York Council budget battle lines drawn

A meeting tomorrow (Thursday) will set the York Councils budget for 2018/19.

The ruling coalition – still wobbling from its leadership woes – has already announced its plans. Now two opposition groups have said that they want to increase Council Tax by a larger percentage. The choices are:

Tory/LibDem = +3.49%

Labour = +4.49%

Green = +5.99%

Central government no longer provides York with a grant to underpin local services. Instead the City must depend on income received from service charges, Business Rates and Council Tax. The government caps the maximum that can be raised from the latter two income streams.

The coalition budget would see an additional £3 million invested in York’s Adult Social Services. The expectation is that this investment will ease the pressure on local hospitals and ensure that no beds there are “blocked” Recently it was found that, over 7 days, 123 patients in hospital beds (the equivalent to 4 wards) were medically ready for discharge.

In addition, several other investments are promised

  • A £150,000 investment in improving the City’s drains over the next three years. This will ease surface water flooding issues.
  • A £175,000 investment in Education Psychology to support specialist staff working with children with Special Education Needs
  • A £3.3 million investment in a new Electric Bus Scheme, which will include new vehicles, charging points and the UK’s first Clean Air Zone
  • An investment of £250,000 for Energy Efficiency projects, such as the inclusion of solar panels on major projects, so residents can save on energy bills.
  • £500,000, over two years, to repair and modernise cycle routes
  • Deletion of the planned cut to the older and disabled persons garden care scheme

The other parties support most of the published plans.

As well as the higher tax increase, Labour say they will spend more on a projects to reduce falls, address dementia, on mental health issues in schools, on the Citizens’ Advice Service and youth provision.

They’d cut the Council’s scrutiny processes and the number of Executive Councillors. More would be spent on subsiding home to school transport and in reducing the bulky waste collection charge from £44 to £22.

Slightly bizarrely they want to spend £100,000 on a feasibility study for an energy provision company

The Greens have a shopping list which would do justice to a school boy locked in a sweet shop.

They agree with Labour (and we suspect most residents) that the bulky waste collection charge is too high.  Lower charges might reduce the amount of fly tipping in the City

The Greens also want to borrow an extra £2 million to buy empty property.

The Council has already made provision to purchase empty homes on the open market, so the proposed use of Compulsory Purchase Orders must be aimed at empty commercial property. That would be a very risky venture.

Elsewhere, the Greens go for a mixed of enlightened self-interest – reduced ResPark fees and parking enforcement using ANPR cameras (!), the eccentric (£3000 on installing poster boards around the Parliament Street fountain), the divisive (locking the gates and providing gardeners at some but not all public parks) and the unpopular (increasing car parking charges by an additional 10p per hour – making the increase 20p in total)

The meeting tomorrow will also elect a new Council Leader.

If the Green amendment is carried he would no doubt resign before the meeting had concluded!

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