York residents’ council tax bills will rise by three per cent and services will be cut by £6.4m from April.
But council leaders insisted they were protecting frontline services as they rubber-stamped the budget for 2022/2023 at York Racecourse.
Council leader Keith Aspden said the pandemic and the cost of living crisis made setting a budget at the Liberal Democrat / Green council a “huge challenge”, but said problems with local government finances long predated Covid due to successive years of cuts from central Government and a broken social care system.
He added: “This shortsighted approach means that councils are left with no choice other than to increase council tax to balance the books.
“In the absence of meaningful Government support and recognising the huge challenges we continue to face, this budget proposes to increase revenue spending by over £16m to ensure that services across the council can continue to support residents and businesses.”
More than £9m of that will be ploughed into meeting the rising cost of adult and children’s social care, which now accounts for around two thirds of the council’s overall budget.
Deputy leader Andy D’Agorne said: “This administration’s proposals significantly invest in our social services, protect frontline services and build on investment to deliver a green and inclusive recovery.”
Cuts to services over the next two years include £300k from the home to school transport budget, £630k from the support living budget, as well as cuts to residential and nursing care packages.
Coun Bob Webb (Lab) said the home to school transport cut was “cruel and unnecessary”, adding that it would hit families with children who have physical disabilities and special educational needs.
Labour group leader Pete Kilbane said the council’s executive was “bloated” and had spent too much money on senior leadership restructures.
“If ever there was an example of politicians using public money to further their own ends, we see it in front of us today,” he added.
Tory leader Paul Doughty said his party would reduce the cost and politics and slash councillor allowances to 2019 levels if he were in power – leading to an accusation of “populism” by Coun Kallum Taylor (Lab).
Both the Labour and Conservative budget amendments failed to pass a vote.
Cllr Stuart Barnes (Lab) criticised a £100k cut to the carbon reduction budget, but the Greens’ Rosie Baker insisted that the staffing budget of the team was being protected.
Cllr Nigel Ayre (Lib Dem) hit back at Labour’s accusation that £31k being removed from the budget amounted to a cut.
“It’s a small administrative saving that allows us to invest £250k,” he said. “So do not label this in any of your literature as a cut to mental health, something that’s very dear to my heart.”
The council will continue to invest in its capital programme, including £43m for York Central, £63m for the dualling of York Outer Ring Road and £11m on projects such as Castle Gateway and the Guildhall restoration.
More than £1m will also be spent on supporting residents and businesses battling the effects of Covid and the cost of living crisis.
Independent councillor David Carr was announced as Lord Mayor elect for 2022/23, with former councillor Suzie Mercer set to become Sheriff of York.