The Liberal Democrat and Green administration on City of York Council have published their budget proposals for the 2022-23 financial year. Following an incredibly challenging financial year, this year’s draft budget puts forward proposals to stabilise the Council’s financial position and increase total spending by £12.4 million, particularly in adult and children social care, as well as targeted support schemes through the Covid Recovery Fund for local communities, mental health support, holiday hunger schemes and support for residents on lowest income.
The proposals will also see the Council continue its transformational £570m capital investment programme to continue key city regeneration projects, improve the city’s road network and infrastructure, tackle the climate emergency, accelerate the delivery of flood defences and deliver affordable housing across the city.
A summary of the budget proposals can be found here
Consecutive years of reduced government funding has now been compounded by the challenges brought about by the pandemic, leaving City of York Council facing a significant budget gap of over £9.1 million next year, whilst the Local Government Association predicts that Councils in England will face a funding gap of more than £5 billion by 2024 to maintain services at current levels.
In 2021/22, core spending power in York sat at £706 per head, - the second lowest in the country. Council’s such as Kensington and Chelsea receive £1,305 per head, £599 more than York. If York was to receive the even the average spend per head, the city would benefit from an extra £16.5m each year.
Despite the Government passing on a Tax bombshell to local residents through regressive and outdated council taxation, if proposals are approved, York’s Council tax levels would still remain the lowest regionally and amongst the lowest nationally. For example, the average annual council tax for a Band D property in York is £1,456, ranking the 61st lowest out of 387 local authorities. When compared to Labour-run Gateshead Council (£1,915) and Tory-run Northumberland County Council (£1,824), York’s council tax is over £300 cheaper for residents each year.
To maintain financial stability and protect crucial services in the absence of sufficient Government funding, the Council is proposing to deliver savings totalling £7 million including through back office efficiencies.
Recognising the rise in demand for services and the Government’s failure to get to grips with the care crisis, budget proposals would increase spending by £4.3 million in adult and children social care. This is to ensure that the city’s most vulnerable residents receive the care and support they need in their communities rather than through overstretched NHS services. In turn, this will allow the council to recruit more social workers, further improve safeguarding and enable more residents to remain independent in their homes, rather than be admitted to hospital.
By taking the necessary measures to stabilise the authority’s financial position, we can continue to invest in priorities that matter to local residents, including improving the city’s highways network, keeping every staffed library in the city open, and protecting dedicated budgets for graffiti removal and street cleaning.
Furthermore, recognising the 2022/23 budget will also propose the Covid Recovery Fund, which will focus on targeting investment directly to projects and services which would support residents and communities in the aftermath of the pandemic. The fund will include:
- £100k to assist households via the York Financial Assistance Fund, helping residents on the lowest incomes mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic;
- £100k to support local school holiday Hunger initiatives;
- £100k to support the outcomes of the Education Futures Plan, education recovery strategy addressing the disruption caused by the pandemic on pupils;
- £50k to provide sustainable travel incentives to build back confidence in public transport;
- £200k devolved to communities to support local projects and recovery efforts;
- £250k to provide additional low-level Mental Health Support, particularly to the elderly and those experiencing isolation, with the aim of reducing the need for NHS services;
- £50k to support businesses during recovery including grants, information and networking;
- £50k to secure further investment and future employment opportunities in the city, including the bid for York to become the home of Great British Rail.
Councillor Keith Aspden, Liberal Democrat Leader of the Council, commented:
“This budget recognises the financial reality facing councils, as this Government fails to live up to their promises of levelling up, fixing social care and supporting local services - instead passing on another tax bombshell to local communities in York and across the country.
“Our proposals recognise the need to balance the Council’s books in the face of unprecedented challenges, which ensures we can continue to provide the services which matter most to York’s residents. This includes services from protecting the most vulnerable in our city, to road maintenance. The proposed savings and efficiencies will then rightly enable us to boost spending on key services, including support for communities, adult social care and children and young people’s services, by £12.4million as well as continue the transformational £570m capital investment programme.
“Despite York remaining at the bottom of central Government spending tables and many other Labour and Conservative councils preparing for significant cuts, this administration is putting residents and communities first and continuing investment in key services which are needed now more than ever.
“As the challenges brought about by the pandemic continue to impact most on vulnerable and disadvantaged residents, we are also proposing to invest in mental health, education catch up, holiday hunger support as well as direct financial support for residents on the lowest incomes through the Covid Recovery Fund.
“With the challenges of the pandemic expected to last well into next year, these proposals would see us continue to deliver on our resident’s priorities - investing in social care, protecting frontline services and accelerating a sustainable and inclusive recovery.”