York Labour councillors are backing a call from the Local Government Association (LGA) for the government to provide additional funding for councils. Councils across the country are struggling under the burden of increased demands for services and a significant loss in revenue from Business Rates, Car Parking and Council Tax. In York this comes on top of £100m in funding cuts since 2010.
Councillor Anna Perrett, deputy leader of the Labour group in council, said: “It’s easy to knock the Council during ‘normal times’ but, just as with shop-workers, delivery drivers and care-home staff, the Coronavirus has shown us just how much we need the Council. That’s why we want to highlight some of the incredible work that is going on in our city.”
Frontline staff have stepped up to take on new roles and crucial services have rapidly been redesigned or worked up from scratch, she said. Officers are working from early morning until late evening, often seven days a week, delivering vital support for residents and businesses alike. They have engaged with a huge variety of community groups to coordinate an incredible response, linking people to the services they need.
Councillor Fiona Fitzpatrick stated that council staff have been having to deal with harrowing phone calls and give support to distressed colleagues, all while having to manage their own concerns.
“The toll on Council staff hasn’t been sufficiently acknowledged though” she said. “Whether it is refuse teams sharing cabs, adult social care staff struggling for PPE or the traffic wardens volunteering to deliver food parcels, York Labour Group want to give our thanks and praise to those Council staff who are putting their communities first and really delivering for our city.”
But Cllr. Perrett wanted to be clear that thanks and praise only go so far, and that the crisis has shown just how thinly stretched services have become and how close to the breadline so many York residents are, even during normal circumstances. It has been reported that more than a thousand people previously beneath the Council’s radar have come forward in the past three weeks asking for help and support.
“It’s great that we have been able to help these people,” she said “but what worries us and Council Staff alike is how many more people are out there who need our support that we don’t already know about? What is clear is that the help and support being offered at the moment will be needed for months if not years to come.”
“The Council is the city’s safety net,” said Cllr. Fitzpatrick, “and it needs proper funding not just for the immediacy of this crisis but for the foreseeable future. Everything has changed and we cannot go back. Amidst all the worry about the current situation though, there are real opportunities to do things differently going forward.
“It’s still very much early days but we must ensure that the excellent work of Council staff during this crisis is not lost when we come out the other side.”