York residents face a council tax rise and cuts of more than £6m to services – but council chiefs insist they are protecting their most vulnerable residents as the city tries to rebuild from the Covid pandemic.
City of York Council has unveiled its budget proposals for the 2022-23 financial year, with the authority facing a budget gap of over £9.1m.
The council tax rise is made up of an increase to the basic rate of 2.99 per cent, plus another one per cent for the social care precept.
It comes after the police commissioner for North Yorkshire and York announced her intention to levy the maximum council tax rise permitted – which would add £10 to a Band D property’s bill.
Council budgets are under huge pressure as demand for services continues to rise, particularly in adult and children’s social care.
More children are being taken into care and the cost of supporting vulnerable older people is rising. Around two-thirds of the city’s budget now goes towards caring for children and vulnerable adults.
York is putting £4.7m into children’s services, which will help fund on-going pressures resulting from Covid and support improvements to services.
Adult’s social care will see a £4.2m boost, which will go towards frontline services, funding Covid pressures and supporting local care providers.
York, like other local authorities, has seen a large cut to its funding from central government in recent years. In addition, the authority is anticipating a reduction in both council tax and business rates receipts – leading to difficult decisions to ensure crucial council services are maintained.
Nearly £300,000 will be slashed from the home to school transport budget by 2024, while nearly £450,000 will be removed from the residential and nursing care budget.
The council is also proposing to cut funding to Yorkcraft, which provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and to York Learning, which provides adult learning courses.
Focused on caring
But the council is set to provide £1.1m in extra targeted support to ease the cost of living crisis, including a fuel voucher scheme, mental health support and pupil catch up programmes.
The £459m capital investment programme will continue to support key city regeneration projects, including York Central, York Outer Ring Road, Castle Gateway and the Guildhall restoration.
Council leader Keith Aspden said: “Despite Government inaction, in York, we are taking a firm stance with a proposed budget focused around caring for York.
“Caring for residents and communities, including the most vulnerable; for our economy, including businesses hit hardest by the pandemic; for our environment, recognising that we must continue to address the climate emergency.”
Deputy leader Andy D’Agorne said: “Our proposed budget builds on the extraordinary effort of the council’s frontline staff, communities and businesses who did so much during the pandemic to care for those who needed help the most.”
Executive member for finance and performance Nigel Ayre said: “It’s clear that for too long, councils have been expected to do more, with less – with the lowest-funded councils, such as York, feeling this pressure most acutely. Despite this, our budget proposals would see us continue to deliver on resident’s priorities – investing in social care, protecting frontline services and accelerating a sustainable and inclusive recovery.”
Living on tick
Labour leader Pete Kilbane said the council needed to “stop pretending” that life was improving for York residents.
He added: “Everyone can see that the opposite is true from a lack of access to social services, to poor roads to unreliable bin collections.
“The Lib-Greens should also be honest with residents about its borrowing bonanza where in just a few years’ time, one in every five pounds the council should spend on residents and their communities will go instead on interest payments, meaning even more swingeing cuts to those services residents value and rely on.
“This Lib-Green council is not only living on tick, it is living in another world.”
The proposals will be presented to the council’s executive on February 7, and then debated at full council on March 24.