Labour has confirmed its budget alternative as councillors prepare to vote on setting City of York Council’s budget for the next 12 months.
Councillor Danny Myers, leader of the Labour Group in council said Labour’s budget concentrates on people and does away with Lib-Dem gimmicks that will have no long lasting benefit for the city. He said:
“Our budget would reverse damaging Lib-Dem cuts to services supporting children and families, cuts which signal a further retreat from one of the council’s core responsibilities to support vulnerable children and keep them safe. Cutting support to early intervention and prevention work is not only wrong, it also ends up costing the council more as problems are not resolved at an earlier stage.
“We will also add £100,000 to support groups running youth clubs and for youth outreach work. People want to see more for young people to do, and austerity has had a dramatic impact on youth provision meaning young people in York are losing out on vital support to develop and improve their life chances.
“We are also proposing to help residents by reversing increases to charges for bereavement services such as cremations, to prevent York becoming one of the most expensive places in the country to lose a loved one.
“Our budget would also freeze rather than increase charges for taking certain waste to the council’s household waste and recycling sites, something the council should be encouraging rather than penalising residents for. And to help tackle fly-tipping, we have committed extra money for CCTV to tackle problem hotspots. Residents are proud of York and want to see more done to keep the city clean, and this is one measure, alongside the use of Community Payback to remove graffiti, that supports that goal”.
A key element of the Labour budget is the reinstatement of over £110,000 for substance misuse services, following years of cuts by Liberal Democrats running the council. The impact of this has meant workers have been laid off and contact with those who misuse substances has dropped in frequency, meaning users are much less likely to succeed in efforts to tackle their addictions.
When compared with the average across England, York has a serious problem with much higher deaths from drug misuse and also much higher rates of death among those in drug treatment programmes. Councillor Anna Perrett, Labour’s Deputy Group Leader, said this must be a local priority, commenting:
“With York’s particular problems around substance misuse the council’s commissioned support services must be properly funded. The impact of already agreed cuts has reduced frequency of contact by professionals, and will increase caseloads to double what they were, from 30 to 60.
“And year to year tinkering, with only temporary patching of the budget, has not prevented redundancies and loss of clinical experience. The Lib Dems’ current approach is, unfortunately, only likely to add to York’s poor performance on drug deaths, rather than reverse it. Our budget not only puts more funding back in to the service, but also would relocate it to Castlegate to provide better access to a range of support for those who need it”.
Labour’s commitment to tackling poverty and fairness means its budget also commits the council to developing a child poverty strategy, and to implementing the recommendations of the York Food Justice Alliance published last year. And on the economy, Labour will establish a good employment charter, as has been developed in Birmingham and Greater Manchester to work with employers on fair pay, training and career progression opportunities to increase living standards for all. The budget will also allocate the necessary funds to develop a strategy around keeping more wealth in York by encouraging more local spending.
Cllr Myers added: “Labour would undertake the proper economic appraisal for York Central that so far has been missing, meaning the council doesn’t know what it can achieve on the site. And we’d get moving with developing a voluntary tourist tax plan, before four more years have passed and the idea is stuck being nothing more than something ruling councillors discuss but do nothing about”.
The Lib Dem-Green Coalition budget includes a proposal to ‘refresh’ the city’s Local Transport Plan so that transport priorities for the city can be set out for the coming years. Labour will also use its amendment to propose this plan incorporates the council’s commitment to remove non-essential car journeys from the city centre, amid fears that ruling councillors are backsliding on the policy.
Councillors will set next year’s council budget on Thursday February 27 at the Citadel in Gillygate, starting at 6.30pm.