The Liberal Democrat and Green administration have published their budget proposals for the 2021-22 financial year. The draft budget proposes a new plan to stabilise Council’s financial position and outline priority investment for frontline services, social care and mental health, alongside ongoing support for businesses and residents impacted by the pandemic.
Consecutive years of significant decline in funding from central government is now compounded by the challenges brought about by the pandemic, leaving City of York Council facing a significant budget gap of over £15 million next year. Despite many reassurances and pledges, the Government has ultimately failed to live up to its promise of supporting local councils. Instead, they have passed on a ‘Tax bombshell’ to local communities, demanding councils (especially those that are delivering vital social care services) cover the cost of the pandemic through regressive and outdated council taxation.
Recognising the current economic challenges and support needed for local residents, budget proposals would increase total spending by £2.6 million on adult social care and support for children and young people, whilst strategically investing additional resources to protect frontline services and help accelerate the city’s economic recovery.
To maintain financial stability in the absence of sufficient Government funding, the Council is proposing to deliver savings and efficiencies totalling £7.9 million, in order to ensure that crucial council services can be maintained in the difficult year ahead.
To continue the work done throughout the pandemic to support local residents and businesses, the 2021/22 budget proposes a £3.5 million Covid Recovery Fund. Recognising that the challenges of Coronavirus will continue well into 2021, this fund will include:
• £200k to support Covid-19 recovery efforts in local communities across the city;
• £80k will be invested to give residents cheaper Minster Parking Badges as part of our efforts to mitigate the impact on the local economy;
• £40k to provide sustainable travel incentives to support recovery and build back confidence in public transport;
• £50k will be used to assist households via the York Financial Assistance Fund, helping residents on the lowest incomes mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic;
• £50k to extend existing projects that support carers most affected by the pandemic to access resources and support, particularly for carers and individuals with a diagnosis of dementia;
• £100k to work with the local Voluntary Sector to provide additional low-level Mental Health Support recognising the impact the pandemic has had on emotional wellbeing with the aim of reducing the need for NHS services;
• £40k to support businesses during recovery including grants, information and networking;
• £40k for promoting the benefits of business membership organisations, such as the FSB or Chamber of Commerce;
• £50k will fund support for skills development and re-training programmes, including support for new green jobs.
The proposals will also see the Council continue its transformational £600m capital investment programme to accelerate the city’s economic recovery. Under these proposals, the Council’s Capital Programme will include investment to progress key city regeneration projects, improve the city’s road network and infrastructure, continue efforts to tackle the climate emergency, accelerate the delivery of flood defences, deliver affordable housing across the city and accelerate York’s economic recovery. Under the proposals, the council’s Capital Programme will drive regeneration, including:
• £154million to progress York Central
• £52 million to improve roads and the city’s infrastructure
• £19 million to progress regenerations schemes, including Castle Gateway and the Guildhall
• £64 million to progress the York Outer Ring Road
• £132 million to deliver more housing across the city, including affordable housing
• £12 million on initiatives to tackle climate change
Councillor Keith Aspden, Liberal Democrat Leader of the Council, commented:
“Instead of providing the support that was pledged by Government ministers at the start of the crisis, the Government has chosen to drop a ‘tax bombshell’ on local communities, asking councils to pick up the tab for the increasing pressure on key services and lost income.
“The impact of the pandemic compounded by the Government’s broken promises and decades of underfunding has meant that like many other local authorities, in particular those with social care responsibilities, we are left facing tough decisions in our upcoming budget.
“Our proposals recognise the need to balance the Council’s books in the face of unprecedented challenges, to ensure we can continue providing crucial services which are needed now more than ever. These proposed savings and efficiencies will enable us to bolster spending on adult social care and increase support for children and young people as we continue to see demand for services increase.
“In order to continue providing support to residents and businesses, we have also proposed the creation of a new Covid Recovery Fund for the city, including targeted and comprehensive support to those on the lowest incomes, strengthening mental health support locally, as well as incentives and direct support to local businesses who continue to face major challenges.
“With the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic expected to last well into next year, these proposals would see us continue delivering on our resident’s priorities - investing in social care, protecting frontline services and accelerating a sustainable and inclusive recovery.”
For a small summary of our priorities in the 2021-22 Council Budget, please click here.
Residents and businesses can get involved and have their say on the proposals and next year’s budget in a number of different ways:
• Join the live Facebook Q&A on 6 January at 5pm at www.facebook.com/cityofyork
• Attend virtual decision-making sessions: 12 January 2021 – 10am, 2pm and 5.30pm 13 January 2021 – 10am and 2pm
• Complete the paper survey in Your Local Link, which is being distributed to all York households from 15 December. Please send this back to the FREEPOST address provided by Sunday 31 January.
• Complete the online survey which closes on Sunday 31 January at www.york.gov.uk/budget