York Green Party

York Green Party Budget response

23 February 2016

Greens propose local vote on 6% rise to save services

 

The Green Party amendment to the council budget this Thursday will offer residents an opportunity to decide whether they want greater investment in York’s public services.

With council budgets being slashed across the country, York residents could have the opportunity to vote for change; to say ‘no’ to austerity and to say ‘yes’ to greater investment in services for children and young people, in public health, and in protecting vulnerable people.

In the amendment being published today in time for Thursday’s Budget meeting, Green Party councillors are proposing an overall 6% increase in Council Tax, which by going beyond the 4% threshold will mean a mandatory local referendum. The Green proposal would raise council tax by a further 3% over and above the 3% rise already proposed by the Tory/Lib Dem Executive and would raise an additional £2.18m.

York Green Group Leader and local councillor for Fishergate, Andy D’Agorne said, “We condemn the draconian cuts being forced on local government in general and specifically here in York.  We have the ninth lowest funding per head and the second lowest net budget spend per head of all unitary authorities. The increasing pressures of looking after our elderly and aging population mean we need to be increasing spending, not cutting it. As long as the Government continues to starve local authorities of funding – pouring vast amounts of our taxes into nuclear weapons, subsidies for nuclear plants and fracking companies, road building and the HS2 vanity project – the only way out of the spiral of decline in local services is to create a significant increase in our local tax base.

Council tax income already accounts for around 70% of York’s budget. Government funding is expected to decline from £15m per annum in the coming year to just £2m per annum in four years’ time. We want to give York residents the chance to decide whether they are prepared to pay an extra 67pence per week on an average band D property to invest in services for our children, young people and older residents into the future.

Our proposed budget includes restoring a £200,000 cut to the York Financial Assistance Scheme to be focussed on assisting our least well-off residents (both out of work and in work) with their council tax bills. It also includes a new Outreach Worker to ensure that the people struggling in the face of welfare cuts such as the bedroom tax and working long hours for low pay to put food on the table are aware of the assistance that may be available to them.’

Under the proposal, the increase in revenue would enable a reversal of proposed cuts of £866,000 to services for children, young people and families including children’s centres, the Family Information Service, parenting support, the Early Intervention Fund, personal advisors for young people and the Castlegate young people’s service which was temporarily reprieved following a big campaign last year. It also reverses £665,000 of cuts to public health services including treatment and prevention services for substance abuse (ie, drugs and alcolhol) and preventative health checks. It protects some respite care services to provide breaks for carers and creates a new £200,000 Adult Social Care Mitigation Fund to help reduce the impact of a further £2 million reduction in funding for social services over the next two years, as well as adding a new £100,000 Public Health Investment Fund.

Green Party councillor for Guildhall ward, Denise Craghill saidThe key elements of our budget proposals are protection of vulnerable people and investment in preventative services that can save us all money in the longer term. As a member of the Health and Social Care Committee I am constantly hearing that the only way we can deal with increased financial demands on health and social care services is to switch funding to preventative measures and as a Green Party councillor I believe passionately in preventative health of all kinds. We believe our Public Health Investment Fund is a small step in the right direction. Our proposed budget can’t restore the £73million cut from the Council’s budget since 2010/11 but it can start a local debate about how we fund our services in future.’

The Green amendment also reverses cuts to services that protect York’s special built and natural environment, reverses the withdrawal of £200,000 of bus subsidies, reinstates posts to support business and school travel plans, reduces the cut to Home to School transport support and freezes most respark charges. It also invests in posts to draw in additional funding for the Council, to complete the Council’s long awaited Tree Strategy and to promote energy efficiency and renewables in the city to provide warmer, healthier homes and lower energy bills. Capital investment costing an extra £24,000/annum is included to implement the Fossgate pedestrianisation scheme, supporting independent businesses that have suffered from the recent floods.

Green Group leader, Andy D’Agorne said ‘In York we have a history of standing up together and showing solidarity in the face of adversity, as we have seen during the recent floods. The current budget proposals make it clear that the cuts we agree now will set the direction for the next four years. Now is the time to engage with residents as to how we fund decent services in our very special city in future.’


Details of the budget and ammendment can be found at: http://democracy.york.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=331&MId=8835

Footnotes:

The additional 3% increase will lift us from 43 out of 56 unitary authorities to 31st in terms of council tax level for a band D property.







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