Labour’s claims to be a party of economic responsibility have been undermined, with an announcement to increase borrowing by £20 million in their upcoming budget. Liberal Democrat Councillor Paul Firth has questioned whether this gamble which exposes York’s residents to substantial risk and expense is appropriate at this time.
Only just over a year ago Cllr Alexander was expressing his grave concern that the council’s debt had reached £116 million spuriously quoting similarities with the national debt of Greenland. Now with the stroke of a pen he hopes to add a further 17% increase on that debt. At the same time the proposed budget would impose a substantial increase in council tax of 2.9%, to go towards paying off the debt generated by the irresponsible borrowing, while at the same time reducing services imposing redundancies and cutting funding to voluntary groups.
Paul Firth, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Corporate Services, commented saying “After criticising the City of York’s debt whilst in opposition, James Alexander seems happy to add massive increases to it now that he’s in power. Reckless borrowing from the last Labour government has brought the country to its knees and now he seems intent on bringing the same misery to York. He must learn that in challenging times the answer is not to pile onto a city’s debt whilst simultaneously hiking the taxes of those that live there”.
“It is highly questionable if this borrowing will provide the returns to the council that Labour seem to hope it will, and in the mean time York’s debt will continue to grow. This is a substantial amount of borrowing that we’re dealing with, and it seems that the move is being made without a clear plan about how that will translate into economic benefit for the city”.
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We today begin to take a detailed look at how some of the planned Council cutbacks will affect the residents of York.
The voluntary sector in the city has played an important role in the City’s life long before David Cameron invented the “Big Society” phrase.
During the current year the Council is supporting the sector to the tune of £3.2 million. Much of this goes to large organisations like the Museums Trust (which is set to get a £300,000 cut to the £1.3 million that it currently gets for running the City’s Museums and Art Gallery).
However it is the smaller neighbourhood organisations, some of which relay on Ward committee support, which face the biggest cuts.
The Ward committee budget is being cut from £646,000 to £224,000, meaning that pro rata cuts would see voluntary bodies lose more than half their income.
We believe that it is wrong to do so to fund vanity projects like “free” city centre WiFi access.
NORTH YORKSHIRE FIRE AUTHORITY FREEZES FIRE PRECEPT
York’s Liberal Democrat Member on the North Yorkshire Fire Authority has welcomed the decision made by the authority to freeze the precept (the amount residents pay for fire services) for 2012/13 using a £600,000 grant from the coalition government.
Councillor Keith Aspden said this decision showed that the suggestions made by Labour-run City of York Council that it wouldn’t be financially viable to freeze local taxes for York’s residents to do so were politically motivated.
The fire precept plans were voted through the Fire Authority unanimously today, by councillors from all parties, including Labour.
Labour-run York, in outlining their budget plans last week, said they weren’t able to take the grant and instead would pass additional costs on to residents. They argued this was because the government couldn’t guarantee the funding for the grant would continue next year.
North Yorkshire Fire Authority has avoided this issue by planning to save some of the grant this year in case the money isn’t available next year, together with continuing to save money over a number of years on back office functions.
Councillor Aspden said “The decision by North Yorkshire Fire Authority shows that additional costs for services do not need to be passed on to residents when the Government is offering funding. The decision to sensibly keep money back in reserve alongside back office savings will protect against the loss of the grant next year makes sense.”
Councillor Aspden said that this future planning showed how the grant could be used to avoid passing on costs to residents without affecting the future financial stability of the authority, something that York’s Labour Cabinet are unwilling to accept.
He said “It just goes to show that Labour in York are playing party politics when they say it would be financially reckless of them to take the grant. They could have elected to make contingency plans to avoid a tax increase in these tough times, but instead chose to pass this on to local residents.”
Highways maintenance funding - Double click to enlarge
Ward committee budget - click to enlarge
Sad, but not surprising, to see the Labour spin machine at work in The Press. Some of the figures quoted in articles about the Council budget are just plain wrong.
Highways maintence expenditure is reducing by a massive 56%. The effect on the safety of our roads and footpaths will be dramatic
Similarly Ward Committee expenditure – on projects like security patrols, CCTV and improved parking arrangements and which have been prioritised by York Residents – will be reduced by an unprecidented 65%.
Click the calculations right – which have been verified by the Councils professional officers – for details.
The savings are not being used to help the less well off.
They will fund the interest payments on vanity projects like the £20 million borrowing on a “re-energise York” programme as well as the Council Leaders personal £1 million pa “delivery and imnnovation” slush fund.
North Yorkshire Police will be carrying out mobile safety camera enforcement on the following roads between Wednesday 8 February and Tuesday 14 February 2012.
•A64 west-bound carriageway, Bowbridge Farm, Tadcaster
•A19 Selby Road, Whitley
•Brayton Lane, Brayton, Selby
•Barff Lane, Brayton, Selby Westcroft Lane, Hambleton
•A19 Selby Road, Whitley
•Millfield Lane, Chappel Haddlesley
•Northfield Farm, Cobcroft Lane, Cridling Stubbs
•Skipwith Road, Escrick
•Church Lane, Wheldrake
•A64 Seamer by-pass Scarborough
•B1249 Staxton Wold, Staxton, Scarborough
•B1249 Foxholes to county boundary
•A1039 Filey Road at Flixton
•A165 Reighton by-pass
•A64 Seamer Road, Scarborough
The mobile safety cameras will be in operation at the above sites at various times during the dates stated. Cameras will not be in use on the above routes all day, every day. The above locations were accurate when this news release was produced.
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The Council are scrapping the public decision sessions at which Cabinet/Executive members considered policy changes in their departments. The meetings heard representations from other Councillors, interest groups and residents.
They were open to the Press.
Now the Councils Audit and Governance committee is to consider a proposal which would see such decisions taken “informally” behind closed doors with no opportunity for residents to influence what was discussed.
The decision sessions include those that decide traffic management and parking restriction changes. Detailed road layout plans and subsidised bus service arrangements also came to the sessions.
Until recently the decisions were subject to an open debate in what were known as Executive Member Advisory Panels, but these were abolished by Labour.
Now it seems that the first that residents will find out about decisions is when they see work starting in the street.
A similar plan would see the requirement for senior officers to keep a public record of their decisions also abolished.
Now that we know what Labour’s budget proposals are for the City over the next couple of years, we compare here their election manifesto promises with their newly revealed plans.
The Liberal Democrat alternative budget will be explained at the York Council meeting later in the month
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Labour are proposing to reduce the number of streets that are treated with salt. A £10,000 a year budget cut means that fewer areas will see gritters in future, although Labour are not saying which streets will lose the service.
Coming in the wake of a weekend when the existing gritting provision was put under enormous pressure, fears have been raised that the move will lead to more accidents.
The Council also plan to leave salt bins out on the streets for 12 months of the year, prompting fears that they will be vandalised. The bins are normally placed in the Council depot in summer where they are repaired and refurbished.
The new Council budget will allow bins to be filled only 3 times a year in future.
The Council are however finding £500,000 as their share of a £6million plan to extend the Art Gallery
These are some of the services that the Council admits will get worst as a result of the proposed budget cuts.
Labours proposed public service cuts. Double click to enlarge
Summary of cuts being made by the Labour Council. double click to enlarge
A summary of where public services cuts will be made over the next couple of years has been published by the Council. It reveals the split by department.
It admits that £1.87 million in 2012/13 will come from “service cuts” while claiming that another £5.4 million represents “efficiency savings”.
On close examination many of the “efficiencies” are no such thing. They are cuts in service standards.
Reproduced below is a list of some of them.
We will publish a list of the cuts that the Council is now admitting to shortly.
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