Party

Greens concerned for future of ward committees

13 February 2012

York's Green Party councillors have raised serious concerns about plans in the Council's budget proposals for the future of ward committees.

Green Group leader Andy D'Agorne said 'There are plans not only to severely cut ward committee budgets and street environment funding but also to cut back dramatically on the number of officers who put into practice the schemes local people have voted for. This is at a time when 'localism' and developing grass-roots partnerships with local people is at the top of the agenda. It seems odd to cut back disproportionately on this work. It's hard to comment in detail on Labour's plans since they have kept secret details of the proposed restructuring, which was due to be published last October.'

The proposal is for a 34% cut to the ward committee budgets from April this year and a massive 52% cut in staffing levels over two years, as well as a 62% cut to the 'target hardening' fund designed to deter anti-social behaviour and a reduction in street environment spending. * He continued 'When draconian cuts are being made across the Council ward committee spending is bound to be affected, but the extent of these cuts is misguided. The ward committee system with participative budgets was a pioneering initiative for which York has achieved national acclaim. Some other authorities are only now introducing such systems as a response to the cuts and the localism agenda.'

The Greens say they have no objection to a review of how this work is organised and supported as no doubt improvements could be made, but that councillors have been provided with no details as to how almost halving staffing levels will lead to an improved service. A paper on the planned re-organisation due to be published in October is now scheduled for publication in March, after the budget setting.

Cllr D'Agorne added, 'Despite repeated requests the Council have refused to provide the details of their plans for neighbourhood working prior to the Budget. The Fairness Commission recommended that ward committee spending should be redirected to areas of deprivation in the city, but from the limited information in the budget papers it appears the money is just being taken as a cut. In any case, we do not accept that deprivation is only located in certain parts of the city. In recent years ward committee budgets have been used to support valued local services for older people, young people and families, whilst targeting local community needs as a result of input from residents.'

Notes 1. The cuts to neighbourhood working are detailed in the budget papers at CANS03/13, CANS02, CANS06 (Smarter York budget) and CANS12 (target hardening fund). 2. The total budget for ward committee budgets this current year is £646,200 (figure supplied by NMU). The cut proposed is £220,000 in 2012/13 = £34%. The total operating costs of the Neighbourhood Management Unit this year is £526,350 - the bulk of this is staffing costs with an operating budget of only £37,000 (figures supplied by NMU). The cut proposed is £181,000 in 2012/13 and £95,000 in 2013/14, which makes a 52% cut over 2 years.

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