Council tax is set to rise by almost five per cent in York this year – as the local authority reels from the impact of the pandemic.
City of York Council leader Keith Aspden said his team “have had to make decisions we would rather not make” to plug the £15 million hole in the budget predicted in the next financial year.
It means council tax bills – which are made up of basic council tax and the social care precept – will increase by the maximum amount possible before a local referendum is required.
The cost of police and fire services is calculated separately.
Plus the council will look to make £7.9 million of savings in the next year – double the amount of savings it planned to make under the last budget.
Cllr Aspden said adult and children’s social care services, which have seen a huge increase in demand, will be prioritised in the coming year with an extra £2.6 million put into this department.
And a £3.5 million Covid recovery fund will be created to help businesses and residents – including money set aside for mental health support.
Increase in fees
But cuts will have to be made in some areas to save cash. Cllr Nigel Ayre said many of the savings will come from back office services – areas that include finance, human resources, procurement, IT and legal services – in order to protect frontline work such as providing social care.
There is also set to be an increase in fees for some services and budget papers warn some jobs will be lost in the next year, with further details due to be released in February.
Cllr Aspden said York is facing “unprecedented financial challenges” as the demand for services goes up and income from sources such as car parking has gone down.
He said: “We want to stabilise the position and make savings in order to put us in place to continue to support businesses, low income households and the wider community.
“We know we have social care challenges but equally we know we have to be in a position to support residents, businesses and the economic recovery.
“These are not decisions any of us would want to make following years of reduced government budgets but we have to make them to make sure that the council is there to provide that help and support.
“Fortunately we are not quite in the same position of some other councils that are having to make extremely drastic measures to make their budgets match but it is still extremely tough.
“We have absolutely no choice but to increase council tax and make those savings.”
Deputy council leader Andy D’Agorne added: “We are trying to set a budget for a year hence, when we have no idea what level of council tax and business rates we might have.”
Nearly 800 people have already responded to a consultation asking residents where and how money should be spent. Have your say at york.gov.uk/budget
Budget meetings to discuss savings and spending will take place from next Tuesday. The budget will then be agreed at full council on February 25.