Greens propose increased funding for social care and city parks, cut to respark fees

26 February 2018

York’s Green councillors’ budget amendment, to be debated this week, focuses on three key principles: protecting older and disadvantaged citizens, investing in parks as frontline services, and planning for the future of our city. 

They would reinstate three gardeners, two park rangers and the night time locking of the city’s five parks, at a total cost of £239k a year - as Councillor Dave Taylor says,

"This year marks the 250th anniversary of The Ancient Society of York Florists - the oldest horticultural society in the world. Parks add to our quality of life as well as looking good for residents and tourists. We want to restore our parks to being something of civic pride rather than an embarrassment."

The Greens also propose a 10% cut to the price of a residents’ parking permit, paid for in part by an additional 10p per hour charge for non-resident city centre parking to match the recent increase in park and ride fares. In the longer term, the Greens want to see a lower cost, more efficient ‘Respark’ system that keeps costs and charges down through greater use of online payment and permit issue and number-plate recognition enforcement. Green group leader, Cllr Andy D’Agorne, said,

“These proposals have been carefully thought through to counter the Government removing all rate support funding from local councils. Like it or not, we will be dependent on Council Tax and Business Rates to run all services for residents. We've put forward a budget proposal which would compensate for lost government funding by increasing council tax to provide more money for vital local services. We propose the higher social care increase of 3% this year (compared with the 1.5% proposed by the administration) in order to ‘front load’ additional investment in adult social care, and an additional 1% increase in council tax, (the same additional increase as proposed by Labour) to improve park maintenance and re-instate overnight locking, introducing a lower cost Residents’ Parking scheme, for investment in repairing surface drains and work to bring empty commercial or residential properties back into use."

The Government is removing all rate support funding from local councils meaning that this year all of York’s income will depend on Council Tax, a share of Business Rates and fees and charges. Since 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 (ref appendix 9 page 359) the Greens believe that the authority needs to gradually move Council Tax levels closer to the average for comparable authorities, whilst protecting our least well off and most vulnerable residents.

To achieve this the Greens would invest an extra £100,000 in the Financial Assistance Fund along with creating an outreach worker post to pro-actively promote this support to residents in financial need and combat low take up. For similar reasons, the Greens would give extra funding to maintain the excellent debt advice work of Citizens Advice York, would allocate £200k to reduce the cap on Council Tax support for our worst off citizens by 5%, thus enabling more people to reduce their council tax through Council Tax Support.

The Greens say that in order to respond to the budget pressures from increasing demand for adult social care (highlighted by officers in the budget papers) it would be prudent to take the full 3% increase allowed by the government this year, thus putting more money overall into the service rather than having 1.5% increase this year and another 1.5% next year. They would use this to reverse the £100k cut to small day services, increase the falls prevention service (helping people stay in their own homes) by £200k, and allocate an additional £450k towards funding for the full range of adult social care.

“ The pressures on providing for our most vulnerable elderly people are immense, and investment now will help to reduce long term costs as well as allow more people to continue independent living in dignity within their own communities” said Cllr D’Agorne.

“Maintaining attractive, safe, clean streets and parks is also a key priority for our communities and our future" he added.

The full details of the proposals can be read on our blog pages.